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Cerrato's Special Working Relationship

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"He said, 'I've talked to other owners in the league and they said everybody needs someone to yell at in their box. Can you come back?' "

Vinny was back, just like that. Snyder's trust in Cerrato should be underscored. Schottenheimer would not be fired for another few weeks, and there was no way Cerrato was coming back to work under him. Essentially, Cerrato knew Schottenheimer was gone before Schottenheimer.

Because of a strained right knee, he can no longer play racquetball with Snyder, but they still spend time together away from the business. Their sons, both 2 1/2 years old, are playmates. The masses can poke fun at their back-slapping relationship all they want, but Cerrato was almost as torn up as Snyder when the owner's father, Gerald, died in 2003.

"It was very emotional," Cerrato said. "I got along great with his dad. It was a tough deal. He was at practice all the time. Losin' your dad. I mean, that was his best friend." Snyder's parents were so fond of Cerrato they actually attended his wedding soon after Schottenheimer fired him. He has a picture of Snyder's parents on his desk in a gold-plated frame.

"People don't really know me," Cerrato said. "Any coach I've worked with I had a good relationship with and I still got a good relationship with." Cerrato lists taking LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels as the second and third overall picks, respectively, in the 2000 draft as his best moves in Washington. He throws Sean Taylor in the mix, too. His worst?

"Biggest regret? Probably in 2000, signing all those older guys," Cerrato said. "I learned you can't put a lot of signing bonuses on veteran players 'cause they're not going to play out those years. That was a mistake I made and learned from. Bruce Smith, Deion and Mark Carrier were the big ones.

"Now, we try to avoid dead money, money that counts against your cap and doesn't go to anybody."

(The Redskins are among NFL leaders with $16 million of their 2005 salary cap devoted to players no longer on the roster).

Cerrato had just finished working out and was icing his sore right knee. He does not feel he has to apologize for any of the club's recent moves. "We solidified some of our needs with [David] Patten, Casey Rabach and Santana Moss," he said. "We were the worst in the league in plays over 20 yards and Moss has got an 18-yard-per-catch average."

"When you're losing, no one wants to talk about getting Shawn Springs, or Cornelius Griffin or Marcus Washington. When you're losing, it becomes 'why did you take Mike Barrow or Mark Brunell?'

"I don't think I get any respect for doin' the job I do."

Cerrato said the Redskins' chain of command is a top-down affair, beginning with Joe Gibbs ("I can't imagine working for a better guy," he said). "We all have a say, but he has the final say. We usually come to a decision and he and I take the decision to Dan and talk to him about it.

"There's a huge misconception about Dan out there," Cerrato added, playing down Snyder's role as a meddlesome owner. "He doesn't sit in on the free agent meetings or the film. He lets his people do their jobs and waits for us to tell him what we're doing."

Wanting to be a sensitive sort of journalist who gives Cerrato the benefit of the doubt instead of calling for his job, I asked the man, flat-out:

"Do you have any damaging videotape of Dan Snyder?"

"Nope," Cerrato said. "None at all."

"None?"

"[Laughing] None."

Good answer. That should buy him another six years.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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