Snyder and Cerrato Finally Got One Right

By Leonard Shapiro
Special to
Wednesday, October 29, 2008; 4:49 PM

The Washington Redskins begin the second half of their astounding 2008 regular season Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers with the third best record in the NFL, the league's No. 1 rusher and a quarterback who hasn't thrown an interception all year.

Who knew?

Seriously now, is there a seasoned football scribe or even the most loyal Redskins fanatic who could have predicted this team would achieve such lofty status by the Halloween halfway mark? Could anyone have foreseen that a rookie head coach who had never even held an offensive coordinator position in college or the pros would have been able to make himself, along with Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, among the leading candidates for NFL coach of the year?

Not me, and probably not you, either.

The day Daniel Snyder and Vinnie Cerrato announced that they had decided to elevate a man they initially hired as the team's offensive coordinator to a job recently vacated by Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, I saw 6-10 in this team's immediate future.

Admittedly, it was based mostly on the premise that Snyder once again had made yet another serious blunder in his nine-year reign of error, with his yes-man sidekick Cerrato nodding in lock-step approval just the way he always had as long as those big checks kept being directly deposited into his bank account. Their track record did not exactly inspire great optimism, or enthusiasm.

In essence though, the owner and his part-time radio host/raquetball partner pal truly had very little choice. The man they really wanted, N.Y. Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, had already withdrawn his name from consideration, preferring the stability of a rock-solid Super Bowl championship team over The Danny's Wacky World in Ashburn.

And when the name of Jim Fassel, a veteran and unemployed head coach somewhat desperate to get back in, had been floated as the next leading candidate, the hue and cry of despair from Redskins Nation clearly rattled the owner into moving in another direction.

Truth be told, Snyder had few options. No big-name head coach with an ounce of sense wanted any part of this frequently dysfunctional franchise, just the same as available men like Super Bowl winners Bill Cowher or Brian Billick would never even think about taking a job these days in Oakland or Detroit, among other organizations in perpetual disarray.

Still, it's time to at least give credit where some credit is due.

Cerrato has been saying for months the more he got to know Zorn in those first few weeks last January, the more he liked what he saw and what he was hearing about his plans for the offense. So on that score, we'll take him at his word. Cerrato became Zorn's biggest cheerleader inside the halls of Redskins Park, and for a nice change, he actually seems to have gotten it right.

Of course it also helped that Zorn, presented with the opportunity of his lifetime at the age of 55, apparently was more than willing to accept the fact that he'd have virtually no say on the rest of his coaching staff, most of them Gibbs' holdovers.

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