Redskins Add Lewis as Fresh Set of Eyes for Struggling Offense

The Washington Post's Mike Wise and Jason Reid discuss the Redskins' win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the performance of quarterback Jason Campbell.
By Rick Maese and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Unhappy with the team's offensive production through the first four games, the Washington Redskins made their boldest personnel move since hiring Jim Zorn -- bringing in a consultant to help salvage the coach's embattled offense.

Vinny Cerrato, the team's executive vice president of football operations, said Sherman Lewis, a longtime NFL assistant and offensive coordinator who last coached in 2004, will provide "another set of eyes" for Zorn and his coaching staff.

Lewis was expected to start work at Redskins Park on Wednesday morning, as players begin preparations for Sunday's game at the Carolina Panthers. Speaking to reporters on a conference call Tuesday evening, Cerrato said the hiring was prompted by the team's offensive struggles and that Lewis joins the staff with Zorn's blessing.

Cerrato did not give his second-year head coach a vote of confidence but said the decision to add Lewis, 67, to the staff is not an indictment of any sort on Zorn.

"We have had some struggles and thought that it was a good time to bring in a fresh set of eyes and see if there's anything that the fresh set of eyes saw that could help us," Cerrato said.

Charley Casserly, the Redskins' former general manager, said during an appearance Tuesday on Comcast SportsNet's "Washington Post Live," that the move did not bode well for Zorn's future, calling the addition of Lewis a "kiss of death."

A confidante of Cerrato, speaking on the condition his name not be used, said lingering concern over Zorn's inability to make quarterback Jason Campbell more effective in the West Coast offense -- and particularly out of the shotgun formation -- was weighing on management's mind.

On the conference call, Cerrato played down the significance of the hire, noting that the Redskins similarly brought in Bill Arnsparger as a consultant in 1999 to help the team's ailing defense, and in 2002 added Joe Bugel and Foge Fazio as midseason consultants to assist struggling first-year Coach Steve Spurrier.

Zorn was not available to comment Tuesday night but said in a statement, "We're happy to have Sherm's set of eyes and voice to help us as we continue to find ways to create success on offense."

Through four games, the Redskins' offense is ranked No. 17 in the NFL, averaging 325 yards per game. But they're only No. 27 in scoring, averaging 14 points per game, and also No. 27 in red-zone efficiency.

Lewis did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday night. While Zorn is expected to continue calling offensive plays, it was not immediately clear what Lewis's responsibilities would include. Cerrato wasn't certain whether Lewis would actively coach on the field, spend game days in the press box or tinker with the team's offensive playbook.

"It'll be up to Jim," Cerrato said. "But he'll be a member of the offensive staff and Jim will use him. They'll get that figured out."

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