Redskins Players and Coaches Remain Uncertain About How Much of a Role Sherman Lewis Will Have

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Washington Redskins began preparations for the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday with Sherman Lewis, their newly hired offensive consultant, roaming the practice field, chatting with coaches and occasionally with players. But no one, including Lewis, was certain what exactly he might bring to the organization, and some weren't quite sure why he had been hired.

"I don't know what my role will be," said Lewis, 67, a longtime NFL coach and disciple of the West Coast offense.

Speaking for the first time since Lewis was hired on Tuesday, Redskins players and coaches said the team's problems through four games were more about execution, not with Coach Jim Zorn's version of the offense.

"I don't think he's going to tell us something we don't already know," offensive coordinator Sherman Smith said. "I think we're doing the scheme the right way. If he sees something in our scheme that we don't see, I hope he'll tell us. That'll help us."

Though both Zorn and Lewis have worked closely with Mike Holmgren, the former head coach in Green Bay and Seattle, Zorn said he did not consult Holmgren before Lewis was hired.

Asked how much he spoke with Lewis before the job was offered, Zorn said, "Zero."

Zorn said he'll be receptive to Lewis's suggestions, but said the idea to add a consultant to the staff was Vinny Cerrato's, the Redskins' executive vice president of football operations, not his.

"It's not something that I was looking for initially," Zorn said. "I wasn't saying, 'Hey, Vinny, you need to go out and really find a guy for me.' But when the suggestion was made, I'm open to it. I just want to make sure that I don't have so much pride in having to have all the answers that somebody can't come in and look and see what I'm doing."

Lewis, a former offensive coordinator in Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit, has been out of coaching since 2004. He said Cerrato called him at his home in Michigan on Tuesday to offer the job.

"I'd just gone to the gym yesterday and I was home having lunch," Lewis said. "I was getting ready to go to the senior citizens center for bingo. I don't play, I call it. I'm a bingo caller."

After speaking with his wife, Lewis called Cerrato to accept the job, then visited the senior center to tell them they needed a new bingo caller, wiggled his way out of a Meals On Wheels commitment and boarded a plane Tuesday evening for Washington.

The underlying questions sparked by Lewis's arrival could follow Zorn for the rest of the season: Why does management think he needs help? And what does it mean for Zorn's future?

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