Arrival of Offensive Consultant Lewis Has Redskins Coach in a Corner

By Mike Wise
Thursday, October 8, 2009

To hear the homespun version, Sherman Lewis was plucked from the retired life of a bingo caller at a senior citizen's home in Detroit on Tuesday -- the land of "N-35" and "B-17" -- to come help Jim Zorn with O-27.

The Redskins have the 27th-ranked scoring offense in the NFL. Daniel Snyder's temper is percolating. Because the owner's diamond-in-the-rough choice as coach 21 months ago has not been able to sufficiently polish quarterback Jason Campbell, his general manager decided to go on a Jurassic dig.

Sherm Lewis has not held an NFL job for almost five years. He is 67. But he has more Super Bowl rings than Joe Gibbs and knows more about an offense dubbed the West Coast than Mississippi's own Campbell knows about the Gulf Coast.

Outside Ashburn, the hiring of Lewis as an offensive consultant is viewed as the beginning of the end for Zorn; consultants are hired all the time by multinational conglomerates seeking "another set of eyes."

By this logic, Zorn and offensive coordinator Sherman Smith, one of the coach's few personal hires after the team chaplain, look mighty expendable. In case you don't know Smith well, he's the guy the owner and general manager avoid like swine flu -- a sure sign of where they believe Zorn's talents lie as a talent evaluator.

He's also the guy who was candid enough to sound like he was not ducky about the new hire when he spoke with reporters Wednesday.

"I don't think he's going to tell us something we don't already know," Smith said, later adding: "We feel we have a handle on the scheme. Z-man has been in the scheme, he knows the scheme, we feel the scheme is good. I don't think he's going to come in and say, 'You need to run this route two yards deeper,' or you need to do this or that. We don't think that's the issue. Our players, we all agree: We just have to do it better, not do anything different."

That doesn't sound like an open-minded coach; it sounds like one guy named Sherman who had another guy named Sherman forced on him.

A conspiracy theorist might connect the dots and the timeline, which appeared fuzzy on Wednesday, like this: Lewis spends time with an old friend, Greg Blache, the Redskins' defensive coordinator whom he worked with for two years in Green Bay, before the Detroit-Washington game at the team hotel. Blache is a motivator of great renown, thought of highly by Snyder. If things go abysmally south the next three weeks, Blache is asked to take bullets as the interim head coach until season's end. At the least, Blache has got a guy he knows with a little play-calling experience to have his back in the event Zorn and Smith can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again by the bye week.

By then, Lewis has almost a month under his belt of learning personnel, plays and players.

Insular Ashburn says that's cynical thinking, jaded even. They say Lewis has worked with Brett Favre, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren -- so why not Campbell and Zorn? Since Zorn is basically a young Jedi learning the ways of the Force, to the point of his light saber needing new D batteries in the red zone, why not bring in Yoda for reinforcement?

Whom do I believe? Charley Casserly, the former general manager of the team, is normally a close-to-the-vest man in his new life as a football analyst on television. In his first thoughts after the hire, he called the addition of Lewis the "kiss of death" for Zorn.

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