Redskins hire Bruce Allen as GM following resignation of Vinny Cerrato

The Redskins' executive vice-president of football operations steps down after the team starts the season with a 4-9 record.
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 18, 2009

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder began a swift and dramatic overhaul of the way his team operates Thursday, naming Bruce Allen, the son of legendary Redskins coach George Allen, as the team's first general manager in 10 years and setting the stage for a possible new head coach and a much different management structure atop the franchise.

Snyder accepted the resignation of executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato, a longtime confidante who was a controversial figure blamed by fans for many of the team's struggles but who Snyder referred to as a friend.

The transition in perhaps the franchise's most important position -- Allen will take the responsibility for shaping both the team's roster and the coaching staff -- took nearly everyone at the club's training facility in Ashburn by surprise, and involved only Snyder and a few of his closest advisers. Snyder said it was made for one reason: The Redskins are in the midst of another disappointing season, and he believed Cerrato was no longer fit for the job. Hiring Allen, a successful executive with the Oakland Raiders and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, brings "a proven winner," Snyder said at an afternoon news conference.

"Obviously, this has been a very difficult season, one that has disappointed everyone -- fans, ourselves," Snyder said. "It's been difficult. And when it gets to the point where we say, 'What do we need to do for the future?', you look at change, and that's what I decided to do."

Next up could be a coaching change. Cerrato strongly argued for the hiring of Jim Zorn, the current head coach whose tenure has been marred by poor offensive production and a 12-17 record, including 15 losses in the last 21 games. Although Snyder and Allen would not address the head coaching position Thursday -- "Jim Zorn is our coach," Allen said -- there are a number of marquee coaches available, including Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls in Denver, and Jon Gruden, who won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay and worked with Allen both with the Buccaneers and the Raiders.

Many in the Redskins organization said they believed Shanahan would be the most likely choice if a coaching change is made. Gruden recently signed a multiyear contract to continue as an analyst on ESPN's "Monday Night Football," and an ESPN executive said Thursday he expected Gruden would remain with the network.

The shakeup comes during a season in which the Redskins sit at 4-9, will miss the playoffs for the eighth time in 10 years, and have endured unprecedented fan unrest. The team was booed off FedEx Field following a narrow September victory over lowly St. Louis, and fans began angrily questioning the direction of the franchise on sports talk radio, Internet message boards and with signs and T-shirts -- many of them calling for Cerrato's dismissal -- at home games.

Though Allen said no more drastic changes would come before the final game of the season -- Jan. 3 at San Diego -- coaches privately worried about their job status in both the short- and long-term.

"What I'm going to do is work as hard as I possibly can -- not to try to save my job, but to continue to work the way we're working to bring a winner to this program," Zorn said after practice in preparation for Monday's game against the New York Giants. "That's really what I set out to do right from the beginning. And then I hope Bruce will observe."

Allen met with Zorn on Thursday morning, shortly after Zorn told his coaching staff that Cerrato was gone and that Allen was in.

Allen's record in Oakland and Tampa Bay was mixed. He won 10 division titles in the two stops, but he had a spotty record in the draft and with free agent signings. Still, he is simultaneously able to offer a link to the Redskins' more successful past and provide a new direction for the future. He spoke about the memories of his father, who led the Redskins to their first Super Bowl in 1973, and beamed about the franchise's traditions.

Allen said he had been talking to Snyder for "several weeks," though not all the conversations centered on the role for which he was hired; his title will be executive vice president/general manager. The hiring process was performed in almost complete secrecy, involving only the highest levels of the Redskins organization -- a group that includes Snyder, chief operating officer David Donovan and Karl Swanson, Snyder's chief public relations strategist.

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