Redskins players are stunned by Cerrato's resignation but say a change was needed

By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 18, 2009

In what had already been a tumultuous season for the Washington Redskins, players walked into Redskins Park on Thursday morning and were met with news of yet another major shakeup within the organization: Vinny Cerrato, the executive vice president of football operations, had resigned and would be replaced immediately by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen.

The change came as a surprise to those in the locker room, many of whom said they did not believe Cerrato would ever step down, and was met with varied reactions -- including some players who appeared to openly welcome the move.

Several veterans said a change was necessary for the Redskins to start rebuilding in the final weeks of a disappointing season that had opened with lofty expectations and crumbled to a 4-9 record.

"Vinny has been around here a while, he's made a lot of decisions and maybe it's time for him to move on," said running back Rock Cartwright, one of the team's captains. "Change is a good thing, and we definitely need change around here. People have their feelings about Vinny, everyone does, but that doesn't matter right now."

Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, among the most respected voices in the locker room, said he was surprised to hear that Cerrato had resigned, but that he believed owner Daniel Snyder was "doing what he feels is best for the organization."

Fletcher said he learned of the move through "word of mouth," when he arrived, and that he thought the decision to hire Allen as general manager was a positive one for the organization.

"I think so," Fletcher said. "Obviously when you heard about Vinny's resignation you're uncertain about what's going to happen and obviously with the hiring of Bruce Allen you know he has a plan in place, he knows how to build a winner, so I feel like it's a good step in the right direction for us as an organization, for us as a team and I'm just anxious to see how things unfold."

There were hints in some players' answers and demeanor that the departure of Cerrato was received as a favorable one.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers, who was benched earlier this season and whose status going into the offseason is in flux, smiled widely when fielding questions about the change -- though he did not openly call out Cerrato.

"When something [goes] wrong everybody feels change is necessary, it's not just an individual person, you always wonder what's wrong, what's the problem," Rogers said. "Something's got to give, something's got to take and you never know who it is, or what person it is, or what's the little thing or the big thing that's wrong. So I guess everybody feels change [was needed]. I'm not saying that [because] Vinny resigned that was the problem or that was the change. You never know."

While some players appeared satisfied with the move, wide receiver Santana Moss praised Cerrato for his efforts in Washington.

"I felt he was a pretty good guy, I felt that he did all he can do for his job," Moss said. "He did his job well. I talked to him a lot here and there, so, to me, I knew what he wanted, I knew what his focus was: He wanted to win and he wanted to bring the right guys in to help us win. . . .

"As far as what everybody else had their problems at, that's them. From my standpoint, I was fine with some of the decisions he made as far as players and I think it just all boils down to us going out there and doing what we have to do. And when you get caught up into who should be here and all that stuff it just gets crazy."

The news of the overhaul in the front office was jarring in part because of the improvement the team had displayed in the past few weeks. The offense was showing more life, the team's 2008 second-round draft picks were beginning to progress -- perhaps lifting some pressure off Cerrato -- and the team was coming off of its most dominant win of the season.

Still, Fletcher pointed out that the improvement over the past few weeks did not change the reality of a disappointing season.

"Right now, we're a 4-9 football team and had extremely high expectations coming into the season," Fletcher said. "For one reason or another we have not lived up to the expectations that we had on ourselves and also that Mr. Snyder had for us, and everybody else as well, so when you don't live up to the expectations there is going to be change and unfortunately there has been a change with the general manager. . . .

"Obviously Bruce has a proven track record as a general manager in this league, he was in Tampa Bay -- part of a Super Bowl championship down there, he was in Oakland for a number of years so he has a proven track record of building franchises and turning them into winners."

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