Bruce Allen is worthy, but . . .

By Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 18, 2009; D09

Yes, of course Bruce Allen's résumé makes him a worthy hire as the new general manager of the Washington Redskins. What he did with the Raiders alone is proof he's capable of both building a championship-caliber team and working successfully with a difficult owner.

Now, here comes the 'but' . . .

If Allen is just new cover for a continuation of celebrity football, then the Redskins won't be substantially better off with him than they were with Vinny Cerrato. If Daniel Snyder continues to go on scouting trips with Allen, like he did with Cerrato recently to see Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, then the Redskins will be doing pretty much what they've done in the past, which is to say largely nothing. If Allen was brought in simply to hire old buddy Jon Gruden and then throw away high draft picks while radically overpaying free agents, then the Redskins will stay true to their flawed way of doing football business for the past 10 years.

If Allen is running the football team and having, overwhelmingly, the final say in personnel decisions -- from the coaching staff to the backup long snapper -- then the Redskins have a chance. If Snyder is making those decisions, then this delirious civic relief over Cerrato's departure and widespread optimism over Allen's arrival will wind up being a complete waste of emotion.

Snyder making business decisions is golden; look at his bottom line.

Snyder making football decisions is a disaster; look at the team's bottom line, its record.

Personally, I'll have to see this transformation to believe it is really happening, because the Redskins squandered benefit of the doubt, like so many high draft picks, years ago. The Patriots have earned benefit of the doubt. The Colts have earned benefit of the doubt. The Steelers. Even teams like the Seahawks and Bears, who've been to a Super Bowl recently. The Redskins? As Chad Ochocinco would say, "Child, please."

It's amazing how easy Redskins fans have become. Any hookup with the past is wildly applauded. Allen is the son of former Redskins coach George Allen, the first coach to take the team to the Super Bowl, and folks are getting all hot-chocolate-by-the-fireplace. The last flashback hire, Joe Gibbs, got the Redskins standing up straight again with a couple of trips to the playoffs, but they weren't exactly formidable in his second stint. Clearly, Snyder is completely a product of Washington, where too many folks would rather look back than ahead. So what if this doesn't work? Will folks get teary-eyed at the hiring of Sammy Baugh's great-great-grandson? This link-to-the past junk is entirely overrated.

Bruce Allen, if left to his own devices, is a good hire because of his track record in the NFL, not because he's George Allen's son. When Gibbs first arrived he had no link whatsoever to the club's past, and he did all right with those three Super Bowl championships, didn't he? What ought to make people feel warm-and-fuzzy about the Redskins is winning, not hooking up with some previous era of success.

Bruce Allen has his own hookups that might play a major role in the future of the franchise. The widespread presumption is that he'll hire Gruden. We know that's right up Snyder's alley because Gruden is a star, somebody he's heard of and impressed by to some degree. Snyder doesn't do nobodies; he'd never hire a 39-year-old assistant named Gibbs. Never. Not famous enough. Gruden's famous. Won in Oakland. Finished the job Rich McKay and Tony Dungy started and won it all in Tampa. Ties with Notre Dame. Big media star with "Monday Night Football." Perfect fit, right?

Yep, just like Marty Schottenheimer was a perfect fit. Just like Steve Spurrier, just like Gibbs the second time around.

The Redskins don't need any more celebrity football. They're going to need at least two young, healthy, capable offensive linemen. They're going to need a feature running back. They could use one all-pro caliber cover cornerback. They're going to probably need a starting quarterback. Clearly, Snyder has again been trying to replace Jason Campbell, which is the only reason he and Cerrato would be talking to McCoy. If I was advising Campbell, a restricted free agent, I'd do my best to convince him to get the hell away from the Redskins, even if Gruden is coach, what with the way he falls in and out of love, weekly, with quarterbacks.

Perhaps Allen has some kind of agreement with the owner that he has the final say in football personnel matters. Absent that, this news makes a lot of noise but we don't know if it actually says anything.

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