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So Far, So Good for Cerrato the Football Boss

Vinny Cerrato, with Clinton Portis in 2006, is in his first year as the Redskins' top decision maker for football matters.
Vinny Cerrato, with Clinton Portis in 2006, is in his first year as the Redskins' top decision maker for football matters. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Mike Wise
Friday, August 15, 2008

Knowing Vinny Cerrato, who watches a lot of ESPN, listens to Miserable Suburban Guy radio and pays close attention to what the masses think, it seems only natural to open up with an obvious one:

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"So, how does it feel when you hear someone say, 'When are the Redskins going to get a real GM?' "

Cerrato pauses and thinks, reclining in his Ashburn office below a color-coded board of every NFL player's name and status. "I haven't heard it for a while," he finally says.

To be sure, he says he pays more attention to national news than the local yokels. Vinny has gone so far as to warn his mother to avoid certain URLs and Web links after she signs on the Internet in Florida and reads everything to catch up on her son's team.

"I told her which blog not to read," Cerrato said, referring to Jason La Canfora's Redskins Insider on washingtonpost.com, which eviscerates Cerrato like Post TV critic Tom Shales used to eviscerate Kathie Lee Gifford's Christmas specials. "She gets mad when she reads those kinds of things."

It's only preseason, but Mary Cerrato cannot be too angry these days.

After Joe Gibbs left in January, her son was promoted to the job as Washington's top football decision maker. That's right, not director of player personnel. Or V.P. under Joe Gibbs and 10 other coaches. Nope. Mama Cerrato's boy is all growed up -- a real, bona fide GM, the big cheese who oversees all the team's day-to-day football operations.

Which meant that all the things Vinny use to get blamed for -- trades, losses and general organizational malaise and chaos -- well, now it's okay to blame Vinny.

Or praise him.

Of the team's 10 draft picks, cornfed Iowan Chad Rinehart has been a nice find on the offensive line and seventh-round safety Chris Horton has showed promise. Cerrato pried Jason Taylor away from Bill Parcells with little more than a second-round draft pick, acquiring the not-long-for-Miami defensive end on the same the day Phillip Daniels and Alex Buzbee went down and out for the season with injuries.

And all the guff he and owner Daniel Snyder took in the musical-chair coaching search of Jim Zorn nearly melted away the moment Zorn let the playbook breathe. Zorn opened up the offense and his mouth, showing an earnestness that's already won over skeptics of the neophyte head coach.

"People just needed to get to know Jim," Cerrato said. "Once you got to know him like Dan and I knew him, they would see the real Jim instead of criticizing him for not having the experience. Give him a chance to see what he can do, see who he is. And people have."

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