Cerrato Defends Roster He Gave Zorn

Redskins VP calls team playoff material

By JOSEPH WHITE
|  Tuesday, Oct 27, 2009  |  Updated 7:45 PM EDT
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Vinny Cerrato believes he gave Jim Zorn a roster that can make the playoffs. He also said the coach's job status was undecided in the days following the play-caller switch to Sherm Lewis.

The Washington Redskins executive vice president of football operations made a rare, albeit short, appearance before reporters Tuesday to answer questions about the team's 2-5 start. He was given a space backed up against a wall in a cramped area next to a stairway near the locker room -- looking very much like a man who was cornered with no way out.

"Frustrating and disappointing with 2-5," Cerrato said. "It's not where we expected to be."

Cerrato, perhaps even more than owner Dan Snyder or coach Zorn, has received much of the heat for the dismal season. Even players in the locker room Monday were bemoaning the lack of depth along the offensive line, with running back Clinton Portis saying: "We went into the season, and we didn't address that issue, and it came back to haunt us."

The offensive line began the season with no backups who had played a single NFL down last season, even though Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas were coming off multiple surgeries. Samuels and Thomas are now hurt, and the reshuffled line has allowed 14 sacks in the past three games.

Cerrato said he "tried to address the line" in the offseason. He cited left guard Derrick Dockery and tackle Mike Williams as his main additions, even though Williams hadn't played since 2005.

The Redskins haven't selected an offensive lineman in the first two rounds of the draft since 2000, and Cerrato said there was nobody the team felt was worthy of the No. 13 overall pick this year.

"Are you having the results you wanted? No, you don't want the sacks," Cerrato said. "If it was Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas, would we be better? Absolutely. If you lose a Pro Bowler, it's definitely going to drop off. Where we're standing now, to have more depth, it would be great."

Still, when asked twice if he felt he gave Zorn a roster that could get to the playoffs, Cerrato said "Yes" each time.

Last week, prodded by Snyder to do something about the struggling offense following a loss to Kansas City, Cerrato made the decision to have Zorn removed from play-calling duties. Cerrato then went silent for several days, making Zorn look like a lame duck who could be fired any minute.

It wasn't until Friday, on his radio show, that Cerrato finally discussed the play-caller change and stated that Zorn would remain the coach for the rest of the season.

Asked why he waited five days to endorse Zorn, Cerrato said: "We sat down and got our game plan together and that's why it was on Friday."

So it took a week to decide that Zorn was going to stay the rest of the season?

"Yeah, we sat down and talked about it," Cerrato answered. "We were doing the play-caller thing and everything, so yeah."

Asked if he was concerned about his own job security, Cerrato said: "I feel like my job's on the line all the time. It's not something that I really worry about. My job is to get us going and fill these holes when guys get hurt. Things take care of themselves after the season."

The first game with Lewis as play-caller did not yield promising results. The offense committed three turnovers, allowed six sacks, converted only 3 of 12 third downs and had a season-low in rushing yards in Monday night's 27-17 loss to Philadelphia. The Redskins still haven't scored more than 17 points in a game this season, and the open question remains whether Cerrato's roster could win even if Bill Walsh in his heyday were calling the shots.

"We didn't win," Cerrato said. "But I thought Sherm provided a spark, and I think the offense did some good things. ... I thought he did an excellent job."

Because Lewis has only been with the team for three weeks and doesn't know the full play book, the play-calling mechanism Monday night was hardly textbook.

Sitting in the coaches' box, Lewis first decided whether the play would be a run or pass. If it was a pass, he called out a code for the play down to offensive coordinator Sherman Smith, who relayed the play to quarterback Jason Campbell. If the play was a run, Lewis let Smith call the actual play.

Zorn kept mum for the most part, still trying to come to grips with the situation.

"I'm most comfortable calling plays myself, no question. I can't deny that. I can't fill you with fluff there," Zorn said. "But this seemed to work. It had some success; we had our share of failures."
 

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