Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vinny and Bruce Allen

I am intending to do the 3rd quarter review tonight, but of course the very surpising change in management needs to be addressed.

It was looking likely that Vinny might not survive the offseason, but I never though he would get the axe mid-season. And I especially didn't expect that Zorn would outlast him.

Cerrato's skills in personel management have been widely (and mostly fairly) criticized. I intend to delve a little more into that in the days ahead. But it always seemed to me like one of Vinny's greatest drawbacks was personality. I freely admit that I have never met him, and its certainly possible to get a faulty impression of someone's character when it is filtered by the media. But he always came across as an exceptionally petty, insecure, and vindicitive individual. Four examples come immediately to mind:

- His feud with Washington Post beat writer Jason LaCanfora was childish and embarrassing to the organization. I'm not sure LaCanfora did everything he could to defuse the situation, but Cerrato went out of his way to snipe at LaCanfora at every opportunity, and even Larry Michael on Redskins Nation was recruited into occasional assaults against him. The tone of all this was reminiscent of a couple of catty teenage girls.

- When former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo apparently turned down the head coach job, rumors were immediately disseminated that actually the Redskins turned HIM down, and that Spagnuolo had at one point said he didn't feel ready to be a head coach. All apparently to save the embarrassment of being rejected by the hottest head coach candidate on the market that year.

- After the 2008 season Vinny apparently realized the trade for Jason Taylor had been a mistake. Instead of simply releasing him, he was given an ultimatum to conduct his offseason workouts in DC - an ultimatum that it was obvious he would reject. Vinny tried to spin the story to make Taylor look like the bad guy, and hopefully change the focus story from the failure of the trade. It didn't work.

- And finally, his statement this morning contained the most gratuitously petty sentence imaginable: "I've had the pleasure of working with some great coaches such as Joe Gibbs, Greg Blache and Sherman Lewis..." Keep in mind that's from a prepared statement, not an off the cuff remark.

It was always possible that much of this was actually Dan Snyder's pettiness reflecting off of Cerrato, but that last one was clearly Vinny's alone. Having a personality like this at the top of a large organization cannot possibly contribute to a healthy professional culture.

As for Bruce Allen, I think we have no choice but to be cautiously optimistic and give him the benefit of the doubt. At the very least, he is an accomplished football professional. I don't have enough information on hand to make quick judgements about his talent evaluation skills or team-building strategy, but those are actually secondary issues at the moment.

The most important question is if Bruce Allen has a strong enough personality to tell Dan Snyder "no." Suppose Allen wants to draft an offensive lineman, but Snyder wants a sexy new quarterback. Who will win that argument? We need to be watching closely for clues about that relationship is developing.

Honestly, I have a feeling Allen will truly be in charge - at least at first. Snyder certainly wants to feel like he made a smart hire, and for one offseason he will probably accept that Allen knows more about football than he does. To do otherwise would be to admit that he blew an incredibly important decision.

The problem comes if the Redskins miss the playoffs in 2010 - I don't think Snyder's patience would last more than one year. If things don't improve right off the bat, it will be Allen's challenge to maintain his autonomy and authority. But if the team seems to be headed in the right direction, Snyder just may step back and feel like a genius for hiring him.

The early dismissal of Cerrato may have been the best thing that could happen for Jim Zorn. If Cerrato had stayed Zorn would be as good as gone, and if Cerrato had even lasted to the offseason then he and Zorn would probably have been whacked together in a general housecleaning.

But while Allen may well want to bring in his own people (and yes, I've seen all the rumors that Shanahan is likely the next coach), he is also coming in withough preconceptions. He will have a chance to work with Zorn, however briefly, and see up-close how the team is run. I think Zorn will at least be given fair consideration, especially since the departed VP of football operations can easily be blamed for anything that has gone wrong. Allen may decide to make a change anyway, and if he does then so be it. Jim Zorn may now have a slim but real chance at survival.

Unless, of course, Dan Snyder has already made the decision and Bruce Allen is not the empowered leader we're hoping for.


  1. Somebody today was trying to convince me that Vinny was actually a good GM (which they defined as good evaluator of talent) who was thrown under the bus as a scapegoat to allow Snyder to avoid taking any blame for a single bad season.


  2. I think a case could be made that many of Vinny's draft picks and free agent signings were pretty good - especially since the blame for some of the real busts (Archuleta, Brandon Lloyd, etc) must be shared with Joe Gibbs and his staff.

    So one could argue that he did not utilize resources efficiently by trading away draft picks or prioritizing the wrong positions with them. That is a serious knock on him, but is independent of his abilities as a talent evaluator. Maybe we shouldn't have taken a tight end in the second round last year at all, but clearly he correctly gauged that Fred Davis could be a highly effective NFL player.

    I intend to look at this over the weekend and present this argument in a much more developed fashion soon.

  3. That was exactly my take. As far as available evidence shows, Vinny would be a decent scout. But trading away picks, or drafting a good 4th receiver when what we really needed was a halfway decent o-lineman, is what made him a bad GM. And that's not to take away anything negative folks may feel about DS. But to basically say that Vinny was a fine GM who was undermined and then scapegoated by DS seems like a heck of a stretch...

  4. That, and just generally being a divisive douche.