It isn't hard to read the tea leaves. Cerrato made sure in his exit statement to praise everyone but Coach Jim Zorn. It was a singularly graceless gesture -- and one that violated every traditional courtesy of the NFL, a league in which most people understand that no single individual is ever wholly to blame. It suggested the depth of the tension that has existed in Redskins Park. Cerrato singled out defensive coordinator Greg Blache, and offensive adviser Sherman Lewis, the man he brought in when he stripped Zorn of his play-calling duties in early October. He praised Snyder, and the minority partners, and he praised himself, saying, "I strongly believe that with outstanding picks and encouraging performance by our younger players, we have laid a strong foundation for the franchise."
But he was specifically, glaringly, echoingly silent on Zorn, a man he had obviously turned on with breathtaking speed. "I've had the pleasure of working with some great coaches such as Joe Gibbs, Greg Blache and Sherman Lewis, great people on the Redskins staff, and most especially, some of the best professional football players in the world," Cerrato said.
Two years ago, Cerrato lobbied Snyder to take a chance on Zorn, despite the fact that Zorn had never called a play or been an offensive coordinator, much less a head coach. Yet it took only a year for Cerrato to sour on him.
Cerrato was plainly of the opinion that Zorn was making his roster decisions and draft choices look bad. Whatever the Redskins are at this point, they are as much Cerrato's creation as anyone's: He has been the owner's man and right hand, made most of their draft choices and executed some of their most significant free agent signings, even in Joe Gibbs's second tenure, and his influence was made explicit when Snyder handed him the title of executive vice president of a football operations on Jan. 22, 2008, following the resignation of Gibbs. Asked on Oct. 27 if he thought he had given the Redskins a playoff roster, Cerrato replied, "Yes."
That told you that, as far as Cerrato was concerned, it had become a case of "him or me."
And that's a toxic ethic for a team. Zorn has many flaws as a head coach; he was probably unprepared for the job, and is still learning his way. But he has been a good steward under difficult circumstances, held his undermanned squads together and built cohesion in the face of mounting injuries and terrible losses, and coaxed some of their best performances of the season when all was lost. If nothing else he has coached the heck out of quarterback Jason Campbell, transforming him into a real asset.