I continue to hear from multiple league sources that Mike Shanahan remains the most likely choice to take over as the Washington Redskins’ head coach in 2010, and the hiring of Bruce Allen is but one move in an organizational overhaul.
Shanahan has been quietly making inroads to round out a staff, multiple sources said, and they would be surprised if he doesn’t ultimately end up in Washington to replace Jim Zorn shortly after this season ends in a team president/head coach capacity similar to the role that Joe Gibbs had there.
Owner Daniel Snyder has been looking to make changes in the organization, and while some believed longtime team official Vinny Cerrato would end up with some role in a potential shakeup, I have heard that he wouldn’t have had a place in a rearranged organization, which led to his exit.
Cerrato had been working as normal in recent days, scouting players and preparing for the offseason, including representing the Redskins at league meetings in Dallas on Tuesday (but he wasn’t seen at the conclusion of those meetings Wednesday, according to sources). The team announced that Cerrato resigned early Thursday morning, though league sources who saw him in Dallas said there were no indications that he was stepping down.
Cerrato had been with Snyder throughout his 10-year tenure as owner, excluding the 2001 season when Marty Schottenheimer took over the reins and let Cerrato go. Cerrato’s personnel record on the draft and free agency made him an increasingly divisive figure among the fan base, but his longtime close personal relationship with Snyder led many to believe he would retain some place with the team into the future.
The Redskins will explore candidates to round out the front office in player-personnel roles, according to sources, with current personnel executives such as Eric DeCosta (Baltimore), Bobby DePaul (Chicago) and Doug Williams (Tampa Bay) among possibilities. The Redskins came close to hiring DePaul to replace Cerrato twice during the Gibbs regime, according to sources, and DeCosta, a rising star as Ozzie Newsome’s top lieutenant with the Ravens, began his career with the Redskins. Williams won a Super Bowl as the Redskins’ quarterback and worked under Allen for the Buccaneers in personnel.
Snyder also has been impressed with the work of Morocco Brown, in his first season as Washington’s director of pro personnel, and he could be someone to remain in a revamped front office.
Snyder has long been enamored with Allen, and with Allen’s father, George, a legendary figure in the Redskins organization, so the move isn’t surprising. The Redskins have yet to put together consecutive winning seasons under Snyder, and there was widespread thought around the league that the team needed to shake up its front office and alter its hierarchy. Allen has deep ties to the area and wasn’t expected to be out of football for long after he and coach Jon Gruden were let go by the Bucs after the 2008 season.
Many will look at Allen’s hiring as a sign that Gruden could reunite with him in Washington, but multiple sources continue to tell me that Gruden will not coach until at least the 2011 season and is loving his job as an analyst on Monday Night Football. He signed an extension with ESPN, which I am told is ironclad for 2010 in terms of leaving, even for a coaching or “dream job” gig.
“There is a zero percent chance that Jon coaches anywhere next year,” said a source close to the coach.
The Redskins need to revamp their offense and have been unable to score with sufficient regularity this decade, which is just one of the reasons that Shanahan, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Denver Broncos, is so attractive to Snyder. The men also have gotten to know each other through the years, and Snyder’s discontent with his current staff and offense is no secret, with quarterback Jason Campbell’s development stalling, the Redskins trying to trade for Jay Cutler –- Shanahan’s last quarterback in Denver –- in the offseason and then Zorn stripped of his playcalling duties early this season.
Washington’s defense has thrived, however, and Snyder thinks highly of several member of the staff, including defensive coordinator Greg Blache, who has seriously considered retirement in recent years, and secondary coach Jerry Gray, who was viewed as a possible successor to Blache (Snyder blocked Gray from interviewing to be the Houston Texans’ defensive coordinator during the offseason). However, should someone of Shanahan’s stature take over, he would want to put together the staff he felt most comfortable with, which could lead to major changes throughout the organization.
Shanahan interviewed for the Buffalo Bills’ head-coaching job a few weeks back, but few people who know him expected the talks to progress, with other suitors emerging. Should the Dallas Cowboys continue to plummet, they could be in line for a coach, with Shanahan a top option. The Texans already have a great offense in place (they essentially run Shanahan’s offense with a good young quarterback in place), and there would be lots in place to attract the coach there as well, but I continue to hear he is most likely to land in Washington given the machinations already ongoing as he reaches out to potential hires for his next gig.
Allen brings strong organizational and football administration skills to Washington. His forte isn’t so much directly scouting –- and more moves are expected as he rounds out his football operations staff -– but he is an innovator in writing contracts. He is a former agent who’s well versed in interacting with agents, negotiating and deal making. He’s well liked and has a good reputation for his work, including manipulating the salary cap. He also is adept at interacting with the media, an area where the organization has suffered.
Allen’s hiring is a strong first step, but there is much more to come as the Redskins try once again to reclaim their glory and emerge from a long malaise.