Vinny Cerrato and Bruce Allen: Taking a Step Back, Seeing More of the Same

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Vinny Cerrato and Bruce Allen: Taking a Step Back, Seeing More of the Same
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

With Vinny Cerrato’s official resignation as Executive Vice President of football operations, Redskins’ fans saw their dream come true.

It was an odd feeling to have pride in one of Daniel Synder’s decisions. Under the yoke of a repressive regime, our voices were heard. I imagine this is what the fall of the Berlin Wall felt like.

Leaving aside the historical hyperbole, what happened at Redskins Park on Wednesday?

The movie WALL-E is a good parallel for the change at General Manager. Everyone on the starship Axiom wears red jumpsuits. For the homogeneously obese population, it’s a good look.

One day, the all-encompassing Buy N’ Large Corporation launches a new ad campaign, “Blue is the new red.” Everyone’s computerized hover chair can simulate a new blue jumpsuit over their existing red one.

The jumpsuit is cosmetically different, yet intrinsically the same.

For Daniel Synder and the Redskins, the shameful timing of this announcement is public relations genius. It’s a move that shares its motivation with all of their other personnel decisions: make headlines.

With the NFL stage all to themselves on Monday Night and Jon Gruden commentating, the Redskins have set the dialog and controlled the message.

A perfect result as far as public relations is concerned.

The newspaper writers and television commentators will look back at the history of George Allen’s tenure with the Redskins and tell a nice tale. It’s a story that guides everyone into next season and gives them hope, instead of allowing them to wallow in the last three games of a 4-9 season.

But when you look at Vinny Cerrato and Bruce Allen, are they really all that different, or did we just unknowingly switch from wearing red to wearing blue?

Bruce Allen spent seven years as a Senior Executive for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders from 1996-2003.

Allen’s strength with the Raiders was salary cap management and he probably had input into personnel decisions as well. But since Al Davis is famously involved in the draft and other personnel matters, it’s hard to pinpoint a particular move and credit it to Allen.

Matt Loede, in a Washington Post chat on Wednesday, said that Allen was instrumental in bringing quarterback Rich Gannon to Oakland in 1999. Gannon was the main reason the Raiders had three straight winning seasons from 2000-2002 and appeared in the 2002 Super Bowl. However, in general, he wasn’t a talent evaluator for the Raiders.

In 2003, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden forced out General Manager Rich McKay in a long-standing power struggle over personnel decisions. Gruden was allowed to give the final approval on who would be the next General Manager.

So he calls up his old friend from Oakland, someone he knows is not a great talent evaluator and a wizard with the salary cap to come rescue the Buccaneers from salary cap hell.

Allen signs on with Tampa Bay in January 2004 and is only required to do two things: negotiate player contracts and manage the salary cap. It was Gruden who grabbed the player personnel power for himself and sent Allen off to do the negotiating.

And as Anthony Brown deftly noted, Allen achieved success in the books by continually rolling over cap space from one year to the next as the product on the field faltered. In Allen’s five seasons with the Buccaneers, he (and Jon Gruden) achieved a 38-42 record.

Their resume at improving through the draft isn’t much beyond mediocre. Both were let go in January.

For Daniel Synder, this is a great hire. He brings in a General Manager who can manage the salary cap and isn’t used to having the final word on player personnel decisions. For both for Al Davis and Jon Gruden, Bruce Allen was their cap guru; he served them.

As Synder must see it, Allen isn’t a threat. He’s willing to cede that control to others. Allen’s not going to steal any cookies off Synder’s plate.

It also leaves open the possibility of hiring Mike Shanahan, the type of coach who wants ultimate control over personnel decisions.

The Redskins just went from a weak-willed GM who wasn’t a good talent evaluator and didn’t have the final say in personnel decisions to a new GM who has never had the final say in personnel decisions and hasn’t been known as a good talent evaluator either.

If it’s any consolation, blue is the new red, and it certainly is a striking color.

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