Tag Archives: Vinny Cerrato

A “Lack of Talent” Show

Anyone who knows anything about NFL football knows that it’s no secret that the Redskins and their fanbase were the butt of numerous punchlines of jokes surrounding the Redskins throwing excessive amounts of money at big name players, and consistently contending for the “offseason championship” or “championship team on paper” title. Over the last 11 years or so, the amount of money the Redskins have thrown at has-beens or or guys looking to cash in on career years like Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier, Jeff George, Jeremiah Trotter, Jessie Armstead, Laveranues Coles, Adam Archuleta, Antwaan Randle El, Albert Haynesworth, and Donovan McNabb exceeds the gross domestic product of over 50% of countries on this planet. That’s insane.

But here’s the sad irony in all of this: even with the tens of millions of dollars thrown at those guys or used to pay any of the high profile draft picks this team has made, the Redskins are easily well towards the bottom of the NFL in terms of overall, across-the-board play-makers on this football team.

As a Redskins fan, ask yourself this question: does this team have one single elite, “blue chip” player whom you could really call a cornerstone for this franchise? Is there really one guy whom you can say: “this is a guy we have to lock up for the next decade, and build this team around him”? The only truly game-changing player that this team has been able to draft over the past decade was Sean Taylor, and he was taken from this world far earlier than he deserved to be (RIP).

Just run down the list of guys currently on the roster:

Brian Orakpo: Listen, I love the guy – especially his intangibles and leadership at a relatively young age (he turned 25 this summer) – but you’re kidding yourself if you think he falls into a true “franchise player” designation. He’s a really good pass-rusher, no doubt, but he’s simply not a game-changing linebacker. He’s had one season with double-digit sacks (2009), and forced a grand total of two fumbles coming into 2011. Drafting Ryan Kerrigan was supposed to free him up from double-teams and being the focus of opposing teams’ game plans, yet he’s currently tied for 20th in the league in sacks. He always seems like he’s in the backfield, but just a step slow from making a momentum-shifting or game-altering play.

As Redskins fans, we hold Orakpo in much higher esteem than the rest of the NFL, mostly because he’s all we have to brag about. But when ESPN.com’s top football bloggers sat down to rank their top linebackers in the entire league, seven out of eight of them didn’t include Orakpo in their top 10 in the game. Redskins fans like to think of Orakpo as being in the same echelon of pass rushers like Demarcus Ware, Clay Matthews Jr, or LaMarr Woodley, but that’s simply not accurate.

LaRon Landry: Landry looked like he was on his way to being an All-Pro player last year in 2010 – he was arguably one of the top five defensive players in the NFL halfway through last season – but the injury to his Achilles tendon changed everything. With the cursed lockout taking away the ability for him to rehabilitate the injury with the Redskins medical staff, he’s just not the same guy anymore. His play has taken about four to six steps backward from what he was in 2010, and now he looks alarmingly ordinary, if not mediocre.

DeAngelo Hall: forget about it. Hall remains one of those guys who talks a far better game than he plays. God forbid he just shuts his mouth and covers the guy in front of him. Yeah, he might get you four to six interceptions per season, but he’ll get burned just as many times for big plays by opposing receivers. I’m not calling a “feast or famine” cornerback one of the better players in the game; like Orakpo, five of eight ESPN.com columnists didn’t include Hall in their top 10 cornerbacks in the NFL.

Ryan Kerrigan: Ignoring the fact that you can’t make a true judgement about a guy just seven games into his NFL career, he’s like Orakpo: damn fine player, busts his tail on every play, outstanding intangibles, great football IQ, but not a game-changing, top-five-at-his-position guy.

London Fletcher: the best player on this team, hands down, but father time will catch up with him at some point. And it’s a damn shame, too, because he may be the only player left on this roster who genuinely cares about whether this team wins or loses.

Anyone on Offense: You must be kidding. Did you even watch the last three games this team has played? To steal a phrase from Rip Torn: this offense looks like a bunch of morons trying to hump a doorknob. Our offensive execution last Sunday looked like one of those electronic vibrating football games from the 80’s where all the plastic players either end up falling over or spinning around in circles. The only guy you could even mention on the offense without completely being laughed at is Trent Williams, but right now, he has as many questions about his work ethic and passion for the game as he has physical tools and potential upside. Point being, he’s far from “there” yet.

That’s why it makes me go into a Bruce Banner-esque rage every time someone tries to compare the Redskins injury situation in 2011 to that of Green Bay in 2010, in trying to find some hope and silver lining for this team.

Calling that asinine just doesn’t describe how stupid that is. As many injuries as the Packers had last year (and it was pretty incredible; they had over 15 guys on injured reserve by the time the postseason rolled around), Green Bay had a top three quarterbacks in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers) and two of the top twenty defensive players in the league on their team (Matthews and Charles Woodson).

Again, even if all 22 of the Redskins starters were 100% healthy today, there isn’t one single player on this team whom you could say is a top 20 player in the NFL on offense or defense. Put it this way: you shouldn’t expect to win a whole lot of games if Brandon Banks and Sav Rocca are the only two players you could argue are in the top 20 on their side of the ball in the NFL (and that’s just Special Teams). My friend Tim said it best: this team is like a old dam – as soon as you plug one hole, another one opens up. Years of wasted money on free agent busts, trading away key middle round draft picks for more overpaid busts, and poor drafting in the later rounds by the Cerrato regime has absolutely crippled this roster of both blue-chip and overall talent.

Redskins fans were teased with false hopes and aspirations after the 3-1 start to this season. But, like always, we’ve been slapped with the cold, hard reality by November: this team has more problems than answers right now, and still has a ways to go before it’s anywhere near ready to contend.

This column was cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

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With Shanahan & Allen, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.

Right now, if you ask ten different so-called NFL experts, draft pundits, and Redskins fans alike the question of: “Who do you think the Redskins are going to take with their first round pick” you could very well end up with 10 different answers.

First, everyone thought they were going to take Cam Newton. If not Newton, then Blaine Gabbert from Missouri, the other “blue-chip” quarterback in this draft. Then Phil Taylor, the nose tackle from Baylor was the hot name. When it looked like the former two wouldn’t be available and it would be a big reach to take the latter, we started throwing out other possibilities. Perhaps they’d take someone like defensive end JJ Watt from Wisconsin or defensive end Robert Quinn from UNC to upgrade the defense. After the scouting combine, the new hot name linked to the Redskins – despite no other credible evidence out there supporting this idea – is wide receiver Julio Jones from Alabama. And, of course, you’ve still got “the field”: other shots-in-the-dark possibilities like running back Mark Ingram of Alabama, cornerback Prince Amukamara of Nebraska, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue or any wild guess really.

Here’s what I think. When it comes to the Shanahan/Allen regime, they thrive on secrecy and misinformation. They’re the opposite of that bungling fool Vinny Cerrato, who if you were playing in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, he would have let you know what cards he had before you even flipped the Turn or the River cards.

But even with this new found secrecy in Redskins park, historical precedent has shown that with Shanahan and Allen, look for the most smoke, and you’ll likely find the fire. Last year, the name of Trent Williams started emerging more and more as the guy the Redskins would take with the 4th overall pick, even though he may not have even been considered a top 10 pick late in the winter. The debate raged on, regarding whether the Redskins should take Williams versus a guy like Russell Okung, who most considered to be the more “NFL-ready” guy. Okung had all the accolades (two-time All American, Big 12 lineman of the year, Outland trophy finalist) and was even projected by some to be the first overall selection in the whole draft.

But Shanahan and Allen saw a guy with enormous potential and upside (even greater than Okung’s), and someone who could be dominant in Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. Even on draft day itself, when rumors swirled that the Redskins would make a trade up to go get Sam Bradford (turns out there was no basis for this), or that they were seriously considering taking Eric Berry (not even close), they stuck with their guns throughout and zeroed in on taking Williams.

Really, that’s really the only evidence or precedent we have to go with, if we’re trying to predict exactly what Shanahan and Allen are going to do. So what exactly can we extrapolate from this?

Here’s my thought: even with all of those names mentioned above, as speculation regarding whom the Redskins may end up taking with their first round choice, who’s the one guy whose name is consistently linked with the Redskins, even if it doesn’t necessarily make sense right now?

That would be University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

If you read between the lines and take samplings of well-connected media guys, player agents, and the always-secretive guys “who know a guy who knows something,” the Redskins and Jake Locker’s name keep popping up together.

And to me, it makes a lot more sense than you might think. Let’s be honest: Mike Shanahan didn’t come to Washington to have Rex Grossman to lead him to a Super Bowl (or anywhere at all, really). Rex is the placeholder, at best. And Shanahan and Allen have to realize, at this point, that they’re at least a year or two away from being a contender for anything, given how pathetically bare the cupboard was left for them when they first arrived.

Locker has as much upside as any quarterback in this draft, not named Cam Newton. From my armchair quarterback point of view: I want three things from my quarterback: accuracy, loves the game of football as much as anything else, and a guy that his teammates would go to war with any day of the week. Those three things matter more than anything else, if we’re projecting future success in this league.

From all accounts, Locker aces the latter two. His intangibles are second to none. Even all the other accoutrement you could possibly want from your franchise quarterback – arm strength, mobility, frame – he grades out as an “A+” in all of those areas as well. He already had some experience in an NFL-style West Coast offense, playing under Steve Sarkisian at the University of Washington, which will slightly minimize his learning curve when making the jump to the NFL.

Now, as far as accuracy goes; yeah, there’s a lot to be desired with that. He’s streaky, erratic, and still has a ways to go with his decision making. There’s still a lot to develop with him, as far as his throwing rhythm, reading defenses, and footwork.

But here’s my thing with Locker: unlike guys in the past who were all athlete and none quarterback, Locker wants to get better. He wants to learn how to be better. He wants to be coached, and doesn’t just want to show off his athletic marvels (arm strength and running speed). Again, you can’t find a single person that doesn’t love Locker as a person or as a football player.

I’ve made my belief pretty clear when discussing other quarterbacks in the past, especially for one that’s as “raw” as Locker: they should hold the clipboard for as long as possible, and learn from the sidelines. Let him soak up as much as possible in the classroom first, and then take his reps with the scout team, throwing to scrub wide receivers, and improving his game the old-fashioned way: through hard work on his own. And if the Redskins happen to be out of playoff contention come early December, then it’s ok to let Locker onto the field and get some reps in real-time; but only after he’s had time to get some “seasoning” on the bench, first.

Only those fans with the highest prescriptions on their burgundy and gold glasses will think the Redskins are a legitimate contender for anything in 2011. They just have way too many holes to address on both sides of the football.

But biggest of all those holes is the future of the quarterback position. Drafting Locker at least gives you an answer at that position, especially if he turns out to be a success.  And really, how many guys in the league would you take over Mike Shanahan, when it comes to developing a quarterback? Shanahan got Brian Griese and Jake Plummer to lead his team to AFC West titles, and had Jay Cutler throw for a mind-bending 4500+ yards (still his career high) in only his third season.

Is there a big part of me that fears Locker may be the second coming of Heath Shuler? Absolutely. But there’s a bigger part of me that’s absolutely intrigued by him as well. If he was just a physical specimen that played in a gimmick offense in college for a season or two, I’d be a lot more worried. But I think there’s a ton of potential there that, if developed properly, could lead to some very promising results.

So either I really believe all of this about Locker, Or maybe I’m just convincing myself into buying into Locker, because that’s who I think will be the quarterback of the future for the time being in Washington.

This article was cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

The Redskins revolving door of futility at receiver

Here’s a stat for you. Since the 2006 season, the Redskins are one of only three teams to have had exactly one player exceed 1,000 yards receiving (Santana Moss did in ‘07; the Chiefs and Seahawks are in the same boat). Sure, it could be worse – there are four teams who haven’t had anyone break a thousand yards receiving in that same span – but is that really the company we strive to be with? I mean, even the Bills, Lions, and Browns (three of the worst teams of this decade) have had more than one player break the 1k yard mark.

Anyone who follows the Redskins is well aware of the revolving door at quarterback this team has had in that same span (Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, then Campbell again, and now Donovan McNabb), but take a look at the revolving door of spectacularly craptacular receivers this team has started opposite of Moss, prior to the Shanahan regime: Brandon Lloyd, Keenan McCardell, Reche Caldwell, Antwaan Randle El, James Thrash, Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly. I’m going to go ahead and take a stab by saying that you wouldn’t run into any of them if you were vacationing in Hawaii around, say, early-to-mid February.

And four years later, what do we have to show for it? Three of those guys are retired, all but one of them are no longer on the team, and the lone “survivor” of that group (Kelly) is spending yet another season on injured reserve because his muscles and tendons are about as strong as a wet kleenex.

This year, it’s been nothing but more of the same. We’ve handed over the keys of the offense to Donovan McNabb, and asked him to “save the franchise” while throwing to Anthony Armstrong, Joey Galloway, and Roydell Williams. That’s like giving your 16 year old kid a brand new car with no gas in it, and then giving him a can full of turpentine to put in the gas tank.

To borrow a line from “Coming to America,” Joey Galloway is good… good and terrible. When the Redskins signed him during the summer, the majority of fans thought that he’d be nothing more than training camp fodder, or a Methuselah-like receiver who could impart some work ethic and professionalism on the young guys (namely Thomas and Kelly). In a best case scenario, he’d play in a preseason game or two before he’s mercifully released by the team.

So it’s absolutely shocking, appalling, and mortifying to see him on the regular season roster, let alone getting snaps, and definitely let alone starting for this team. To put it succinctly: he is utterly and completely devoid of use to this offense, and has no business being on an NFL roster. I get that he’s not starting anymore and that Armstrong is now the starter, but it’s still really hard to get excited about your receiving corps when your #2 receiver is a 5′11, 27 year old rookie who used to play in something called the “Intense Football League.”

And the sad thing is: what do Redskins fans have to look forward to? Moss is going to be another year older. Galloway turns 407 years old next season. Anthony Armstrong is a great story, but he’s nothing more than a #3 receiver at best . Roydell Williams isn’t even good enough to be a journeyman.

While Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan did almost nothing to upgrade the current personnel we have at the position, the fact is that we can think none other than Vinny Cerrato for this alarming lack of talent.

Marinate on this for a second: in nine years of being the de facto General Manager of the Redskins, do you know that Cerrato has never drafted a wide receiver that has eclipsed 350 yards receiving in a single season? Are you really telling me that, in nearly a decade of running a billion dollar organization, he couldn’t find a single receiver that could contribute a measly 16 receiving yards per game? A monkey flinging it’s poop at a war room draft board could have done a better job than that.

Honestly, take a look around the NFL. How many teams can you say have unequivocally worse talent at wide receiver than the Redskins? St. Louis probably has the least talented group of receivers in the NFL right now, but past that? Maybe Carolina, Kansas City, and/or Oakland; that’s really about it. Cleveland has a lot of young and unproven talent, but at least they have talent to develop.

Heck, take a look at Tampa Bay. Over a two year span – where the majority of the time they were being skewered by the media – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers already have their answers at quarterback, #1 WR, and #2 WR for the future. They found a bell-cow running back, and already have a change-up running back on the roster. It’s been a freaking decade for the Redskins, and we still can’t say the same thing.

The Redskins desperately need an infusion of young talent if they expect any quarterback – be it McNabb or his eventual successor – to be productive. Yet once again, the Redskins are without draft picks in the 3rd or 4th round next year, thanks to the trades for McNabb and Jammal Brown. If the Redskins don’t use their first or second round picks on some combination of a quarterback and/or offensive linemen, I may throw my laptop across the room.

So where or how they’re going to get this young talent at receiver, we’re not really sure. But they sure as hell need it.

This article was written for and cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com