The Washington Redskins overhauled their front office Thursday morning, hiring Bruce Allen as general manager after the resignation of Vinny Cerrato.
Allen becomes the first person hired by owner Dan Snyder to hold the general manager title, a notable milestone after a decade of various front office arrangements that usually centered around Snyder and his good friend Cerrato.
But changes were needed for a team that is 4-9 this season, and Cerrato has been widely criticized for his roster decisions since getting the title of executive vice president of football operations two years ago.
Snyder is also expected to be hiring a new coach in a few weeks, and Allen could be the bridge to that change as well.
The son of legendary Redskins coach George Allen, Bruce Allen was the general manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for five seasons. He and Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden were fired in January, and the pair could renew their association if current coach Jim Zorn is fired as the end of the season.
For players, the news was just the first of many anticipated changes.
"That's a start _ that's a change right there," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "There's going to be change in personnel. There's going to be change all over. It'll probably be more changes coaching-wise, so I guess that's the first change right now. You never know what Mr. Snyder got up his sleeve. Personally, I'm worrying about me, and that's all I can worry about."
Tampa Bay won two division championships under Allen. He previously worked for nine years in the Oakland Raiders' front office.
"Bruce Allen is the personification of an NFL winner," Snyder said in a statement released by the team. "Our fans know his heritage; we know his abilities. He is the right person to lead our club."
The Redskins said Allen would begin work immediately.
"This is an extraordinary opportunity with one of the world's most successful sports franchises," Allen said. "I love everything about this assignment; I know what it means to be dedicated to the Redskins. I can't wait to get to work."
Cerrato has been Snyder's right-hand for most of the last 10 years, but even their tight friendship couldn't overcome the team's recent struggles.
"We agreed that the franchise needs someone different in this position," Cerrato said in a separate statement released by the team. "I'm thankful to Dan Snyder and other members of his ownership team for the opportunities I've been given over the years. Of course, I am disappointed with this year's results, but I strongly believe that with outstanding draft picks and encouraging performance by our younger players, we have laid a strong foundation for the franchise."
Cerrato added that he has "had the pleasure of working with some great coaches such as Joe Gibbs, Greg Blache and Sherman Lewis" _ notably leaving out Zorn.
Cerrato has been a favorite punching bag for fans in recent years, receiving criticism often in tandem with Snyder. One fan infamously used a pair of signs to refer to the pair as "Dumb" and "Dumber" at a game this season.
Cerrato was one of the first major hires after Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999. He was fired in 2001 by coach Marty Schottenheimer after Schottenheimer was given control of football operations. A year later, Snyder fired Schottenheimer and rehired Cerrato.
Although Cerrato's title changed over the years, he remained a significant front office voice in player decisions. The results have been far from encouraging: The Redskins have won only one playoff game since 2000.
Cerrato's power within the organization increased after coach Joe Gibbs' resignation two years ago, and there have been plenty of hits and misses among his player choices.
This year, Cerrato gave Zorn an offensive line without a single reserve who played in the NFL last year _ even though two starters were coming off significant injuries. Both of those starters soon were out for the season, and the resulting scramble for a starting five hampered the development of the offense.
"He is my friend, and he has always been there for me and the Redskins," Snyder said. "He's the consummate optimist and has always made decisions based on what would be the best for the team."