The lesson of the Redskins' season is that Joe Gibbs is not a personnel man. Never was. Never will be.
When he went to four Super Bowls and won three, he had Bobby Beathard and Charley Casserly handling the personnel side.
If the second coming of Joe Gibbs is going to work, owner Dan Snyder has to go out and find the best personnel man money will buy. He'd be in charge of drafting players and signing free agents.
He should start the search with Scott Pioli, Bill Belichick's right-hand man in New England. Or look up I-95 at Phil Savage, Ozzie Newsome's right-hand man in Baltimore.
The next Snyder move? Fire Vinny Cerrato. Snyder may want to keep Vinny around with a title because he's a pal and he loses to the owner in racquetball, but that doesn't make him qualified to find the best players.
Vinny is what addiction doctors call an enabler. When Snyder wants to spend too much money and put the team in salary-cap hell, Cerrato doesn't tell him no.
When Gibbs wanted to trade a third-round pick for Mark Brunell, Cerrato should have stepped in and told him that there was no market for Brunell and they could wait for the Jaguars to cut him. And when Snyder signed off on paying Brunell an $8.6-million signing bonus, Cerrato should have told him that nobody in the league thought Brunell was worth that kind of money.
When Gibbs was coaching in the 1980s, it didn't matter if the Redskins overpaid players because there was no salary cap and it didn't affect the team. Owner Jack Kent Cooke would hold the line on occasion. John Riggins sat out the 1980 season in a contract dispute before returning with the line "I'm bored, I'm broke, and I'm back."
The problem in today's salary-cap era is that when the Redskins overspend on aging players, it's money they don't have to spend on productive players. Every wasted dollar is money that can't help make the team better.
The Redskins have wasted more than $15 million just on signing bonuses for two players–Deion Sanders, now gone, and Brunell. Cerrato won't tell Snyder that his dumb spending is killing the franchise.
The Redskins desperately need a top personnel man to get a handle on their salary cap. The bill for their spending starts coming due in 2006.
Don't believe the talk that the game has passed Gibbs by. He can still coach. But a coach can't do it alone–especially with an owner who thinks he can be the team's personnel expert.
Even Bill Belichick doesn't try to do it alone in New England. He has the authority to call the shots in New England, but if he and Pioli don't agree on a personnel move, they move on to the next one until they do agree.
If Gibbs is going to restore the glory of the Redskins, he needs help.
It's time for Dan Snyder to hire a top personnel man. It's time to stop playing games and start winning.