City Desk

In Search Of: Clues to How Vinny Cerrato Kept His Job So Long

Vinny Cerrato's departure has some mysteries. Mostly: Why now?

We'll probably get that answer soon, especially if Bruce Allen ignores Jason La Canfora and hires Jon Gruden by next week.

But one mystery that will never be solved is: Why not before? The team has been horrible throughout the Dan Snyder/Vinny Cerrato years, or, as detractors call it, the Snyderrato Era.

Take away the 1999 season, when Snyder and Cerrato, who Snyder hired before being approved as owner, got here too late to make any big personnel decisions, and the 2001 season, when Marty Schottenheimer fired Cerrato, and the Redskins have a 62-79 record.

And they became a national punchline along the way. Apart from the Donald Sterling/Elgin Baylor pairing with the L.A. Clippers no other owner/GM couple in professional sports survived such sustained and high-profile non-success as Snyderrato.

Snyder was never going to sell. So, how'd Vinny stick around? Well, while looking into Cerrato's resume for a February 2008 column, I found one possible answer. Long before he signed on with Snyder, Cerrato was, so to speak, underneath Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. And even after working for Holtz for years, Cerrato was willing to do the lackiest chores if the boss wanted him to.

From that column:

One of Cerrato’s specific duties under Holtz was mentioned in a 1991 article in the Washington Times headlined “Dear Kid.” For the piece, writer Elizabeth M. Cosin got access to the holiday mail that colleges had been sending football prospects at DeMatha Catholic High School. Among her findings: “Georgia Tech coach Bobby Ross personally signs all his Christmas cards. Lou Holtz of Notre Dame got recruiting coordinator Vincent Cerrato to sign the appropriately understated white-on-white greeting.”

Though not mentioned in the Times piece, Holtz had originally hired Cerrato as an assistant at the University of Minnesota, so he had been with him for more than seven seasons before being asked to sign Christmas cards for the boss.

A Golden Gofer, indeed.

Snyder likely doesn't send out Christmas cards. So what deeds kept Vinny employed here?

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