Tavern talk: ‘Skins have talent problems


My first job in the NFL was working for the 49ers, and I was very fortunate to be around some great young coaches and some very skilled veteran coaches. One of the younger ones in 1984 was our running backs coach, Sherman Lewis. Lewis had coached at his alma mater, Michigan State, where he was a very fine running back who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1964 to Roger Staubach. Lewis joined the 49ers in 1983 and was the team’s running backs coach for three of the Super Bowl titles before he followed Mike Holmgren to Green Bay. With all the success he achieved in San Francisco and then Green Bay, Lewis became an attractive candidate as an NFL head coach. He had a handful of interviews, some of them out of courtesy and one with Dallas that he seemed very close to attaining.

In 2004, at the age of 62, Sherm had had enough of the NFL and decided to retire. His last job was with the Lions, near his beloved Michigan State, so the transition to retirement was easy and smooth — until Vinny Cerrato called and brought him back to pro football for a consulting gig with the Redskins. Now, I love Sherman, and I love his spirit and friendly, outgoing personality, but this move by the ‘Skins front office is another indictment of their lack of understanding of the team’s problems on offense.

Yes, Jim Zorn could use some help, but he needs contemporary help, not help from someone who’s been removed from the game for five years. The ‘Skins do not need to get back to the roots of the west coast offense; their problem is that their roots are already too basic. Zorn lacks the ability to bring the west coast offense to new levels. He knows the levels well -- in fact, his play sheet looks exactly like Mike Holmgren’s sheet in Seattle, down to the font. So what can poor Sherm do besides deposit the checks from owner Daniel Snyder?

This decision to bring in Lewis indicates to me that the front office thinks it has a coaching problem, not a talent problem. They’re watching the same tape as the ‘Skins fan who ripped me for not getting Chad Rinehart’s name right and for not jumping on the bandwagon after their impressive second half against the Bucs (even Ray Gustini declined the bandwagon last week). For the record, Rinehart is really bad, whether I got his first name right or not, and the ‘Skins looked as bad in the second half as they did in the first.

Where does this notion come from that the ‘Skins are so talented on offense? (Hint: the front office.) Clinton Portis is not the same back; he goes down easily now and doesn’t have the lower body strength to run through arm tackles. He had a clear first down at the end of the Bucs game, which would have sealed it had he just been able to run through. They lack skill players on the outside, they lack playmakers and they lack an offensive line that can handle power. Offensive tackle Chris Samuels made Bucs defensive end Gaines Adams look like he belonged as the No. 4 overall pick for the first time all season.

So what can Sherman do to help the ‘Skins offense? Not much, I’m afraid. If the front office really wants to be proactive, it might consider hiring an outside party to independently evaluate the roster as it compares to the best teams in the NFL. They won’t do that because they wouldn’t like the results.

And we all know that self-inflicted wounds are easily avoidable.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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