I’ve defended Vinny Cerrato in this space before, because not all criticism levied against him has been completely fair. Vinny probably takes a lot more blame for the 2008 draft than he deserved. He executed a trade down with the Atlanta Falcons that was well-received, then proceeded to overaddress an area of need which hasn’t yet been solved (proving he was right about the need to fill the holes). He badly overdrafted Devin Thomas, but was certainly not the only personnel guy who believed his skills would carry him. He overdrafted Malcolm Kelly, and may have been the only personnel guy who believed he was worth a second round pick. He defends the Fred Davis selection to this day, and Davis has been excellent in both 2009 and 2010, although Chris Cooley’s versatility was something that Cerrato clearly undervalued.
With all that out of the way, Cerrato was a pretty terrible leader of the Redskins organization. He has refused to accept any blame or acknowledgement of wrongheaded-ness with the contracts he gave to DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth before the 2009 season. The trade for Jason Taylor at the price of a second round pick seemed horrible at the time, made worse by the fact that as soon as six months after the trade, Cerrato (correctly) saw $8 million of additional cap space as a greater asset to the organization than a second season of Jason Taylor. And then there is the current quarterback mess, essentially created by Cerrato’s incompetence, and then inadequately solved ruined much further by overlord Shanahan.
The quarterback is the focal point of this article, as recent news has the Ravens on the verge of opening contract extension talks with starter Joe Flacco, who has three seasons of above average productivity under his belt, culminating in his best statistical season under the tutilage of QB coach Jim Zorn. Zorn has moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs organization, but Flacco appears interested in becoming a Raven-for-life. Owner Steve Biscotti may not be one to speak for his General Manager, but if given the opportunity, we can only guess that Vinny Cerrato might have a little bit to say himself about the Ravens quarterback situation, and why they have been unable to win the super bowl under Joe Flacco despite a whole three years in the playoffs:
“if you’ve got a franchise quarterback, you’ve got a chance to win. That’s the bottom line. if you don’t have a franchise quarterback in today’s NFL, you cannot win. Period. Period. I mean, we tried, we didn’t get one. We tried with [Joe Flacco], he wasn’t the franchise guy. We’re trying to get [Newton], we’re trying to trade for [Carson Palmer].”
Cerrato’s comments about Flacco came as a surprise following an endorsement of the Ravens’ QB in which he stated ‘Joe is our quarterback’. The endorsement made sense given that Cerrato would be fooling himself to believe that the Ravens could improve on Flacco in this offseason. To get in position to draft Cam Newton, the Ravens would have to move up at least 15 spots in the first round of the draft. That’s more difficult now because they have no picks in the middle rounds teams cannot trade players in order to move up or down in the draft, per the restrictions caused by the lockout.
Would Newton even be a good pick to replace the steady but unspectacular Flacco? Newton played just one year in college at Auburn, going undefeated and winning the national championship. His prior experience at the collegiate level include a handful of plays at Florida as a Freshman and Sophomore, and a year at a Texas Junior College, where he led the conference in all meaningful passing statistics. The history of success of similar players is not impressive. Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets came out of college with just a year of experience, but has struggled to establish a degress of consistency at the professional level. His unspectacular 75.3 Quarterback Rating is a career high.
Cerrato expressed disappointment that he missed out on drafting Mark Sanchez in 2009 despite his struggles at the pro level because of the success he has had in the playoffs with the New York Jets. Sanchez is tied for the career record for playoff road victories amongst quarterbacks with four, proving he belongs in the category with all of the NFL’s elite passers. He is tied with Joe Flacco for the most road playoff wins by a QB, ever. It is Cerrato’s contention that with a guy with an ‘it’ factor like Sanchez, or Palmer, the Ravens would already have at least one super bowl victory under head coach John Harbaugh, a former special teams coordinator.
Cerrato would go on to mention that the Ravens roster, as constructed, ‘absolutely’ is super bowl material. Cerrato sees Newton as his missing piece, noting that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is a well-respected offensive playcaller, and that any of the Ravens playoff struggles on offense could be solved by adding that one missing piece. On draft day 2011, we’ll see if Cerrato makes Newton that guy to take the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
Vinny Cerrato was fired by the Washington Redskins on December 17, 2009. Flacco’s statistical comparables based on similarity scores can be seen over at Football Outsiders.