Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Cerrato: Lewis 'Another Set of Eyes' For Zorn


There is no part of the West Coast offense unknown to Sherman Lewis.

He coached running backs and wide receivers with the San Francisco 49ers, learning this style of attack from Bill Walsh. He moved on to Green Bay and was the Packers' offensive coordinator under Mike Holmgren for eight years, earning his second Super Bowl ring.

He worked for Dennis Green with the Minnesota Vikings and Marty Mornhinwheg with the Detroit Lions.

Lewis, 67, has seen it all.

Now he'll be seeing it again.

The Redskins hired Lewis on Tuesday as an offensive consultant, ostensibly to help the club find some potency and score some points. The Redskins, 2-2, rank 21st in total offense and 27th in points per game. They've not scored 30 or more points in a game in coach Jim Zorn's two-year tenure.

"Jim and I talked about this other day," said Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato. "He's another set of eyes, and he's been involved with this offense since Bill Walsh started running it. And he and Jim both had experience with Holmgren, so Sherm knows the terminology.

The Redskins can use more than another set of peepers. They've been a particularly slow-starting team this season, with only three points total in the first quarter of their four games. They've been outscored 47-13 in the first half and their only first-half touchdown came on a fake field goal in the opener.

Lewis, Cerrato emphasized, is an aide to Zorn and not a threat to his job security. Zorn, in his second season, has a 10-10 record.

"It's not a threat at all," Cerrato said. "Jim welcomed the idea if it was the right guy. So we came up with a list of people that had a background in the West Coast offense and a history with Holmgren. Nobody's job on offense changes. Jim still calls the plays."

Lewis interviewed for the head coaching positions with the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears but never landed one of those coveted jobs. He retired after the 2004 season, his third with the Lions.

As Holmgren's offensive coordinator, Lewis put together the game plan and ran the offensive practice. But Holmgren took over the play-calling responsibilities on game day and that was always perceived as a negative when Lewis sought to be a head coach. Nor was the NFL quite as cognizant then as it is now of its responsibility to make sure minority candidates get a fair hearing.

Lewis had play-calling responsibilities with the Vikings and the Lions. The 2000 Vikings reached the NFC championship game.

Lewis' experience with receivers might help the Redskins speed the development of Malcom Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Davis, the three players chosen in the second round of the 2008 draft. None produced as rookies and the three combined this year have 10 receptions for 82 yards and no touchdowns.

In San Francisco, Lewis worked with Jerry Rice and John Taylor. In Minnesota? Randy Moss and Cris Carter.

Nor will Lewis be a stranger here. While never having worked with Zorn, they share a common mentor in Holmgren, for whom Zorn was quarterbacks coach with the Seattle Seahawks. Lewis' last season with the 49ers was the first there for Vinny Cerrato, who was the Niners' director of college scouting.

Lewis also worked with Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache in Green Bay. Holmgren's staff there in 1992 included not only Lewis and Blache but five future head coaches – Jon Gruden, Dick Jauron, Steve Mariucci, Andy Reid and Ray Rhodes. The 1996 Packers went to the Super Bowl and won it and they returned the following season, only to be upset by the Denver Broncos.

Lewis was in transit Tuesday night and is expected at Redskins Park on Wednesday.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.