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Redskins hire former assistant Lewis as 'another fresh set of eyes'

WASHINGTON -- Their offense languishing, unable to make much headway even against the NFL's worst defenses, the Washington Redskins called in some help Tuesday for coach Jim Zorn.

Brian Billick live chat

NFL Network analyst Brian Billick was asked during his weekly live chat what Washington's hiring of offensive consultant Sherman Lewis means for coach Jim Zorn.

"You certainly can't blame the Redskins for trying to find a resource to tap into, seeing what can be done about the ineffective offensive play. It's my experience that these types of moves, particularly during a season, certainly might indicate a concern about coach Zorn's abilities to do the job."  **Transcript ...**

They also made sure to point out, at least publicly, that they don't consider the new employee to be Zorn's replacement-in-waiting.

The Redskins hired longtime NFL assistant Sherman Lewis as an offensive consultant, offering a "fresh set of eyes" to a team that ranks 27th in the league in scoring.

Lewis has coached for 22 years in the NFL and once was a candidate for head coaching jobs, but the Redskins attempted quickly to quell speculation that he was brought in as a handy replacement for Zorn if the team continues to struggle. In the posting on the team Web site announcing the move, executive vice president for football operations Vinny Cerrato was quoted as saying, "it's not a threat at all" to Zorn's job security.

"Nothing changes," Cerrato said in a conference call with reporters. "Jim's still calling plays. Everybody's still doing what they're doing. It's just another fresh set of eyes."

The Redskins (2-2) have yet to score 30 points in a game since Zorn was hired last year. The team's only first-half touchdown this year has come on a fake field goal. In the last three weeks, Washington has scored 9, 14 and 16 points, respectively, against the Rams, Lions and Buccaneers, three teams with one win among them.

With such results, Cerrato said he approached Zorn on Monday about hiring an offensive consultant. Cerrato said Zorn approved of the idea.

"He said if it was the right guy, it would be great," Cerrato said.

Lewis was deemed to be the right guy. The 67-year-old coach, who announced his retirement after working on the Detroit Lions staff during the 2004 season, will make his Redskins Park debut on Wednesday, when the team holds its first practice in preparation for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.

Cerrato said it has not been determined what Lewis' role will be.

 Redskins executive vice president for football operations Vinny Cerrato 

"They'll get that figured out here in the next day," Cerrato said.

Lewis has extensive experience in the West Coast system run by Zorn. Both have worked for Mike Holmgren, who ran the offense in Green Bay and Seattle. Lewis is best known for his stint as Green Bay's offensive coordinator from 1992-99, including the Packers' Super Bowl championship season of 1996.

"It's a good resource for Jim because they've got so much background together with Mike Holmgren," Cerrato said. "They talk the same language from Day 1."

After leaving Green Bay, Lewis served as the offensive coordinator in Minnesota and then Detroit. He began his NFL coaching career in San Francisco, where he worked as a running backs coach and later receivers coach for 49ers teams that won three Super Bowls in the 1980s.

"The Redskins contacted me and told me they wanted a fresh set of eyes," Lewis said in a statement released by the team. "And I intend to provide just that."

Cerrato used the phrase "fresh set of eyes" on numerous occasions during the 10-minute conference call, usually to dispute the assertion that the hiring of Lewis is a vote of no confidence in Zorn.

NOTES: The Redskins signed P Glenn Pakulak to their practice squad, giving the team insurance in case Hunter Smith is unable to kick against Carolina. Pakulak played in eight games with New Orleans last year, averaging 47.7 yards over 24 punts. Smith pulled his groin in Sunday's win over Tampa Bay. ... The Redskins released WR Trent Shelton from the practice squad.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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