Year No. 2 Under Jim Zorn: The Washington Redskins Coaching Staff

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Year No. 2 Under Jim Zorn: The Washington Redskins Coaching Staff
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Washington Redskins coaching staff has many years of experience in the NFL between all of them, but little experience in their current specific positions. 

Besides Joe “Buges” Bugel, the Skins’ offensive line coach, who we all know was the catalyst for the legendary offensive line  called the “Hogs” back in the '80s, only Greg Blache has extensive experience at his current position, defensive coordinator.

Blache, now entering his 22nd season in the NFL, spent several years as defensive coordinator in college, as well as the USFL.

He finally broke into the NFL as a defensive line coach for the Green Bay Packers from 1988 to 1993, and held the same position with the Indianapolis Colts from 1994 to 1998, before joining the Chicago Bears in 1999 as their defensive coordinator. 

In his five seasons with the Bears, his defenses always ranked near the top of the league, and were known for being aggressive and playing very physical, while forcing 138 turnovers during that span. 

After joining the Redskins in 2004 as their defensive line coach, he helped them finish in the Top 10 in overall defense three out of four years (third in 2004, ninth in 2005, and eighth in 2007). 

In January 2008, Blache took over as the Redskins defensive coordinator and led them to a fourth overall ranking last year, only giving up 288.8 YPG, and 18.5 PTS/G.

He will look to improve on that this year with the additions of Albert Haynesworth on the defensive line, the re-signing of DeAngelo Hall at the cornerback position, and the drafting of highly touted defensive end Brian Orakpo.

Back to "Buges", who’s been with Redskins for 14 of his 31 years in the NFL.  This guy has more experience than most of the head coaches in the league combined.  

He first entered the NFL with the Detroit Lions in 1975 as their offensive line coach, before moving on to be the Houston Oilers offensive line coach from 1977 to 1980, where they would set records for rushing and passing all four years.

His first stint with the Redskins started in 1981, where he was the offensive coordinator.  He helped develop Washington’s most legendary line, the “Hogs”, which included beasts such as Joe Jacoby, Mark May, Russ Grimm, Jeff Bostic, and George Stark. 

While leading the offense from 1981-1989, the Redskins won two Super Bowls, and broke many records, including the most points in a season (541 in 1983).

He decided to come out of retirement and rejoin the ‘Skins in 2004, after spending several seasons as a coach on the staff’s of the Arizona Cardinals (head coach – 1990-93), the Oakland Raiders (assistant head coach/offense – 1995-96 and head coach – 1997) and the San Diego Chargers (offensive line coach – 1998-2001).

From 2004-2008, he helped guide two different Redskins running backs past the 1,000 yard mark.  Portis ran for 1,315 in 2004, 1,513 in 2005; 1,262 in 2007, and 1,487 in 2008, while Betts stepped in for an injured Portis in 2006 and ran for 1,154 yards.

Bugel is looking to get the ‘Skins back to the promise land in his second tenure, and hopes offseason additions Derrick Dockery, Jeremy Bridges and Mike Williams, along with returning veterans Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels, Randy Thomas, and Stephen Hayer, will give them the experience and depth do to so.

On to the head coaching position, and second year man Jim Zorn, the guy who will probably make most of the decisions for the Redskins on game day. 

I know you are probably wondering why I didn’t start this article profiling him, and instead, started with the defensive coordinator and offensive line coach.  I come from an old school belief that games are won and lost on the defensive and offensive lines.

Therefore, I started out with the coaches that will have the most input, and the entire decision making, in those two areas.

Don’t get me wrong, the head coach is just as important, if not more, but a head coach is only as good as the staff around him.  With the experience Blache and Bugal bring to the table, Zorn will lean heavily on them for guidance, and entrust them to run their areas, with minimal input.

This is Zorn’s 23rd NFL season, although 11 of those include playing quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks (1976-1984), the Green Bay Packers (1985), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1987), and none of those as an offensive coordinator or head coach. 

After spending eight years at the collegiate level in various capacities, Zorn broke into the NFL in 1997 as an offensive assistant with the Seattle Seahawks, before becoming the Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach from 1998-2000. 

He then went back to Seattle to be their quarterbacks coach from 2001-2007, where he developed Matt Hasselbeck into a Pro Bowl quarterback, and helped the Seahawks get to Super Bowl XL in 2005.

In 2007, he directed Hasselbeck to his third Pro Bowl, while helping him set Seattle single-season marks for attempts (562), completions (352) and yards (3,966).

Zorn then left Seattle to join the Redskins in 2008 as their offensive coordinator, before being promoted to head coach in a matter of months, after the Redskins coaching search kept leading them back to him.  He’s brought with him the west-coast style of offense, along with a medium—as he would say—style of demeanor. 

Zorn will look to build on his 8-8 mark in his first season as head coach with the Redskins, and hope to develop Jason Campbell into a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback too. 

The Redskins offensive coordinator position is held by Sherman Smith, now in his second season with Washington.  Smith has been teamed up with Zorn before, both playing with Seattle from 1976-82.  He will be key in helping transition the Redskins to the West Coast offense.

Smith spent the last 13 seasons as the running backs coach for the Tennessee Titans, and from 1996-2003, helped guide Eddie George to being one of the best running backs in the NFL.

This is Smith’s 24th season in the NFL, and he will be the guy counted on to bring the best offensive game plan to the table for the Redskins in 2009.

The rest of the Redskins offensive coaching staff includes Stump Mitchell, the assistant head coach/running backs coach.  Stump came over from Seattle after the Redskins promoted Zorn to head coach, where he coached the running backs for the last nine seasons.

Stan Hixon, the wide receivers coach, going on his 6th year with the Redskins, and Scott Wachenheim , tight ends coach, and newest member of the offensive coaching staff, having been hired in Feburary 2009. 

On the defensive side of the field, John Palermo has joined the Redskins as their new defensive line coach.  He’s spent the last 30 seasons coaching at the collegiate level, most recently at Tennessee Tech University. 

Kirk Olivadotti, who has been with the Redskins nine years now, and is the most tenured coach with the Redskins besides Bugal, anchors the talented linebacker’s corp.

Jerry Gray, the secondary coach, and Steve Jackson, the safeties coach, round out the defensive side.

Last, but not least, is Danny Smith, the all important special teams coach.  I feel he has one of the most important jobs on the field, because as with the offensive and defensive lines, games can be won and lost with special teams play.

There’s an inside look at the Redskins coaching staff, and the main players in all the tough decision making, with some background as to how they got there.

Let’s hope with some consistency on the coaching staff this year, and offensive scheme, it will allow the Redskins to achieve their full potential.

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