When Jim Zorn took over as the head coach of the Washington Redskins—one of the elite franchises in all of professional sports—last spring, he had to learn the job on the run. With no head coaching experience on his resume and the inevitable task of replacing a legend in Joe Gibbs, Zorn had little choice but to maintain status quo and use the tools and game plans handed him by his predecessor.
For those who follow the NFL and the Daniel Snyder School of management, it was widely believed Zorn was hired as a temporary fill until Snyder could land a marketable coach to add value to his billion dollar franchise.
Considering his experience and the circumstances that surrounded his hiring, Zorn performed admirably as the leader of the Redskins in 2008. Now, with the 2009 season vastly approaching and expectations always high around Redskins’ Park, Zorn will either “sink or swim” as an NFL coach this year.
With high profiled names like Bill Cowher and Mike Shanahan available for Snyder to dangle millions in front of, Zorn’s coaching career hinges on the team’s success in the playoffs (yes, expectations are playoffs only this season).
Sndyer did not shell out $100 million to Albert Haynesworth for his team to finish 8-8 and a possible playoff berth. He expects results in the form of a division title and one or two playoff victories, minimally. The bar is set for Zorn, and it is set high.
With an abundance of pressure to succeed this season, Zorn would be wise to do things his way and survive or be fired on his own terms. Having only one year of true head coaching experience (11 years as an assistant), the one thing he can truly fall back on are the leadership skills he displayed throughout his highly respectable playing career.
As a nine year starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks that started during the team’s inaugural season of 1976, Zorn quickly led the expansion franchise to respectability with his gutsy play and spirited leadership. It is that same internal fortitude that Zorn must rely on to achieve success for the Redskins in 2009.