The Method to Jim Zorn's Madness

John MckinnonCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2008

Back in the mid-eighties a movie was created called “The Karate Kid.”

This heart-warming tale involved an old Okinawan man that took a young, gangly kid under his wing.

The young man, Daniel, was frequently tormented by his schoolmates and used the older gentleman as a refuge. Daniel’s elderly buddy, affectionately known as Mr. Miyagi, shared his extensive knowledge of the martial arts with his newly-acquired friend.

Mr. Miyagi shared lots of wisdom with his surrogate grandson, but for me one phrase stood out from the rest. That phrase was simply, “If done correctly, no can defense.”

Grammatical flaws notwithstanding, these profound words were in reference to a karate kick that apparently no one wanted to be on the opposite end of.

In certain parts of the movie, it appeared that Mr. Miyagi may have been full of something other than wisdom of the ancients. He seemingly enjoyed forcing Daniel to remodel his vacation home, while he went fishing and sampled fine spirits.

Daniel became frustrated as he felt he was being used and didn’t see an immediate benefit to these laborious tasks. Could Mr. Miyagi have been using this unsuspecting kid for the sake of not hiring contractors or was this all part of loftier purpose?

As it turns out, he was teaching Daniel the technical intricacies of karate all along.

Now enter Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn (Great timing, huh? I bet you thought this was a movie review) and rookie wide receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas. These college phenoms were expected to provide much-needed size, and talent to the Redskins' receiver corps while simultaneously expanding the offense.

However, their seasons have thus far been marred by injuries and the inability to “grasp” the offense.

Since Jim Zorn has implemented his version of the West Coast offense, he’s had mixed results. Early in the preseason, Kelly and Thomas both suffered from lingering hamstring injuries. As time went on Kelly’s injuries persisted, consequently affecting his playing time and progression. Devin Thomas has shown signs of greatness—however, his inability to master his routes has been well documented.

Zorn publicly acknowledged their reluctance to come to training camp in shape, and has berated and challenged his prospective future All-Pro wideouts. The two have stated they’ve adhered to Zorn’s words but so far their production has been minimal.

Many sports pundits have questioned whether Zorn should simplify his offense or not. After all, there are plenty of rookie receivers making a contribution this year around the league.

Running precise patterns is imperative to success in Zorn’s offense. Quarterbacks must release the ball quickly to receivers that are running “timing routes,” which requires the respective receiver to be in a certain spot once the ball is released.

In the interim, it would seem logical to utilize the skills of two tall, fast receivers to benefit the team at any cost. A fade pattern in the end zone to Kelly (6'4") or Thomas (6'2") seems more logical than throwing similar passes to Santana Moss (5'8") or Randle-El (5'10").

Maybe this is part of Zorn’s overall plan. Perhaps he feels challenging the rookies to maximize their potential will benefit the team in the long term (see Karate Kid reference). Zorn’s methodology of making his young receivers study their playbooks religiously may benefit them more than they realize.

Now, of course, the flipside of this coin is the aforementioned rookies will prove to be busts and never become what the team envisioned. But if Zorn does have a method to his madness, these two underachieving rookies could make the Redskins offense a force to be reckoned with.

If those two weapons are utilized correctly, they could turn into something that no one “can defense.”

Hail To The Redskins!