Why Jim Zorn Is the Wrong Coach for the Redskins

Keith SmoothCorrespondent ISeptember 14, 2009

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 22:  Head coach Jim Zorn of the Washington Redskins watches the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Fed Ex Field on August 22, 2009 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

I don't dislike Washington Redskin coach Jim Zorn.  He seems like a decent enough man. But you know what?  17 games into his coaching career, the jury has deliberated and they have come back with a decision.

Jim Zorn is guilty on three counts of being not fit to be a head coach in the National Football League.

Two years ago, Joe Gibbs quit as the head coach of the Redskins.  Redskin Nation assumed that owner Dan Snyder was going to promote defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to Head Coach.  The fans loved Williams. The players loved Williams.  And you would assume that Williams had earned the right to be coach because the defense (which gave up only 14.8 points a game in the last 6 games of 2007) had just led the team into the playoffs.

But we Redskin fans were stupid.

We thought Dan Snyder understood what the word "loyalty" meant.

I was so angry about the casual way Snyder dangled the head coaching job in Williams' face (he interviewed several times) that I considered driving up to Ashburn, Virginia and staging a "Hire Gregg Williams Now" rally.

But Snyder sent Williams packing and instead hired Jim Zorn.  This move left Redskin fans with a disturbing "did someone just fart" look on our faces!

"Who the hell is Jim Zorn?"

I'll tell you what happened.  You see, the Redskins had just lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs.  Snyder, in all of his infinite wisdom, thought that Zorn (who was Seattle's quarterbacks coach) could make our quarterback, Jason Campbell, as good as Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck. So Zorn was hired as offensive coordinator.

But after the fallout from Gregg Williams and his inability to hire New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Snyder needed to do something.  So he called his director of player personnel (and right hand man) Vinnie Cerrato into his office and this is the conversation they had:

"Hey why don't we just promote that Zorn kid?  He's already our brand new offensive coordinator. That's a great idea right?"

"Are you sure Mr. Snyder?  Zorn really doesn't have any experience."

"Look Vinnie, you should know how our relationship works by now!  I'll ask you a question and your only response should be: Yes, sir Mr. Snyder!  I agree wholeheartedly Mr. Snyder.  You are the best!  Do you got it?"

(Vinnie solemnly nods his head . . .)

"Ok good.  Now let's try this question again . . . "

Here's the biggest problem I have with Jim Zorn.  He's a terrible play-caller.  I was watching yesterday's game against the Giants in a sports bar.  The guy sitting next to me was a Jason Witten-jersey-wearing-Cowboy fan.  I know, I know.  But he said something to me late in the game that I had already been thinking all along:

"You guys sure do run a simple offense!"

Bingo!  You don't have to be Cris Collingsworth to see that our offense is so basic, so unimaginative, and so uninspiring not even Coach Taylor (from Friday Night Lights) would want to run it.

Case in point: The Giants have the most ferocious pass rush in the league.  What would be the best way to counter that pass rush?  How about running a draw play once or twice?  Or a screen play to Clinton Portis (and not those stupid screen passes to Santana Moss that always gains 3 yards)?  And why doesn't Jason Campbell ever "air it out?"  How many times did we test the cornerbacks and the safeties by firing a 30-yard pass down the field?


And that right there touches on the single, fundamental problem the Washington Redskins are going to have this season.  It's the same problem they had last year:

Jim Zorn does not trust his quarterback.  What's the use in having a quarterback with a strong arm if the coach is going to insist that he not throw the ball longer than 10 yards?  

And this is the exact reason why I predict we won't make the playoffs this season and Mike Shanahan will be lured by the richest coaching contract in NFL history.  Snyder thought Zorn was going to bring in some high-flying, high-scoring offense.  

And that's just not the case.  

Zorn's play-calling is more conservative than Rush Limbaugh.  We have an offense that doesn't have a big-play identity.  And there are already questions being asked of our (much talked about) defense which gave up a ton of yards yesterday.

And remember last year when Portis called Zorn out in the media?  I'm paraphrasing, but he basically said that Zorn was unfit to be head coach.  Does Zorn control that locker room?  Are his players disciplined?  Do they respect him?  Last week the NYTimes wrote an excellent piece about the Washington Redskins' anti-aggressive head coach.  Read it here.

And don't fool yourselves Redskin fans.  We had NO shot of winning yesterday's game. Zorn had to dig deep into his playbook to come up with a touchdown off of a fake field goal late in the second quarter.

Exactly how many times have you ever seen that during Week one of the NFL season? A fancy trick play in the second quarter of the first half of the first game?  Smells a wee bit like desperation to me.  And Campbell's touchdown pass to Chris Cooley came at the end of the game when the Giants were in their prevent defense so let's not get too excited about that.

Jim Zorn is simply not the answer.  But then again, we shouldn't be shocked.  He never had any play-calling experience.  There was never any evidence that Zorn could run a team.  Dan Snyder's hiring of Zorn is like a homeless man with no cooking experience being hired off the street and given the head chef position at Wolfgang Puck's. 

Again, I like Jim Zorn as a person.  But the jury has spoken.


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