Redskins News: Dan Snyder Goes on Tilt in Hiring Jim Zorn

RealFootball365.comSenior Writer IFebruary 11, 2008

I asked my wife to forgive me Saturday night for dropping a half-empty bottle of beer on the floor in our TV room.

I had just finished watching a classic poker showdown from 2004, when Daniel Negreanu took out David Williams to win the World Poker Tour's Borgata Open in Atlantic City.

But the Corona-drenched carpet wasn't caused by the skillful play of my favorite card shark.

Instead, it was caused by the utter shock I felt when I clicked over to ESPN. There it was, in bold letters, on the lower right-hand corner of the screen:

"Redskins hire Jim Zorn as head coach."

The words were clear as day, and I could hardly believe my eyes. I'm sure the same reaction was felt by Redskins fans and not just by journalists who cover the team.

Now, I'd like to make something perfectly clear. I have nothing against Zorn. As a kid, I watched him perform admirably as Seattle's signal caller during the Seahawks' expansion years. I admired him for returning to the Seattle organization to coach its quarterbacks for the past seven years.

I am also guessing that Zorn impressed Redskins owner Daniel Snyder more than any other candidate who interviewed for the Washington job. But there's something inherently wrong with that scenario.

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Zorn was a candidate, but not for the head coaching job. The only interview he had was for the Redskins' offensive coordinator position, which he initially was hired to perform.

Those responsibilities lasted for a mere two weeks.

So how does a former NFL quarterback go from his first job as a coordinator to the role of head coach in a matter of days?

Don't ask Zorn; he probably dropped a beer bottle too when he got the call.

The best way to describe Snyder's knee-jerk decision is to compare him to a poker player "on tilt." That's the state of mental confusion or frustration in which a player knowingly adopts an aggressive strategy to offset bad luck.

With an exhaustive coaching search that lingered on for a month, Snyder was at a breaking point. Players were getting suspicious, fans were getting restless and the media were bordering on lunacy from having to cover the playoffs, Super Bowl and Snyder's obsessive compulsive disorder.

It all began with the resignation of Joe Gibbs on Jan. 8, a decision many believe was forced by Snyder, despite statements to the contrary. Next was a host of marathon interviews with various candidates who probably felt as if they were being held hostage by a mad scientist.

Gregg Williams interviewed four times and got shafted. Al Saunders never had a chance. Pete Carroll's name came up in passing and Josh McDaniels', too.

Then things started spinning out of control when Snyder conducted six separate interviews with two different coaches. Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel and Indianapolis defensive coordinator Ron Meeks got their hopes up, and both men approved of Snyder's outlandish act of hiring offensive and defensive coordinators before hiring a head coach.

Fassel even appeared to be on the verge of getting an offer, only to have it taken away when Snyder flew off to Arizona to court some others.

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Steve Mariucci was touted as "the chosen one" by his employer (NFL Network). Unfortunately for him, the love affair was brief and Snyder never talked to him again.

But one of the most appalling events of the coaching search was still to come. It started out with the star treatment.

After celebrating his team's Super Bowl upset of New England, Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoulo was whisked away by one of Snyder's private jets. The two dined together Tuesday evening, Spagnuolo got some shut-eye at the owner's mansion and then received an earful from Snyder the next day. When all was said and done, Spagnoulo sat through 16 hours of mayhem and answered the inquiry without hesitation.

"No thank you" was not the answer Snyder expected and he was left stammering. He immediately called his cronies together to hammer out his next move. And Snyder made a gut-shot decision to settle on Zorn.

Snyder has now come full circle. When he first bought the team, he started out as a risk-taker, with aggressive moves that made little sense—Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith come to mind.

Then he tried the coaching likes of Steve Spurrier and Marty Shottenheimer, but grew weary of their styles. He anted up for a Hall of Famer in Joe Gibbs and actually withdrew himself from the spotlight for a while.

But his addictive personality would soon reappear. Suddenly, there were $2 million associate head coaches and 700-page playbooks. But the results were not good enough.

So what did Snyder do next? With his ego bruised and his frustration showing, he did what most men do when they're on tilt:

He got overly aggressive, couldn't control his tells, and second-guessed his own moves.

He then tried to slow play a hand that he thought was the best one, but it turned out not to be. Finally, when his quest failed to lure one of the game's brightest assistants away from a division rival, Snyder was drawing dead.

In the end, the 42-year-old owner could have saved himself by being more conservative. He also could have saved everybody's time by hiring Williams, who was the preferred choice of players and fans.

But Snyder's too stubborn and defiant for that. Instead, he'll attempt to steal the pot with his next wager, although the odds are stacked against him.

Snyder's choice of a new head coach is an "all-in" moment for a man who is hoping to survive a string of bad beats.

For his own sanity, Snyder better hope that Zorn is an ace in the hole.

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