January 04, 2010
Jim Zorn was doomed from the beginning.
Daniel Snyder had originally hired the former Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach to serve as Washington Redskins offensive coordinator in January 2008. But after a 32-day coaching search ended with Snyder either being spurned (Bill Cowher, Steve Spagnuolo), unimpressed (Gregg Williams, Jim Schwartz) or scared away by the press and fans (Jim Fassel) about candidates, he promoted Zorn to head coach even though he had never so much as called a play in the NFL.
On the bright side, Zorn was supposed to provide the 'Skins with a fresh perspective. No more splashy hires (Steve Spurrier), NFL retreads (Marty Schottenheimer) or nods to the past (Joe Gibbs). Zorn was the unknown quantity. And that proved to be his undoing in Washington.
The news that Jim Zorn was fired this morning as head coach of the Washington Redskins was as surprising as news of the sun rising in the east. It had been expected since Week 3 of the NFL season and was all but assured when the coach was stripped of his playcalling duties in October. Neutered, Zorn looked defeated and lost on the sideline. His team followed suit on the field.
Dan Snyder is like the rich playboy who always has his eye on the next conquest. Jim Zorn was the homely girl he got stuck with one night in a bad spot and couldn't get rid of for two years. The ink had yet to dry on the signatures on Zorn's contract before reports trickled out that Snyder would be looking to Bill Cowher if Zorn struggled in his first season. Snyder wanted out from the get go.
But Zorn acquitted himself nicely in his first two months on the job. The Redskins started 6-2 in his inaugural campaign and the coach became something of a cult hero (albeit a cheesy one) in Washington. His rallying cry of "hip, hip hooray" and the quick start had fans ignoring the warning signs that were already becoming evident.
The third-down playcalls, the fourth-down decisions, burning timeouts, a lack of discernible two-minute drill, poor choices on challenges and penalties; these were the hallmarks of Zorn's teams, even when they were winning. Eventually it catches up with a team though. The Redskins, who won six of Zorn's first eight games, would go on to win only six of his next 20. By September of this year, it was clear Zorn had lost the team and many (including us at Shutdown Corner) thought he should have been fired early in the year.
But it wasn't all Zorn's fault. Though he didn't need any help being mediocre, he sure got it. Injuries befell the team during its epic 2008 collapse and got worse this year when Pro Bowlers like Clinton Portis(notes), Chris Samuels(notes), Chris Cooley(notes) and Randy Thomas(notes) all went down with season-ending injuries. And thanks to inane personnel moves over the past half-decade by Snyder and his now-deposed yes man Vinny Cerrato, there was almost no depth to speak of.
But as the saying goes, you can't fire the owner, so the axe fell on Zorn today. He was classy for the duration, never stooping to the level of Snyder and Cerrato and never complaining. That being said, nobody in D.C. will be very sad to see him go. Jim Zorn was never the right fit for the Washington Redskins. Nobody ever is. The excitement will be high when it's likely announced in a few hours or days that Mike Shanahan will be the next head coach of the team, but all that means is that he's just signed up to be Dan Snyder's next ex.
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