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WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

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Old 04-03-2008, 08:04 AM   #1
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WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

I like his energy. Time will tell if that translates to on-field production, but he's a real go-getter and I think that enthusiasm will be contagious.


A conversation with Jim Zorn*-*-*The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

The transcript of a conversation between Redskins coach Jim Zorn and reporters yesterday at the NFL meetings in Palm Beach, Fla.:


Q: What it's been like at these meetings for a first time?

A: It"s very interesting to sit in not only with the owners but also the management council. There"s a lot that happens behind the scenes.

Q: All seven coaches who voted against coach-to-defense communications were offensive coaches like to you.

A: I didn"t realize that only offensive head coaches voted against it, I"m on board because the rule passed. There are several reasons to vote for it. There was another side that I looked at, but that"s a moot point now. We have to make sure we"re up to speed: Who"s gonna wear it, what we"re gonna do when the offense changes personnel groups. We just have to make sure we"re on target.

Q: On the unique circumstances of his hiring, having never been a coordinator and then promoted from that job after just two weeks.

A: I"ve never really understood what the formula was for hiring a head coach. I was a coordinator for a short time. There wasn"t an exact formula. There"s other guys out there as well who could be qualified.

It"s not an exact science. There isn"t one formula. I"m just glad I didn"t have to be on the fast track. It didn"t happen like that for me.

Dan [Snyder] went through a tremendous process. I don"t think it worked out necessarily how he thought in the beginning, but he went through the process. What encompasses being a head coach, it"s a unique and new challenge. I think we could all be further along. But I feel confident in the assistants I have. We"re ready for our first minicamp playbook-wise.

Q: On compiling the playbook.

A: The hardest part is just the vocabulary, what you call a particular pattern. It"s not finalized yet. I"m pleased with how far along we are.

I think the transition we"ve had in our pass protections has been great. I really thought there would be much more discussion, much more hashing out of the protections.

Q: Can you talk about your relationship with Steve Largent?

A: We've been friends forever. He's done a wonderful job for our country [as a congressman]. When he was in Congress and I was coaching, we were fond of each other's careers. We stayed in touch. He still lives in D.C. He's going to be quite a Redskins fan, no question.

Q: You knew pretty early on that you wanted to stay in football, right?

A: I enjoyed all the detail of being a quarterback, preparing for a game and then executing the game plan. The competition, the strategy were all things I thrived on. It was in the early '80s when I decided I wanted to be a coach. Chuck Knox was the coach in Seattle. It was when I got demoted to being a backup. It was very humbling to have started in a position and then have to back up. I spent almost two years being on the sideline, sort of saying I can coach. I had to watch. I had to observe. I had to speak up. I had to help the starter, Dave Krieg, get better. I thought, 'OK. Maybe I can do this for a living.' When I retired, I came back to Chuck and asked him to hire me. This was probably in 1988 and he said, 'No. I'm not going to hire you. I'm not going to be your guinea pig, if you will. I don't want to be your test case to see if you like this industry. You need to go out and whatever level you need to start at, you need to start there, preferably a college level and work your way up.' That's what I did.

Q: Matt Hasselbeck said he would never be where he is if not for you, but the first year, he didn't like you too much that you basically tore him down before you built him back up. What's Jason Campbell in for this year?

A: He's in for a lot of different thoughts of how to get rid of the ball in rhythm, how to understand how fast the game is played. He's going to get to the point where he meets the tempo of the game. That is in how he gets rid of the ball. It's also how he feels the timing of the play is developing. There's a different rhythm there in my mind.

Q: Has that process started with him?


A: We've worked on some footwork drills. A lot of quarterbacking is change of direction. It's kind of subtle. A lot of the movement in making a play is stepping up in the pocket. You might have to throw on the move inside the pocket. It's not standing there stoically waiting for somebody to come open. It's getting back, getting forward and once you step forward, the ball should be gone. The pattern that you called, what happens if it's not quite there because there are some great defenses out there to knock a receiver off a route or they have a better coverage than you have a pattern. You're still there with the ball. You still have to make a decision. That's where the movement in the pocket is so vital. That's what I'm going to work on with Jason.

Q: Isn't that mostly understanding your offense? So experience-wise, is he going to be ready?

A: Yes, I think he's going to be. Matt developed over several years. So I think Jason's going to have to develop over several years. The thing we've got to do is make sure that we don't give him so much that he can't function. Matt today can do much more than he could early in his career.

Q: I think this is Jason's sixth system in eight years. Matt had been in Mike's system for a year in Green Bay. How much can you realistically expect from Jason this year?

A: I expect there to be some carryover from things he's already done.

The run game should not be a difficult burden for him. We can really concentrate on the passing game. I don't want to use the word simpler.

The things that were going to put in initially are going to make real sense. He probably threw a bunch of hitch routes. Do we have that play in? Absolutely. Is he going to throw the hitch? Absolutely. Is he going to throw a curl? Yup. Is he going to throw deep? Absolutely. But we may not call it a nine route. We may call it a go route. It won't be any different reading. Maybe it will be a little different philosophy of how the ball comes out, the rhythm of it. The learning process might be through training camp, but we'll get that down. I don't want him to have to think all through training camp, "Woe is me. I have to learn a whole 'nother system. I have to be with a bunch of new guys."

Q: How is it going so far?

A: Jason has been excellent. He concentrates. he can see some differences right now in how he has body working. Those things are going to help him to be on board when the onslaught of the offense comes in.

Q: Is there anything left for him to do physically or mentally in overcoming his [dislocated kneecap]?

A: I think he's past that. I haven't even thought about it.

Q: This franchise has always been so active in free agency. Has it come as a shock to you that you've only had one player visit and haven't signed anyone?

A: It's not a shock. It's kind of the way it's worked out. I was there at 1:30 in the morning with Dan on the first day of free agency going over all the possibilities. It wasn't that we were out of it. As we were looking at it, the smartest thing we thought we could do at that time was to re-sign Todd Collins.

Q: Were there players you targeted but the price was too high?

A: Not a large group, but there were several guys out there that we looked hard at. There's a lot of talking to agents. Sometimes you just get immediately out of being able to sign a guy because that's not what you want to spend on that player and somebody else does.

Q: The Redskins went 4-0 in December, but they were 10-18 in their previous 28 games so they're not the Patriots. Is it smart to stand pat?

A: It's the way it turned out. There was no difference in Dan's desire to be aggressive. He didn't [say] we're not doing anything, we're shutting it down. We did the due diligence.

Q: Do you see a team with only a few holes that can be filled by rookies?

A: I won't know that until we're practicing. I have to rely on the video and the [coaches] that were there.

Q: What do you see on the video?

A: I see a lot of aggressive play. I see a running back who doesn't give up, who works hard away from the play. I saw a lot of shifting and movement, a lot of nifty things to try to take advantage of defensive coordinators.

Q: What's your greatest challenge?

A: There are several. One is to pay attention to detail, not create rules that I can't enforce, work with the coaches and players so that we can go in one direction.

Q: What are your thoughts about the draft?

A: Having the 21st pick is a little more difficult than having one of the top 10 picks. There might be four or five guys at different positions sitting on that board. The idea is to meld that with your needs and figure out which one of these guys is going to be a longtime starter in this league.

Q: Sean Taylor's locker has been encased in plexiglas since his death last November. Are you planning to leave the locker that way?

A: Absolutely. I've a collage of pictures of Sean for my office that I'm putting together right now so that when players and coaches come in, that stays alive as well. It was an important moment for everybody to not only remember but learn from as well. Dan toasted him last night at dinner because it was his birthday.

Q: Is Anthony Mix a guy people don't know how about who could fill your need for a big receiver?

A: I want to take a hard look at Anthony because of his size [6-foot-5]. He didn't get to do a lot last year. All these guys have to be excited about a new regime because we're going to look at everybody. I want to take a hard look at who these guys are and how they fit into our system. Maybe Anthony didn't get an opportunity because he was young.

Q: Do you feel you need to add pass rushing help in the draft?

A: If we can. We're looking at many positions. Should we fill Sean Taylor's position with another safety? Our offensive line is really a tight-knit group. Can we inject another offensive lineman. There are a lot of needs.

Q: What about safety? Are you comfortable with Reed Doughty there?

A: We have to make that guy work into the position. Sean Taylor was special, a dominant player, an up-and-comer to be an enforcer. With that gone, somebody has to step up.

Q: If LaRon Landry is that player now, can Reed play next to him?

A: I don't know enough yet.

Q: Could you go with what you have now at receiver?

A: We have six guys on the roster. We're going to go into training camp with probably 11. We'll probably go into the season with five receivers. Mix is a good special teams guy. If he becomes a starter, we need another guy to come in there. If he becomes the third or fourth receiver, I'm looking for the top five guys.

Q: You're taking over a playoff team with a crazed fan base. But it doesn't happen overnight for most new coaches. Are you prepared to have a tough year if it happens?

A: I don't know what struggles there are going to be for me because I've got some experience on the coaching staff. It's not a wholesale change. Greg Blache is our defensive coordinator. He's going to tweak things, but he's using the same terminology. I'm kind of excited to see what we're going to do. I'm going to try to keep the run game constant.

Really the passing game has got to develop.

Q: All of your offensive linemen will be a least 30 this season. Does that concern you?

A: It's a good group of guys. They love Joe [Bugel]. He's done a great job working technique. They have the experience to know what to do and how to adjust during a game. I'm just hoping that we can stay injury free. If we can, I don't see any problems at all.

Q: You've also got some age on defense with Springs, Daniels, Griffin, Fletcher and Washington. Is that a concern?

A: You couple the experience with the age of these guys and I'm hoping that experience wins out and that the age doesn't show. Part of that will be the way they prepare themselves during the offseason.

Q: Can any quarterback fit your version of the West Coast offense?

A: Let's say a guy can't move very well. You manage, but it's not as dynamic. A guy has to be able to move in the pocket. He's got to have feet that will keep him out of trouble. Jason has excellent feet. He's 6-5. I'm getting to him play a little bit lower so he's in a position to make a sudden move. He's a good fit for the offense.

Q: The Seahawks played in what most people considered a weak division. The NFC East has the Super Bowl champion, the team that had the best record in the NFC last year and the team that has probably been the NFC's best this decade. How daunting a challenge is that?.

A: The NFC West isn't a puff division. It's a very difficult division.

The attitude there is attack and defend like everybody else. I felt our teams competed very well against the teams in the NFC East. I feel this division could be the best in football, but I don't feel overwhelmed by the daunting task. I think it was so hard to win in Seattle. This is a division where teams can beat each other up. What we have to do is make sure that keep our guys healthy.

Q: Is that why you're only have one minicamp?

A: A little bit. We have the Hall of Fame game. Having five preseason games is kind of the catalyst behind having one minicamp. The other is that we didn't wholesale change. Defense, special teams, running game are all the same.

Q: You're in a bit of an unusual situation where you interviewed really well and got a promotion before you started the other job. Were you thinking this was Jim Fassel's job and I'm going to be his offensive coordinator?

A: I didn't know whose job it was. Dan was waiting because of the Super Bowl to interview Steve Spagnuolo. I didn't have to time to think, "I'd like that job." I was off and running with being a coordinator. It was news to me that it happened the way it did.

Q: How did you do as coordinator?

A: I was great on my first few days. [LAUGHS]. I was awesome.

Q: What did you take from Mike Holmgren?

A: He had his plan and he worked his plan, but when he saw areas that weren't working, he attacked those areas hard. Last year, he came out and said, "We're going to throw the ball. Our running game isn't [doing as well]." There were maybe four more passes a game, but the mind-set was that he was going to attack more in the passing game. Mike has always made tiny adjustments that have made big differences.

Q: How are you going to coach the quarterbacks and be the head coach?

A: I've got an offensive assistant [Chris Meidt] who's going to help me. He speaks my language. He doesn't have an agenda. A lot of the time I'll spend with the QBs will be that first 20 minutes of practice where we're working individual drills. The burden I'm going to have, if there is one, is off the field. Mike didn't spend any meeting time [with the QBs]. I'm going to carve some quarterback meeting time into my day so I can continue to keep those guys speaking the language and seeing what I'm seeing.

Q: Speaking of daunting tasks, what about succeeding a Hall of Fame coach?

A: I won't pretend to try [to be Joe Gibbs]. I'll try to do my thing. I can't worry about comparisons. We're starting out with a clean slate.

Q: Is it a factor that so many of your players really loved Joe?

A: Players realize that things change. Each year is a new year. Joe did it his way. That's out. I'm saying let's do it this way now. I'm not discounting what Joe did. I can sense that throughout the building. But we do have to move forward.

Q: What was your reaction to playing your first game against the defending champions on national television in their stadium after you were hired late and you have the preseason opener, too? Did you think someone was out to get you?

A: I didn't think someone was out to get me, but I did think Oh my gosh. (grimaces]. But in the next breath, you set yourself and go. ...

What more could a rookie head football coach ask for? The challenge is there. The challenge is set. I hope to meet the challenge, not only as a head coach. I hope our team is well prepared to really go out and play hard.

Q: You and Sherman Smith were buddies when you played together, but he's never run your offense. How long will it take to get him up to speed?

A: Sherman's very savvy when it comes to the run game. He's got two of three components already down. His leadership skills, being able to be in front of our staff and our players, it's going to be outstanding.

And the run game experience that he's got with what they did with Tennessee, he's going to work well with Joe [Bugel]. They're already working well together. It's the passing game for him. Initially, it's all about vocabulary. These guys have a handle for passing concepts.

The hardest thing Sherman is going to have to learn is 'Why?' Seeing the pattern is going to be easy. It's why are we reading it the way we're reading it? why are you choosing this guy?

Q: Do you see this as a run-first team or a pass-first team?

A: Initially, it's going to be run-first philosophy because of who we have at running back and how developed the running game is going to be versus the passing game, but I want to create balance as long as I'm here.
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Old 04-03-2008, 08:26 AM   #2
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

So far so good with Zorn, but it's obviously too early to tell how he's going to do. He's still a complete unknown.
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Old 04-03-2008, 08:37 AM   #3
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

This guy is either going to be great or awful. I can't tell.
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Old 04-03-2008, 08:43 AM   #4
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

So there is one mini-camp?

I like the Sean Taylor collage
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Old 04-03-2008, 09:22 AM   #5
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

i'm glad to hear that he's not prepared to hand over the starting safety job to reed doughty b/c he over-achieved for a few games. i really want us to take kenny phillips if we can get him....
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Old 04-03-2008, 11:12 AM   #6
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

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Originally Posted by J. Spanky View Post
i'm glad to hear that he's not prepared to hand over the starting safety job to reed doughty b/c he over-achieved for a few games. i really want us to take kenny phillips if we can get him....
How freaking strange would that be if we drafted Phillips at #21 from of all places Miami to replace ST?? On top of that we beat Dallas by 21 to get into the playoffs and we lose by 21 in the playoffs. I'm not a real god fearing person but if all of that happened I know ST, where ever he is right now, is looking down and will have something to do with it.
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Old 04-03-2008, 11:28 AM   #7
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

Little known fact about how Zorn's interview went with Snyder:

Snyder: "Jim, what do you think of Vinny Cerrato"?
Zorn: "Well Mr. Snyder, I think he is the most talented man in football with the exception of yourself of course, and he will win us multiple super bowls due to his vast knowledge and intelligence".
Snyder: "Duuuude, you are hired!"


I am hoping his youth and vigor will translate to wins, but I am expecting a learning curve. I know we have good coaches in place, but this guy doesn't have the experience. He will have to learn how to win in the NFL, and we already witnessed a hall of fame coach struggle in his return.
Plenty of people know how to say the right things...see Steve Spurrier.
This could be the steal of a lifetime, or the dumbest move there was. Time will tell, and I will hold judgement until I see how he handles the players.
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Old 04-03-2008, 11:40 AM   #8
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

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Originally Posted by jsarno View Post
Little known fact about how Zorn's interview went with Snyder:

Snyder: "Jim, what do you think of Vinny Cerrato"?
Zorn: "Well Mr. Snyder, I think he is the most talented man in football with the exception of yourself of course, and he will win us multiple super bowls due to his vast knowledge and intelligence".
Snyder: "Duuuude, you are hired!"


I am hoping his youth and vigor will translate to wins, but I am expecting a learning curve. I know we have good coaches in place, but this guy doesn't have the experience. He will have to learn how to win in the NFL, and we already witnessed a hall of fame coach struggle in his return.
Plenty of people know how to say the right things...see Steve Spurrier.
This could be the steal of a lifetime, or the dumbest move there was. Time will tell, and I will hold judgement until I see how he handles the players.
Really? I must have missed that day.
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Old 04-03-2008, 11:46 AM   #9
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

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How freaking strange would that be if we drafted Phillips at #21 from of all places Miami to replace ST?? On top of that we beat Dallas by 21 to get into the playoffs and we lose by 21 in the playoffs. I'm not a real god fearing person but if all of that happened I know ST, where ever he is right now, is looking down and will have something to do with it.

He wouldn't be allowed to wear 21 though, so the irony would stop there I would imagine.
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Old 04-03-2008, 11:57 AM   #10
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

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Really? I must have missed that day.
wow, you have a poor memory eh? You don't recall Spurrier coming out after his first few days and saying how he planned to beat the Cowpatties and make that rivalry a priority for him? How about when he apologized for the performances of the Skins? There were plenty of comments he made that were correct, but there was never the results.

ps- and Zorn still has a little ways to go for me to get over the "maroon and yellow" comment. That was not a very good start.
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Old 04-03-2008, 11:59 AM   #11
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

All I remember the ball coach doing was messing up players names and saying "We need to coach 'em up". I don't recall ever hearing much substance from him.
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Old 04-03-2008, 12:02 PM   #12
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

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All I remember the ball coach doing was messing up players names and saying "We need to coach 'em up". I don't recall ever hearing much substance from him.
Can't say I blame you for blocking that whole era out. I want to blink my eyes and have that whole era go away. Then again, I'd like to click my heels and go back to the 80's when we were winning.
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Old 04-03-2008, 12:28 PM   #13
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

1) Zorn's "youth" is not all that young. He's 54.

2) Zorn says all the right things. Not only does superficially say the right thing, however, he also states his basis for saying "the right thing" and seems to be very straightforward about what the shortcomings are, where work is needed, who's gotta do what, etc.

I agree with the comment that he could be great or awful and we'll just have to see. I have to admit, every time I hear him speak or read his quotes I like him more. There seems to be an underlying integrity in his communication - I think that is going to be received well by his players. It also appears that he has the a) competitive mentality for the position; and b) a certain resiliency in his approach to new or unexpected developments.

I have to admit it, I get the warm fuzzies when I think of the possibilities.

Consider me Zorn-struck.
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Old 04-03-2008, 12:31 PM   #14
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

I'm concerned that the playbook isn't done yet.
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Old 04-03-2008, 12:44 PM   #15
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Re: WT: A Conversation with Jim Zorn

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I'm concerned that the playbook isn't done yet.

They said that it was finished, but not finalized. I wouldn't stress about it too much. Besides it is something simple, naming the WR routes.
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