Jim Zorn has always been somewhat of an outsider. The first quarterback of the then expansion Seattle Seahawks of 1976, he was not only on a team that experienced few bright seasons in its beginnings, but he was a southpaw, a rare left-handed quarterback on a roster full of NFL castoffs. He battled through one crushing season after another as the Seahawks were the perennial doormats of the NFL. However, he displayed an unrelenting positive outlook in the face of constant pressure. He personified class and persistence as a player, and eventually won over his critics with his “never give up” attitude. Eventually, he was inducted into the Seahawks ring of honor, and began his coaching career as the quarterback coach of the Seattle Seahawks west coast offense. Along the way, he helped develop Matt Hasselbeck into a 3 time NFL Pro-bowler and 1 time All-Pro quarterback. Those Pro-bowl years for Hasselbeck would end once Zorn was promoted to offensive coordinator, then head coach of the Washington Redskins in 2008.
Set up to Fail:
Everything was working against Jim Zorn when he arrived in Washington. Waiting for him was an inexperienced Vice President of Player Personnel in Vinny Cerrato, and a clueless, repugnant and spoiled rich kid in owner Daniel Snyder. He was set up to fail, given an untenable situation, and asked to make up lost ground with a roster full of overpriced, underperforming stars. He had no chance, and everyone knew it. Immediately upon becoming head coach, the pundits and critics gathered, and everyone, every fan, began to count down until that inevitable day when he would be fired. The once proud Washington Redskin franchise had become the laughing stock of the entire NFL. From one year to the next, Cerrato and Snyder spent lavishly and tried to buy a team, forgetting that individual players and superstars are nothing without a team to support them. Along the way, they would ignore the most important building blocks of successful NFL franchises, and would buck the trend over and over again by ignoring the draft and signing free agents past their prime. It was something Cerrato and Snyder did every year since Snyder bought the Redskins in 1998. The owner was nothing more than a spoiled brat running his football team with a fantasy football mindset.
Ultimate disrespect to Zorn and his quarterback Jason Campbell
Dan Snyder’s impatience was well documented. During his ten years owning the team, he hired 6 coaches and none of them, except for hall of famer Joe Gibbs, had lasted more than 2 years. He expected maximum reward for minimal effort. Much like the spoiled kid that leaves and takes his ball with him when things don’t quite go their way, Snyder was known throughout the NFL as the most meddlesome of owners. Zorn was initially hired in 2008 as the offensive coordinator, without the Redskins having even hired a head coach. Perhaps the only time in the NFL’s illustrious history where the owner has personally hired an offensive coordinator first, and then tried to get a head coach second. You see, typically a head coach is hired and then he sets his coaching roster. However, things are done differently in Washington. With no takers for the head coaching position, Snyder and Cerrato appointed Zorn as the head coach. From that point on, Zorn would be disrespected in the worst possible way by two people who should never have been in control. After Zorn’s first season, both Cerrato and Snyder would again try and play the Fantasy Football card and trade for a quarterback, and move up in the draft to acquire another. Perhaps the greatest indication of their inabilities to pick players was personified by the fact that both quarterbacks currently lead the league in interceptions. Zorn instead stood shoulder to shoulder with his young quarterback in Jason Campbell, and bestowed upon him the virtues of class and dignity. Jason Campbell learned from Zorn, and has become a better player and person because of their friendship. Jason didn’t complain, and didn’t point fingers, because he had a head coach who wouldn’t allow him. Zorn showed him the same qualities he used as that oddball left-handed quarterback of an expansion team. He showed him how to hold his head high, remain upright, and get up time and again. The fight is always worth it, regardless of what people say.
This is easily Zorn’s last year in Washington. At season’s end, he’ll be fired and a new head coach will take his place. However, that coach will have a quality quarterback who learned to never give up, and always fight despite the odds. Somewhere along the way, Zorn made a decision to show Jason Campbell what it means to face adversity with dignity. He made a good friend and has perhaps developed another eventual Pro-bowl quarterback.