You could make the argument, though, that Gibbs never connected with his players the second time around the way he did in the first. Indeed, his Redskins played to their potential, it seemed, only when backed into a corner - when they were 5-6 with five games to go or 5-7 with four left. Utter desperation, not Coach Joe’s pep talks, was what appeared to inspire them.
Zorn, we learned this week, is wired differently. He needs to vent a bit when his club stinks it up, though he does it in a very calm, almost professorial way. (I’m reminded of the secretary who once said of a coach, “He has quietest yell I’ve ever heard.”)
Anyway, while Zorn might come across as a laid-back Californian, he clearly isn’t averse to calling a player on the carpet - publicly. The player this time happened to be one of the most visible Redskins: the club’s five-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle.
After critiquing the O-line as a group, the coach said, “I hate to say it … Chris Samuels wasn’t ready for the explosion he had with Julius Peppers [on the opening play, when Peppers backed Samuels into Jason Campbell]. … You’ve gotta be ready from Play 1.”
Hear, hear. Look, we all know Samuels is a fine player, but the Redskins need more from him than that; they need him to be a leader. And you don’t lead by not showing up for the first play of the game, preseason or not.
Besides, as Zorn noted, this was no ordinary preseason game. It was the final serious tune-up for both clubs, a night when the starters figured to play more than a half. All week long his staff had reminded the players of this, reminded them the game would be a test, a measuring stick. And for the Redskins to come out so “soft,” well, it raises a whole bunch of uncomfortable questions.
Such as: Is the offensive line, the Thirtysomething Brigade, in decline?
And: Are the Redskins worse off now than they were a year ago?
Monday they returned to the practice field and began fixing everything that needed fixing in preparation for the regular-season opener against the Giants. Needless to say, it was a lengthy list. But Zorn was pleased to see “the veteran players come out and try to make a difference, [be] ready to fight again” as if their jobs were at stake.
“The thing they have to learn is that I’m with them,” he said. “I feel just as bad as they do.”
It’s just that, unlike his predecessor, he’s a believer in tough love. And sometimes, the truth hurts - which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.