- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 30, 2008

That certainly turned out to be a good idea, didn’t it?

Jim Zorn, the rookie coach of the Redskins, decided he wanted to play his regulars on offense in the final preseason game against Jacksonville on Thursday night - a decision made in response to the 47-3 beating his team took the week before from Carolina.

Zorn wanted his players to perform well enough to feel good about themselves going into the regular season. It worked: You certainly can’t feel as bad after a 24-3 loss as you do after a 47-3 loss.

“It was a matter of not having happen what happened the week before - a guy in [Jason Campbell’s] face the first four [passes]. I think we accomplished that. If there was any redeeming qualities about putting that first group out here, it was that.”

We found out one thing: Zorn already has mastered the coaches’ art of rationalization, declaring “mission accomplished” after another beating.

Now, the Redskins head to Giants Stadium for the NFL opener Thursday night against the defending Super Bowl champions on national television.

Zorn won’t have any options then: He’ll have to play his starters because this game means something.

The Jacksonville and Carolina games should have meant little, if anything. It’s preseason football, one step from professional wrestling in terms of reality.

Zorn should have treated the preseason finale as just a nuisance, a glorified version of gym class. That would have sent a message: The 47-3 loss to Carolina is no reflection on my team. It is not who we are.

Preseason football is far too long anyway, and no team has played longer this preseason than the Redskins. The message after the first three games - three wins - was good enough: We are ready. Let’s get to the games that count.

By playing his regulars against the Jaguars - starters usually never see action in a final preseason game - Zorn made the Carolina game mean something - and the Jacksonville game, too.

The Jacksonville game should have mattered to only one coach - Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator of the Jaguars.

Williams, the former Redskins defensive guru and spurned head coaching candidate, was not going to treat this game at FedEx Field as a meaningless contest. He would have to be a robot for it not to mean something.

Williams was about to face in Zorn, whose resume pales in comparison to that of Williams, the man hired for the job everyone thought Williams should have had.

Williams is an intense, emotional man. He paid tribute to the late Sean Taylor last season by playing just 10 starters on defense for a snap against the Bills. He also didn’t tell coach Joe Gibbs of his plans, decisions that created bad feelings that lingered throughout the coaching search that ultimately led the Redskins to hire Zorn.

I’m surprised he didn’t send 12 men out on defense against Washington.

“He didn´t say anything about it, but we kind of knew,” Jaguars middle linebacker Mike Peterson told reporters after the game. “Some hard coaching was going on, a little more coaching than normal in the last preseason game, so we kind of knew what the deal was.”

This was another reason to render the Jacksonville game meaningless. If you send out reserves and scrubs, you take the power of revenge away from Williams. Instead, his defense held the Redskins’ offensive starters to 14 total yards on three drives in the first quarter.

“It was a preseason game, but we wanted him coming back to get a win for him,” Peterson told reporters.

The game turned out to be a gift from Zorn to Williams.

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