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“I thought, ‘OK, maybe I can do this for a living,’” Zorn says. “When I retired, I came back to Chuck and asked him to hire me. He said, ‘No, 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 … and work your way up.’”

And so he did. Zorn spent nine years coaching at three different colleges - Boise State, Utah State and Minnesota - before returning to the pros in 1997.

“I’ve always taken the hard road to eventually get to where I’ve gotten,” Zorn says.

That was the case on the field, as well.

Strange trip to the NFL

Zorn didn’t play organized sports - a couple of innings of Little League aside - until he ran cross-country in ninth grade at Gahr High School in Cerritos, Calif.

Zorn began his football career the next year, but he hardly played a down at quarterback until his senior year. He was benched midway through his sophomore year at Cerritos Community College - coincidentally, the school that also produced Zorn’s predecessor with the Redskins, Joe Gibbs - because the coach “didn’t like my style of leadership.”

Only little-known Cal Poly Pomona wanted him, so Zorn accepted the Broncos’ offer of half a scholarship. Zorn was one of the top passers in the nation as a junior in 1973, and he was still living at home.

Zorn had a fine senior year but was bypassed by NFL teams in the 1975 draft. He signed as a rookie free agent with the Cowboys, who cut him. Invited to training camp with the Seahawks in 1976, he surprisingly beat out former Detroit Lions regular Bill Munson to win the job as the starting quarterback.

Zorn went on to pass for more than 10,000 yards in his first four seasons, becoming only the third quarterback to do so. But he lost his job in 1983 after seven-plus years as the Seahawks’ starter and by 1987 was out of football.

He began his coaching career at Boise State in 1988, followed by stops at Utah State and Minnesota, where in 1996 he earned a degree in art.

Zorn returned to the NFL with the Seahawks in 1997 as a quarterbacks coach. He never advanced beyond the level of position coach until he was hired by the Redskins on Jan. 26 to serve as their offensive coordinator.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder, meanwhile, was considering a number of top NFL coordinators and coaches - Steve Spagnuolo of the New York Giants and former Giants coach Jim Fassel among them - to replace the just-departed Gibbs when he realized he already had on hand the man he wanted.

Zorn was promoted to the top spot two weeks after joining the Redskins.

“Jim knows his X’s and O’s, but he also has a way with people,” Largent says.

Story Continues →