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Matt Hasselbeck is proof of that.

Under Zorn’s tutelage, the current Seahawks quarterback soared from untested backup to Super Bowl starter and Pro Bowl passer.

“That first year, I didn’t understand what Jim was doing,” Hasselbeck says. “I wanted to run the offense and lead the team to the Super Bowl, and he’s got me working on how to take a snap, how to take a three-step drop, how to talk to the guys. It was really frustrating. Jim was trying to develop me as a leader and as a quarterback, but he tore me down before he built me back up. …

“Jim’s committed to building a relationship, building trust. I’ve had more success than I could have envisioned.”

Seneca Wallace, the Seahawks’ backup quarterback, says Zorn’s “knowledge is amazing - not only football, but life.”

A 55-year-old rookie

Zorn will need all of that knowledge when he takes the field as one of the oldest rookie coaches in the NFL. The average age for a head coach at his debut is 44 - a figure Zorn exceeds by 11 years.

In addition to the pressure of being a rookie, Zorn faces the difficult task of replacing in Gibbs a Hall of Fame coach and a figure beloved by Redskins fans.

“I won’t pretend to try [to be Gibbs],” Zorn says. “I’ll try to do my thing. I can’t worry about comparisons. We’re starting out with a clean slate.”

The comparison, however, is telling. Zorn is just 12 years younger than Gibbs, but when he gets animated he seems about half Gibbs’ age - and he frequently gets animated, whether encouraging and teaching during practice or telling his life story during a lengthy interview.

“I don’t really do a lot of this [athletic] stuff anymore because I want to get really good at being an NFL head coach,” Zorn says. “I’m seriously working at that. But I need that balance in this time of year so that I can spend the long hours during the season. I’m not trying to be cute or show anybody anything. The other coaches that dedicate themselves to only football, that’s the way that they have to do it. They’re comfortable with that. They’ve had success doing it their way.”

Zorn’s way includes daily 45-minute Stairmaster workouts during the season, even if a showdown with the archrival Cowboys is looming.

Zorn has, however, abandoned one tradition he followed as a Seahawks assistant: biking to home games. Seems that Snyder wanted his head coach on the Sunday-morning bus to FedEx Field.

“I feel the need to work out every day,” Zorn says. “When I don’t have time, I don’t feel right like I’m a day behind. When I get a good workout, I feel like I’m a day ahead.”

Zorn will need all that energy. Not only will Zorn shoulder, for the first time, all the responsibilities of an NFL head coach, he also for the first time will run a pro offense and continue to coach the quarterbacks. He will have some help in that last task from Chris Meidt, a newcomer to the NFL whose previous stops were tiny Bethel and St. Olaf colleges - hardly Ohio State or Southern Cal.

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