Stump Mitchell was sitting in his office at the Seattle Seahawks facility in February when he got a call from an assistant coach at Bowie State whom he knew from back in the day.
“He wanted an internship with the Redskins and asked if I could talk to Jim Zorn about it,” Mitchell said. “I said, “Jim is not the head coach. Jim is just the offensive coordinator.’
“He said, ‘No, Coach, I just saw a report that said Jim is head coach.’”
Mitchell reacted the same way everyone else in football did when they heard the news.
Get out of town.
“I said, ‘No way, he is the offensive coordinator,’” Mitchell said. “He doesn’t have that kind of pull.”
“He said, ‘Coach, I am here in Maryland, and they are reporting that he has been announced as the head coach.’
“I went out of my office and [Seahawks pro personnel director] Will Lewis was coming down the hall and said, ‘Man, do you believe that Jim just got the head coaching job in Washington?’ It was like, ‘Wow, I couldn’t believe it.’”
Neither could anyone else. But once Lyvonia Albert “Stump” Mitchell got past the surprise of hearing that his friend and colleague had been named head coach of the Washington Redskins, his next thoughts were not about an internship. He thought about a job - for himself.
Mitchell and Zorn had talked about the possibility of Mitchell coming to Washington when they were scouting together at the Senior Bowl and Zorn was under consideration by the Redskins for their open offensive coordinator position.
Zorn and Mitchell knew that, with the decision by Mike Holmgren to step down as coach of the Seahawks after the 2008 season and Jim Mora Jr. already tabbed as his replacement, they would all be looking for jobs soon.
Turns out that Jim Zorn, head coach, did have the pull necessary to bring Mitchell to Washington as his running backs coach (his official title is assistant head coach-running backs).
“Working with Jim for seven years, it was great to have the opportunity to come here and work with him,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, 49, of Kingsland, Ga., is replacing a popular coach with an impressive resume as a player and coach in Earnest Byner, who, as a bonus, also is a former Redskins player.
But Mitchell has his own impressive bona fides. He coached the Seahawks’ running backs for nine seasons and had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his first seven seasons with the club - Ricky Watters and Shaun Alexander, who in 2005 led the NFL and set a franchise record with 1,880 yards rushing.