Among the three Super Bowl trophies at Redskin Park and all the other symbols of the glory days, there should be some sort of trophy or banner or something that symbolizes the gift Joe Gibbs left behind for all coaches who follow him.
Fans may hold the three Super Bowl championship seasons of 1982, 1987 and 1991 close to their hearts. But for every coach who has followed Gibbs and will do so in the future, the 1981 season is the one they should be thankful for. It is the gift the coach left behind for his successors.
The count and the amount every coach, from Norv Turner to current boss Jim Zorn, should be able the cite in their sleep: 26-10 home loss to the Cowboys; 17-7 home loss to the Giants; 40-30 road loss to the (St. Louis) Cardinals; 36-13 road loss to the Eagles, and a 30-17 home beating by the 49ers.
That five-game record seems to give coaches free passes from early judgements. And Marty Schottenheimer regifted it when he started his 2001 season 0-5 only to finish, like Gibbs in 1981, with an 8-8 record (which didn’t mean much to owner Dan Snyder, who decided he would rather be hip deep in running a losing team than sitting on the sideline watching a winning team).
So no matter how bad it looked in the Redskins’ 16-7 Sept. 4 opening loss to the Giants - no matter how confused and helpless this Zorn-coached team appeared on the field - you have to remember, or so you are told, that Joe Gibbs lost his first five games as a rookie coach.
And no matter how bad the Redskins may look tomorrow in the home opener against the New Orleans Saints, you are reminded that Joe Gibbs lost his first five games as a rookie coach.
So if you want to be critical of Zorn, you’re going to have to wait until Oct. 12 - their sixth game of the season, against the St. Louis Rams. Until then, if you don’t like what you are seeing, well, you’re going to have to grin and bear it. Gibbs’ second tenure is just over, but the first time around remains vivid - from the 0-5 start to the third Super Bowl title.
Or, you could do this - you could say 0-5 stunk. It stunk in 1981, and it would stink today. By the way, 0-1 isn’t so great either. And, hey, rookie coach or not, based on what we have seen, Zorn isn’t a very good coach.
Based on what? Based on what we have seen from Zorn in the only regular-season game he has coached in the NFL. You can’t deny that Zorn wasn’t a good coach in that loss to the Giants. The offense couldn’t move, didn’t make adjustments and the time management was poor. You have to lay those faults at the feet of the coach.
Sunday, if the Redskins win, then there may be evidence to the contrary. Maybe Zorn is a better coach after Sunday. And if they can beat Arizona the following week, then Zorn is probably a much better coach.
But right now, he is not a good coach. It’s not short-sighted to say that. It’s all we have to go by. People who tell you otherwise are usually people who are getting paid, one way or another, from the game. They are not the ones who are reaching into their pockets and shelling out thousands of dollars, and they are told to be patient.
“It takes time for him,” quarterback Jason Campbell said after the loss to the Giants. “He’s getting the grasp of the game as a head coach. He has a lot going on - offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and head coach. It takes time for those things to develop and not just for the quarterback and coach but for everybody.”
Hey, this isn’t 1981. Just look at your ticket stub for proof. Check the price. Going 0-5 cost a lot less in 1981. Maybe inflation has devalued that gift of a start down to, let’s say, 0-2.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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