- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 6, 2008

It was all there for Jim Zorn to see when he arrived at his office Friday at 7:30 a.m., less than six hours after the Washington Redskins’ buses pulled into team headquarters following a train ride from New Jersey.

A longtime NFL assistant but first-time coach, Zorn knew the video of his debut would confirm his initial assumption after the Redskins’ 16-7 loss to the New York Giants: He made some mistakes.

The series following Fred Smoot’s third-quarter interception that could have narrowed the deficit but ended with a 3-yard pass on third-and-5 was the kind of sequence Zorn said he will “agonize over and lose sleep over and I will look at more and more again and I always will.”

The play call - a run by Clinton Portis - that blew nearly 30 fourth-quarter seconds was the kind of decision Zorn said, “I didn’t quite punch myself in the face for, but I was angry with that.”

Not going no-huddle even though two scoring drives were required in the final six minutes was the kind of error Zorn is “going to beat myself up for.”

But with two off days ahead, Zorn and the Redskins opted for a sunny outlook.

During a talk to the team before a two-hour film session, Zorn said he failed to execute in certain situations just as the players failed to make certain plays.

“[Zorn] was positive,” tight end Chris Cooley said. “What he addressed with you guys, he addressed with us - we have to get better all around, and we should be disappointed with some of the opportunities we missed.”

Said cornerback Fred Smoot: “Nobody’s perfect, but we have to be men, stand up on our own feet and say when I’m wrong and then get better. It’s not, ‘Yeah, I messed up.’ It’s, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ He didn’t call a perfect game. I didn’t play a perfect game. But he’s right - we have a lot to build on. It’s the first game of the season, and he won’t jump into a panic. He still has a lot of growing to do and learn his personnel.”

To that end offensively, Zorn will consult with the skill players about the plan - before the second half Thursday, he listened as Portis told him to keep calling the inside run plays.

Portis carried 23 times, and the Redskins had decent balance (24 rushes, 27 passes) although not great production - 4 yards a snap.

“As a coach and play caller, he’s going to call what’s best for the team,” receiver Santana Moss said. “One thing I do like is that he asks questions about how we feel about certain things.”

How Zorn felt about some of his 52 calls left him with much to be desired, chiefly two in the second half.

In the third quarter, the Redskins trailed by nine points when Smoot intercepted Eli Manning. But three plays later, the Redskins punted after two Portis runs and a pass from Jason Campbell to Moss fell short of a first down.

“What happened was very irritating,” Zorn said. “I couldn’t go for it because we were playing great defense and they were going to give us another opportunity, so I tried to back them up.”

Zorn’s biggest nitpick came on the second-to-last drive. The Redskins took over at their own 10 with 6:12 remaining and needing two scores. Following a 26-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El, the Redskins had a first down on their own 44.

Zorn shifted into timeout-conservation mode, which his team would need should it make it a one-score game, either to slow down the clock when the Giants got the ball back or for when it tried a last-minute drive.

“I wanted to call plays that got us out of bounds and would save our timeouts,” he said. “I called two plays to get us out of bounds, but we didn’t get out. Then I lost sight of the situation, and the call I would like to have back is I ran the ball up the middle to keep the clock running.

On first down from the New York 40, Zorn thought the Giants would play a soft zone, giving Portis room to run. But he was stopped for 3 yards, and the Redskins had lost nearly a minute in the span of two plays.

“Not going no-huddle was probably the issue for me,” Zorn said. “What I wanted were some specific plays that we couldn’t necessarily call on the line of scrimmage. They actually worked, but we spent too much time - I probably wasted a minute of the game if you think about it. I would love to have that opportunity back again, and I probably will.”

When the Redskins return to face the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 14, Zorn expects a step forward by his quarterback; his quarterback expects the same from the coach.

“It takes time for him,” Campbell said. “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.”

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