ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — About 30 years ago, a youngster who ate, drank and slept football had a poster of Jim Zorn. The kid was a rabid Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but thought the creative, left-handed Seattle quarterback was cool.
To Haley’s delight, he was. Now, in the broiling heat of training camp, Zorn is working to bring along a couple of potential young backups and raise Matt Cassel’s play even beyond the level that elevated him to last year’s Pro Bowl.
“I think Todd and I communicate well together. I think we feel the same way. We want to extend it. We want to get it to be super efficient, super effective, attack down the field. All those things helped sway me to come here.”
It must also have been nice to feel wanted.
In January 2010, Zorn was released after two years as coach of the Washington Redskins. A year later, he was let go as quarterbacks coach of the Ravens even though Jim Flacco had just experienced the greatest season of his three-year career, throwing for 3,622 yards and 25 touchdowns.
“I was still reeling from leaving Baltimore,” Zorn said. “I enjoyed it there. I think [coach] John Harbaugh is tremendous. Joe Flacco is a really good quarterback, and so it was hard for me to leave there. But the next opportunity that comes along, to come here, is a great opportunity. We’ve got a lot of weapons here.”
In another significant coaching change, Bill Muir was elevated from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator, replacing Charlie Weis.
Muir will be the fourth offensive coordinator Cassel’s had in his three years in Kansas City and Zorn will be at least the third quarterbacks coach, counting Haley and Weis, who did not actually carry the title.
But Zorn’s the first who actually played, let alone excelled, as an NFL quarterback.
“That means a lot, that a guy has actually played in the league. He’s experienced what you experience,” said Cassel.
Even though he seems to change jobs with some frequency, there’s no doubting Zorn’s track record in bringing out the best in passers.
“I’ve always thought a lot of him, and that goes back to when he was in Seattle playing quarterback,” said Haley. “I just thought he was cool, a guy who played hard and looked cool in the newfangled Seattle uniforms. When we needed another good coach, it was a no-brainer.”