- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jim Zorn came full circle Monday at Redskin Park, conducting his season-ending news conference in a shirt and tie for the second time since being hired as Washington’s coach.

During his public unveiling Feb. 10, Zorn wore a gold tie and famously referred to the team’s colors as maroon and black. During a 35-minute briefing to wrap up his first season, Zorn wore a tie and Redskins-themed cufflinks given to him by owner Dan Snyder. This time, he got the colors right.

“Burgundy and gold, baby,” he said.

The second half of the Redskins‘ season may have been a downer - 2-6 to finish 8-8, last in the NFC East - but Zorn presented a confident front a day after a 27-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He remains adamant his West Coast passing scheme will flourish, hopeful Jason Campbell will develop into a standout quarterback and resolute the Redskins can play better.

To get his point across to the team, Zorn went with the professional look instead of his normal ensemble of jeans and a golf shirt.

“I wanted to address them in such a way that it had some purpose to it,” he said. “We looked at some of the opportunities missed. You can easily divide our season into two seasons - the first half and second half. We fell down on several games that we felt like were great opportunities to win and didn’t.”

Zorn addressed his choice of wardrobe first but wasted no time delving into more important topics. He said Campbell performed well enough - 13 touchdowns, six interceptions, 84.3 passer rating - to remain the team’s starter in 2009 despite the Redskins’ 28th-ranked scoring offense (16.6 points a game). Receiver Santana Moss echoed his coach’s endorsement.

“I think [Jason] did great dealing with the circumstances - the new offense, the ways he had to run the offense, getting hit in the face a lot,” Moss said. “Time and time again, he showed me his toughness by getting off the ground and moving to the next play.”

Zorn also said he wants to keep his coaching staff intact, but secondary coach Jerry Gray, according to league sources, is scheduled to interview for the Detroit Lions’ coaching opening and also could serve as defensive coordinator there.

Zorn said he will remain the play caller and quarterbacks coach. On draft day, Zorn said only “special circumstances” would lead the Redskins to trade out of the 13th spot.

“That’s not an easy pick to just go ahead and move out of,” he said. “That guy has to come in and play.”

Before meeting with reporters, Zorn held a team meeting and presented each player with a list.

“I can’t really control their lives, but I want them to have a sheet of ideas to pursue during the offseason and things that can help them get better,” he said. “The quote I started with was from John Wooden: ‘Don’t mistake activity for achievement.’ Just being active doesn’t mean you’re getting better. We have to have purpose in our offseason pursuits so it allows us to get better.”

Washington needs to get better on offense. The Redskins’ fourth-ranked defense finished sixth in points allowed. The 19th-ranked offense failed to score 30 points in a game. A crucial step in improving offensive production is avoiding a quarterback controversy, which Zorn did with his endorsement of Campbell.

But Campbell made a bold offseason prediction before Zorn’s news conference.

“There are probably going to be some shocking moves this offseason,” he said. “We all have to be prepared for that. … To finish 8-8 is not acceptable, and it’s under our standards, and it’s not something we’ll by no means accept. We have to find a way to win games we’re supposed to win if we’re ever going to be an elite team in this league.”

Zorn sidestepped the comment.

“We’re not going to make changes wholesale,” he said. “We’re not going to go ahead and say, ‘We’ll replace 10 to 15 guys.’ But things do change, and every year there are new players.”

The offensive line could welcome some new faces in 2009. Left guard Pete Kendall is a free agent and enjoyed a solid season. The status of right guard Randy Thomas (scheduled for neck surgery next week) and right tackle Jon Jansen seems tenuous at best.

And even though the Redskins’ defense was relatively consistent, the lack of takeaways (their 18 was tied for the third fewest) and sacks (their 38 were the fourth fewest) hurt. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall and defensive tackle Demetric Evans are free agents, and linebacker Marcus Washington, defensive end Jason Taylor and cornerback Shawn Springs could be jettisoned in money moves.

“That’s the beast of the business,” Thomas said. “After a season like this, somebody’s got to pay.”

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