- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2008

Jim Zorn arrived at Redskin Park yesterday shortly before noon with no entourage and none of the fanfare befitting a coach of the Washington Redskins.

There was only Zorn, his wife and their driver, MacIntosh, whom Zorn thanked. Zorn’s wife was on her cell phone as they walked into the building and said almost in disbelief, “Yes, we are going into the building right now.”

Trust me, Mrs. Zorn, everyone is just as surprised as you.

The Redskins tried to convince everyone Zorn was destined to be the coach all along. They tried to convince everyone that owner Dan Snyder, after hiring Zorn as offensive coordinator two weeks ago, believed he was head coaching material but was simply “committed” to interviewing all candidates.

Yes, when they ran out of candidates who either turned them down or turned the stomachs of Redskins fans.

Zorn went from quarterbacks coach in Seattle to the Redskins’ offensive coordinator to the team’s new coach in two weeks. He likely soon will have a book, DVD and speaking tour about how to climb the ladder of success in 14 days — sort of like eight-minute abs.

Even Zorn admitted he was surprised by the turn of events. “I was taken aback, if you will,” he told the media yesterday. “It was a bit shocking.”

Snyder came to a conclusion the team that knows Zorn the best, the Seahawks, never did.

In fact, you have to believe the Seahawks’ conclusion was just the opposite.

Zorn was a fan favorite as a quarterback for the first nine years of the franchise’s life. He is a member of the team’s Ring of Honor. He was the team’s quarterbacks coach for the past seven seasons.

Yet, the Seahawks didn’t believe Zorn was head coach material.

The Seahawks last month reportedly anointed Jim Mora — another candidate who turned down the Redskins — as the replacement for coach Mike Holmgren when he steps down at the end of the 2008 season.

Zorn simply wanted to keep his job as the club’s quarterbacks coach beyond next season, and the Seahawks would not give him an extension.

Snyder, though, apparently saw something the Seahawks didn’t. Snyder said yesterday he told Gibbs after interviewing Zorn for the offensive coordinator’s job that “this guy would be the perfect head coach.”

Which meant that, by the time the Redskins got around to hiring him, he was willing to take the job.

Zorn may turn out to be a terrific coach, but this is not Joe Gibbs revisited. Gibbs was the hot San Diego Chargers assistant when Bobby Beathard hired him to coach the Redskins in 1981.

Zorn has a reputation as a remarkably nice man, and he seemed so yesterday. He also has a reputation for being honest, which could be interesting.

Yesterday he talked about how impressed he was with the tribute the Redskins’ defense paid to the late Sean Taylor this season, sending out just 10 players to start the game against Buffalo.

“Who could think something like that up?” Zorn said. “To honor a fallen teammate like that is pretty awesome.”

Not everyone thought so, remember. Gibbs clearly didn’t think it was awesome, at least not being informed about it in advance. That was the idea of former Redskins assistant coach and jilted coaching candidate Gregg Williams, and it still is a sore subject. It certainly didn’t help Williams get the coaching job.

If nothing else, practices ought to be fun under Zorn. According to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story last year, Zorn would have his quarterbacks use a Slip ‘n Slide to help them practice sliding at the end of a scramble. Camp Zorn ought to be a blast for however long it lasts.

The Redskins said Zorn has a five-year contract, which seems stupid even by the standards of this organization. Five years for a coach with zero head coaching experience?

When I asked Snyder why a five-year contract, he flippantly replied, “Why not?”

Why not? Because you probably could have gotten this guy — a guy with no job beyond next season — for three years or even less. What is likely, though, is that it is a three-year deal with an option for two more. And let’s face it: If the Redskins flop in Zorn’s first year and Bill Cowher still is out there, it is a one-year deal.

If you want a little karma to feel better about this deal, here’s something to reach for: Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach credited with changing the culture of losing in the Redskins’ organization during his one season here in 1969, used to let his 4-year-old grandson, also named Vince, steer his golf cart at Redskins practices.

Vince Lombardi now is a federal prosecutor in Seattle, and, according to the Post-Intelligencer, grew up a Seahawks fan. One of his favorite players growing up? Jim Zorn.

For a coach who yesterday identified the Redskins colors as maroon and black, the grandson of Vince Lombardi is as good as it gets for franchise tradition these days.

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