- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2008

After two years of Joe Gibbs’ power football and two years of Al Saunders’ 700-page playbook, Jim Zorn plans to turn the Washington Redskins’ offense into Seattle East.

Or make that West, as in West Coast offense.

“It will resemble the West Coast offense,” the Redskins’ new coach said. “It will try to resemble a balanced attack. It will resemble taking shots when we need to take shots.”

Under Zorn, the Redskins for the first time will take a shot at the quick-hitting, catch-the-ball-on-the-fly offense that produced five Super Bowl championships for the San Francisco 49ers from 1981 to 1994 and made the Seattle Seahawks of Mike Holmgren the only NFC team to reach the playoffs in each of the past five years.

“This whole game, I believe, is about rhythm,” said Zorn, a Holmgren disciple who served as the Seahawks’ quarterbacks coach. “I don’t think it’s about hanging on to the ball until you see a guy already open and then go [robotically], ‘He is open. I think I should throw him the ball.’ Because in this game, you’re going to get knocked down. You’re going to get the ball knocked out of your hand.”

That, of course, happened on more than one occasion to Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell last season. But that deficiency and the Redskins’ status as the league’s 15th-ranked offense were pushed to the side during yesterday’s feel-good press conference introducing the surprise choice of Zorn.

“We have speed,” Zorn said. “Santana Moss, I’m just hoping he’s ready to go deep, to break routes off and catch a lot of footballs. He’s a tremendous talent. … In this particular offense, you’ve got to have a great inside receiver. Antwaan Randle El, I’m just hoping that he really excels. Chris Cooley is in the Pro Bowl. You’ve got have a great tight end to be able to become balanced.”

Zorn raved about running back Clinton Portis and added, “If you have a running back that can come out of the backfield, he has to be able to get himself open. The quarterback has to be able to look downfield and throw the ball to the running back, not sitting there waiting. If you have all those elements in place, it’s very tough defensively.”

That’s how newly promoted Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache sees it, too.

“The ball comes out quick,” Blache said. “The quarterback takes five steps, and the ball’s coming out. It’s really a tough offense [to defend], and then you add the dimension of the running game. I see it being a very successful offense.”

Seahawks Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said Zorn had a big impact on his team’s success.

“Just because Jim hasn’t been a coordinator, don’t think that he hasn’t run some things,” Hasselbeck said. “Mike coaches his coaches and then lets them coach the players. Without giving away secrets, there are some aspects of our red-zone offense and our third-down offense that Jim has been very involved in. You could tell pretty early on that he could be a good head coach.”

Zorn allowed that he would like to add a taller receiver to Moss and Randle El, both of whom are under 6 feet. Steve Largent, who caught more than half of the 819 passes that made him a Hall of Famer from Zorn, said he believes the West Coast offense works best with a big target running across the middle, something the Redskins don’t have.

But tight end Todd Yoder, who played in the scheme with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said the switch to the West Coast can be a positive.

“Maybe a change of pace will be good,” Yoder said. “Maybe we can better utilize some of our personnel. Some of our guys may fit this offense better. Maybe we can get the ball in Santana’s hands and Antwaan’s more often and let them use their skills after the catch.”

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