- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2008

No one has a better idea of what quarterback Jason Campbell can expect from new Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn than Matt Hasselbeck.

“That first year, I didn’t understand what Jim was doing,” said Hasselbeck, Zorn’s protege the last seven seasons in Seattle, where Zorn was the quarterbacks coach. “I wanted to run the offense and lead the team to the Super Bowl, and he’s got me working on how to take a snap, how to take a three-step drop, how to talk to the guys. It was really frustrating.

“Jim was trying to develop me as a leader and as a quarterback, but he tore me down before he built me back up. It was like taking a step back to take two steps forward. It’s not good that Jason will have his third system in four years, but it will be really good for him in the long run. I’ve had more success than I could have envisioned.”

By the nature of his new responsibilities, Zorn won’t be as hands-on with Campbell as he was with Hasselbeck, who had thrown just 29 passes and not started a game before Zorn coached him.

Campbell has started 20 games, so he has more habits to break.

“Jason’s had all these coordinators and these different [offenses], bummer,” Zorn said. “I’m not going to worry about all the influences he’s had. I’m going to try to dive in and teach him the influences he’s going to have. I’m going to use the same techniques [that I always have] because they work. They’ll work for him.

“I hope he’ll be fired up. I hope you’ll see a difference in how he plays.”

There certainly was a difference in Hasselbeck from his first meeting with Zorn through last season.

In their first season together in 2001, Hasselbeck had seven touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 70.9 passer rating. Last year, Hasselbeck turned in his third Pro Bowl season, throwing for 28 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 91.4 rating.

“I give Jim all the credit in the world,” said Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, an ex-quarterbacks coach himself.

Zorn said: “When Matt first got to Seattle, he was just wild, and he thought that was how you’re supposed to play. We started from square one. He would make these comments, ‘You make me feel confined.’ I’m saying, ‘Good, good.’ He made that confined feeling natural, and you can see the kind of player he is today. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

“Jason’s in for a lot of work.”

The NFL already has been a lot of work for Campbell, who was vacationing in the Bahamas yesterday and couldn’t be reached.

As a rookie, Campbell didn’t take a snap after being a first-round draft choice out of Auburn. In his second season, Campbell was thrust into the starting role with the reeling Redskins at 3-6.

Last year, Campbell missed the final three-plus games and the playoff loss to the Seahawks after dislocating his left kneecap against the Chicago Bears. Veteran Todd Collins filled in and played better than Campbell ever had. Now Campbell has to learn a third offense in four seasons.

“Whenever’s there’s any change, it’s uncomfortable,” Zorn said. “What I’ve got to do is make Jason get out of whatever’s been comfortable for him, whatever that is. He’s got a strong arm, an excellent presence. … He’ll become a little more vocal working the cadence, audibles, helping [his blockers] with protections.”

Unlike former coach Joe Gibbs, former play-caller Al Saunders and former quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor, Zorn understands Campbell’s experience. He was an NFL quarterback for 11 years, including eight as a starter.

Seahawks backup quarterback Seneca Wallace called Zorn “almost like a father figure to everybody on the team, especially the quarterbacks. His knowledge is amazing — not only football but life.”

Said Hasselbeck: “Jim’s committed to building a relationship, building trust. He talks about his experience as a player.”

As was evident in his first press conference with the Redskins, Zorn likes to talk.

“All I’m talking about is the technique I use to train a QB, to play with rhythm, to play with tempo,” Zorn said.

Notes — As first reported Sunday on Redskins 360 Blog, Zorn is hoping to convince Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher to give him permission to interview Titans assistant head coach-running backs coach Sherman Smith for the offensive coordinator vacancy. Because Smith has never called plays it would be a promotion of sorts. Smith and Zorn were teammates with the Seahawks from 1976 to 1982. …

A Seattle source said Zorn is also hoping that Holmgren, who is expected to retire after next season, will let Seahawks running back coach Stump Mitchell make a lateral move and fill that role with the Redskins, replacing Earnest Byner, whose status remains uncertain. …

The Redskins named Chris Meidt, the coach at St. Olaf (Minn.) College the past six seasons, as an offensive assistant.

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