- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2008

For Sherman Smith, it came down to a choice between comfort and challenge.

Smith chose the latter in agreeing yesterday to become the offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins.

Smith, who interviewed with the Redskins on Tuesday and Wednesday, met yesterday with his boss of 13 years — Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher — and then called new Redskins coach Jim Zorn with his acceptance.

“Jeff wanted me to stay, but I think he knew it was a great opportunity, and unique,” Smith said. “We hugged and I told him I’m a better coach because of my 13 years here with Jeff and some of the other coaches. It’s tough, leaving a great organization like the Titans, but I’m excited about this opportunity.”

Smith said he was comfortable in Tennessee as running backs coach, the last two years with the assistant head coach title. But he opted to seek more responsibility at age 53 even though Zorn will call the plays.

“It was back and forth, and I just decided it was the time,” Smith said. “Every time I thought about taking the job I felt bad because there was a good reason to stay. The city of Nashville and the affiliation with the coaches and players, that made it hard. It wasn’t easy. But [my wife and I] decided this was the best thing for me.”

Of course, Smith also had to feel comfortable with his new situation, which he does because he and Zorn forged a friendship when they shared the backfield for the Seattle Seahawks from 1976 to 1982.

In the years since they went into coaching, they agreed that the first one to become a head coach would hire the other as offensive coordinator.

“Jim and I have talked and dreamed about doing this,” Smith said. “It’s a great opportunity to work with a guy I have a great deal of respect for. I’m not a guy who always sat around and said, ‘I want to be a coordinator.’ Part of it was me coming to the conclusion, even though I never said I wanted to be a coordinator, [that] here is a great opportunity for me to be a coordinator and what’s a better situation than to do it under Jim. I’m looking forward to it.”

So are the Redskins.

“We’re very excited about adding Sherman to our staff,” Redskins executive vice president Vinny Cerrato said. “He’s an outstanding coach and a quality man.”

Smith’s hiring came two days after that of running backs coach Stump Mitchell, Zorn’s associate on Seattle’s staff the last seven seasons. Mitchell replaced Earnest Byner.

The Redskins also brought in John Palermo to coach the defensive line, filling the spot left open by Greg Blache, whom the team promoted to defensive coordinator on Jan. 26 after Gregg Williams was fired.

Chris Meidt was hired as an offensive assistant, replacing Bob Saunders, who followed his father, deposed associate head coach Al Saunders, out of Redskin Park. Offensive assistant Jack Burns was let go while quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor left, filling that vacancy with the Seahawks that Zorn created by joining the Redskins.

The rest of the staff that helped the Redskins reach the playoffs in 2007 returns.

They are Don Breaux (offensive assistant), Joe Bugel (offensive line), Jerry Gray (cornerbacks), Stan Hixon (receivers), Steve Jackson (safeties), Bill Khayat (offensive quality control), Kirk Olivadotti (linebackers), Rennie Simmons (tight ends), Arthur Smith (defensive quality control) and Danny Smith (special teams).

The medical staff, headed by Bubba Tyer and the strength and conditioning staff, headed by John Hastings, were also retained.

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