- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Operation Block Out began for Jim Zorn three months ago when the Washington Redskins posted a 9-7 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Fourteen games remained, and the roster was still relatively healthy.

But even that early, the warning signs were clear enough that constant criticism of his offensive system and consistent questioning about his job security forced Zorn to close out the chatter.

“I made the decision when the first inkling of all the speculation [started],” he said Monday at Redskin Park. “I just made a decision to stay focused and see this through. … I just have to press on and push forward. I think we’re trying to deal with all the adversity that comes each day. Each week, it’s been something different, hasn’t it?”

Different things - playcalling changes, front office upheaval, one player’s insubordination - but also the same things - offensive inconsistency, injuries and Zorn’s job status.

Because his two-year tenure with the Redskins is expected to end with Sunday’s game at San Diego, Zorn turned introspective during his news conference to discuss the 17-0 loss to Dallas.

“I truly am having a great experience,” he said. “It’s not fun, but it is a great experience. There are better days ahead. I think I’m a better football coach than when I walked into the program. I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve experienced a lot of head coaching responsibilities that I couldn’t have if I wasn’t the head coach.

“I just don’t want to moan and groan about it all and create a situation where people feel sorry for me. We’ve got four [wins] under our belt. That’s not good.”

The 4-11 Redskins are one loss away from clinching Dan Snyder’s worst year as owner, and the changes that started with general manager Bruce Allen’s arrival two weeks ago undoubtedly will continue as soon as next Monday.

“I would love to have a win going into the offseason,” Zorn said. “The season is morbid enough with our win-loss record. [Sunday] night I was delirious and said we were 4-13.”

It only feels like the Redskins are 4-13, especially in the last two weeks, when what is at the root of Zorn’s ultimate demise - the offense - has returned to its anemic ways.

Only three games ago, it looked as if the Redskins had turned the corner. Jason Campbell was getting good protection, the receivers were getting separation and the Redskins averaged 24.2 points, 353 yards and four plays of at least 20 yards during a five-week stretch.

But against the Giants and Cowboys, the offense has flown off the rails - 12 total points, 260 yards a game and a woeful 9-for-26 on third down.

The Redskins failed to run a play inside the 20-yard line against Dallas and posted only one gain of longer than 20 yards.

“We struggled in holding up against the opponents’ defensive line, both in the run and the pass,” Zorn said. “And yet, we got to find a way. That’s what we’ll be after [improving] this week.”

The Redskins’ 10 drives consisted of eight punts sandwiched by an interception and a failed fourth down.

“We tried to as much as we possibly could, but some things are longer-developing plays,” Campbell said. “You have to have that time to hit those things or get to them. [And] we weren’t really able to establish our run game as much as we wanted to go.”

The Redskins couldn’t stay on schedule, averaging 4.9 yards on first down, including 11 snaps of no gain or lost yardage. And when the Cowboys jumped to a 14-0 lead and the running game was stalled, that allowed Dallas’ pass-rushers to tee off on Campbell, who was sacked three times and hit eight times.

The end result was the Redskins’ first home shutout since Dec. 14, 2003 - 27-0 to Dallas. Steve Spurrier was out two weeks later.

If and when he departs, Zorn will do so with a belief that his system works under the right circumstances and proper personnel.

“I can maintain that confidence,” he said. “I’m sure everybody lacks confidence in what we’ve been doing - just the output hasn’t matched the scheme.”

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