The Jim Zorn era in Washington effectively came to an end on an unusually cold, windy afternoon before 12,000 empty seats and 79,000 angry, bundled-up customers. The coach hired for his offensive expertise couldn’t generate any points in the first half against a winless team at home for the second time in three weeks.
After Sunday’s 14-6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Zorn apparently will coach again next Monday against the Philadelphia Eagles - but only after giving up the cherished playcalling part of his duties at the request of executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato, who met with the coach Sunday evening with the blessing of owner Dan Snyder.
The Redskins infamously haven’t scored 30 points in any of Zorn’s 22 games. Struggling so mightily against the likes of the Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers will earn a coach a pink slip, whether that comes after a loss to the Eagles that drops the Redskins to 2-5 or at the end of a season that’s rapidly heading toward a train wreck of a finish.
One switch that happened Sunday, the halftime benching of quarterback Jason Campbell for Todd Collins, received a ringing endorsement from the crowd but produced only brief dividends with a 42-yard bomb to Santana Moss that set up a field goal, leaving a quandary at the position for the Philadelphia game.
Q: Is Zorn still the coach by the time I read this?
A: Yes, but an emasculated one. Zorn, who loves the X’s and O’s as well as the motivational part of his job, will have to deal with someone else - recent addition Sherman Lewis - calling the plays this week and for probably as long as he remains the coach. If the Redskins are embarrassed on national television by the Eagles, Snyder still could fire Zorn during the bye week that follows. In that event, look for media-shy defensive coordinator Greg Blache to turn down a promotion and for Snyder to turn to secondary coach Jerry Gray, himself a former coordinator.
Q: What was it like in the postgame locker room?
A: New defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, an All-Pro during a 13-3 season with Tennessee in 2008, let loose with a string of four-letter invectives in an attempt to fire up his teammates who have been part of the bumbling Redskins much longer. The offensive players were generally as befuddled as Zorn about why they’re not producing. At least the defensive players declined to point fingers at the offensive offense.
Q: Who’s the quarterback next week?
A: Good question. Since Colt Brennan’s on injured reserve, it won’t be the fan favorite. Campbell has been in his last year here since Snyder and front office boss Vinny Cerrato tried to replace him twice during the offseason, so there’s not much to be gained from putting him back under center. However, Collins will be 38 next month and is clearly not the future either. There’s not a good choice here, especially considering Collins did nothing after his initial hookup with Moss and his lack of mobility behind a makeshift line will be an issue against a ferocious Eagles pass rush.
Q: Is there any reason for hope?
A: The defense has been doing its job, not allowing a touchdown Sunday while holding the Chiefs to just 3.7 yards a play. The pass rush got to Matt Cassel five times, raising the team sack total to 11 the past three weeks. Of course, the defense, which came in ranked fifth in yards allowed and sixth in points, has been facing the horrid offenses of the Rams, Lions, Bucs, Panthers and Chiefs. The class of opponents is about to skyrocket the way Eddie Murphy’s character does in “Trading Places.” The Eagles, Falcons, Broncos, Cowboys, Saints, Giants and Chargers are all serious offenses.
Q: If Zorn somehow survives this loss and one to the Eagles, what happens then?
A: It’s almost impossible to envision Zorn surviving another debacle, but Snyder and Cerrato could decide then to bag this season and go for the highest draft pick in order to land the best rookie quarterback possible. The hunch here? Mike Shanahan, who worked with Cerrato in San Francisco and who tolerated a figurehead general manager in Denver, will coach the Redskins next year.