- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2020

If the upstart XFL is viewed as a second chance for players to show they can still play football at a high level, then by the same logic, the coaches who take those jobs can also look at it as a path toward of redemption.

But pose this theory to Jim Zorn, and the former Redskins coach will brush it aside.

“It’s not necessarily about me,” Zorn said in a phone interview.

On Saturday, Zorn will make his return to the District when the Seattle Dragons take on the DC Defenders at Audi Field in the XFL’s debut. Once the coach of the Redskins from 2008 to 2009, the now 66-year-old is getting his first opportunity to be a head coach since his dismissal.

Washington won’t be a homecoming for Zorn. The former Redskins coach said while he has “great memories” of his time with the Redskins, he has moved on with his life.

More so, he’s just happy to be part of a team again.

“My intent here is to do everything I can here and work as an XFL coach and help our players excel and give our coaches support,” Zorn said. “I’m not trying to create these stepping stones for myself and have attention in other places.”

The Zorn era was known more for its series of gaffes than anything else. At his introductory press conference, Zorn mistakenly referred to the team’s colors as “maroon and black” instead of burgundy and gold. There was famous “swinging gate” sequence in 2009 when the Redskins ran a trick play so obvious it didn’t fool anybody.

And who could forget the “Bingo caller” — when Zorn saw his play-calling duties stripped six games into his second year and given to Sherman Lewis, who had been calling Bingo at a senior center before ending his retirement to join the Redskins.

The Redskins hardly won, either. After going 8-8 in his first year, which included a collapse from 5-2, Washington went 4-12 in 2009. Redskins owner Dan Snyder fired him at the end of the season.

“I didn’t get to finish the things I wanted to accomplish,” Zorn says now. “In that respect, I would have liked to continue on and so, it left me, in my mind, trying to build and not be able to follow through.”

Zorn, though, said he understands why he was fired. The NFL, as the cliche goes, is a results-driven business, and the Redskins under Zorn didn’t win.

That’s just part of life, Zorn said.

“I don’t look back on it and I’m not trying to decipher too much about it,” Zorn said. “I know circumstances, but that’s not anything really to bring up because it’s been a long time. Right now, I’m pretty excited about with what’s ahead of us.”

What’s ahead for Zorn is helping build a team from scratch.

In the XFL, Zorn has helped usher in Seattle’s team. The experience, he said, reminded him of his time in 1976 when as a rookie quarterback, he joined the expansion Seattle Seahawks. In those days, the Seahawks had a smaller coaching staff and so coaches would often have to “double up” roles, just as the Dragons are doing now.

But when discussing those days, Zorn sounded nostalgic. Part of him, too, is glad to be overseeing a team again. For the past seven years, Zorn had been in Seattle, working as a personal trainer for quarterbacks. He moved back to the area shortly after he left the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012, and has been out of the NFL since.

Last year, he worked with top prospect Kyler Murray to help him prepare for the scouting combine and the Heisman winner’s pro day. Zorn said he liked how he could go into detail with each individual, more than what his duties as a head coach would permit.

But Zorn jumped at the chance to join the Dragons when it meant he could also stay in Seattle. He missed being part of a staff, the passion of what it takes to formulate a game plan each week and see players develop.

Zorn also missed building things, he said.

“It’s fun,” Zorn said. “It’s hard, but it’s pretty rewarding to come in every day really because of the guys that are working.”

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