By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The Washington Redskins interviewed Jim Zorn for their offensive coordinator position yesterday, sources said, even as their choice of a new head coach remained unclear.
Zorn, the quarterbacks coach of the Seattle Seahawks, is well regarded by two of the top candidates to replace Joe Gibbs: former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel and Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams.
League and team sources said yesterday afternoon that they expected Fassel would get the job, but as of late last night Redskins officials were still meeting to mull over their options, with no decision expected before today, a league source said. Members of the staff who have spoken to Williams recently said he doubts he would get the job, because he has not heard from team officials since his last interview last week.
After flying to Washington and interviewing with owner Daniel Snyder at his home, Zorn was expected to talk last night with Seahawks officials, who want to keep him on their staff. The Seahawks could promise to give him their offensive coordinator job when Coach Mike Holmgren retires, possibly after next season. That might be enough to persuade Zorn, a former Seahawks quarterback and a legendary figure in the city, to join fellow Seattle assistant Jim Mora in withdrawing his name from Redskins consideration.
Zorn could not be reached to comment. The Seahawks eliminated the Redskins from the playoffs two of the past three seasons.
Also, in the event Williams is passed over and leaves, the Redskins have discussed hiring another Fassel favorite, Rex Ryan, as defensive coordinator, sources said. But Ryan, the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens the past three seasons, might not be free even if he wanted the job. The Ravens changed head coaches and gave their assistants permission to interview with other teams, but the team contends it has the contractual right to keep Ryan from taking another defensive coordinator's job.
The possible hiring of Fassel has been greeted with strong derision by fans, who filled the team-sponsored chat room and the comments section of The Washington Post's Redskins blog with hundreds of anti-Fassel postings since reports that he had interviewed with Snyder. The majority of calls to local sports talk radio stations have also been negative.
Fassel had a 58-53-1 record as coach of the New York Giants from 1997 to 2003, but finished 4-12 in his final season before being fired and had an unsuccessful stint as an offensive assistant for Baltimore, from 2004 to '06 (he was fired in October of that season). Part of Fassel's appeal, league sources said, is his foundation in the quarterback position, having helped develop Phil Simms and John Elway into stars early in their careers.
Fassel has a longtime friendship with Holmgren, Zorn's coach in Seattle since 2001, and the progress of young quarterback Jason Campbell, a former first-round pick with 20 career starts, is paramount in Washington's next coaching regime, league sources said. Zorn's work with Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace, as well as with rookie Charlie Batch when Zorn was with Detroit, earned him praise.
Al Saunders, Washington's associate head coach-offense, replaced Gibbs as the Redskins' play-caller after being signed to a hefty contract in 2005, but league sources said Snyder and executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato have soured on the offense after two seasons and discussed possible replacements with numerous candidates who have interviewed for the head coaching job. The team could retain Saunders, though hiring a new coordinator would make that unlikely.
Zorn has flourished both teaching and playing the quarterback position.
His playing career began with Seattle in 1976 (the franchise's first season), and he played nine seasons with the Seahawks. After departing Seattle, he continued his playing career with the Green Bay Packers (1985), the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1986) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1987). Zorn is one of only eight players inducted into the Seahawks' Ring of Honor.
Zorn spent eight seasons coaching in the collegiate ranks. He spent two seasons (1995-96) as quarterbacks coach at the University of Minnesota after coordinating Utah State's offense from 1992 to '94. His first collegiate coaching job was as an offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach at Boise State from 1989 to '91.
The Redskins had previously only interviewed candidates for the head coaching opening, but Zorn was flown to town from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where he had been scouting with the Seattle staff. He departed Washington late yesterday afternoon.
Fassel completed his second interview Monday, sources said, leaving a favorable impression with Snyder. Fassel nearly got the Redskins job in 2004, before Snyder lured Gibbs, a Hall of Fame coach, out of retirement late in the process.
Williams met four times with Snyder for the position and had Gibbs's support, sources said, but some who have talked to Snyder said the owner is apprehensive about hiring him despite the support of players and coaches.
The Redskins also interviewed Indianapolis defensive assistant Ron Meeks and Tennessee defensive assistant Jim Schwartz for the head coaching job. While their teams could block lateral moves for those candidates as well, the hiring of Fassel could lead to either being a candidate for a position on Washington's staff. Meeks had not been contacted since his interview, league sources said, while Schwartz was close to signing an extension with Tennessee.
Should the Redskins opt to wait until after the Super Bowl, they could interview members of the New York and New England staffs, including Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who were pursued for other head coaching vacancies this offseason.
Hiring from outside the organization would almost certainly lead to an exodus of staff members. Most of Washington's coaches are also at the Senior Bowl and they have not been apprised of the status of the coaching search since Gibbs retired Jan. 8.
Redskins Note: Chris Cooley and Chris Samuels will honor the late Sean Taylor by wearing No. 21 jerseys in the Pro Bowl on Feb. 10 in Hawaii. The jerseys will bear the names of Cooley and Samuels, and Taylor's number. Afterward, the jerseys will be sold on nflauction.nfl.com, with the proceeds going to the Sean Taylor Memorial Trust Fund, set up to benefit his daughter, Jackie. Taylor was voted to the NFC team at free safety.
Staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.