Zorn Is Named Redskins Head Coach

Jim Zorn's tenure as the Washington Redskins' coach included unexpected highs and crushing lows.
By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 10, 2008

In a stunning end to the Washington Redskins' coaching search, recently hired offensive coordinator Jim Zorn will be introduced today as the team's next head coach.

Zorn, 54, is a former Seattle Seahawks quarterback and assistant coach. He never has been a head coach and never had been an offensive coordinator in the NFL before the Redskins gave him that job on Jan. 25.

"I've always dreamed of being a head coach with a franchise rich in tradition like the Redskins," Zorn said in a statement. "As a player who had to fight Redskins teams at RFK as well as at our home field, I know about the history of this franchise as well as the passion of its fans. I won't let you down."

Former players under Zorn consider him to be a patient teacher who handles high-pressure situations well. They say he shares some similarities with Joe Gibbs, who stepped down as Redskins coach and team president on Jan. 8, including being devoutly religious.

"He reminds me of a young Joe Gibbs," Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "When you say Joe Gibbs, people immediately respect him and treat him as a great guy. Jim is like that. People respect him."

Redskins players reached last night expressed relief that the search, which dragged on for 32 days and had been shrouded in secrecy, finally ended. The team seriously considered about half a dozen candidates, most notably former assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams, the favorite of Redskins players; former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel; and Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who directed the stunning upset of the previously undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

"I was very surprised, I think a lot of guys were, that they hired Coach Zorn," lineman Lorenzo Alexander said. "We knew he was going to be here as the offensive coordinator, but I don't think a lot of people saw this coming. The good thing is that we finally have some direction now that we know who our head coach is going to be. Coach Zorn hasn't been a head coach or a coordinator, but he comes in with a reputation of a guy who knows what he's doing. We can kind of move on after that whirlwind."

Williams -- who after being snubbed by the Redskins, left to run the Jacksonville Jaguars' defense -- and Fassel were considered leading candidates at various points after long interviews with owner Daniel Snyder. Indianapolis Colts assistant coach Ron Meeks interviewed multiple times for the position and former San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci, who now works for the NFL Network, also was among the candidates Snyder met with recently. But Snyder had few choices left after waiting so long to make a decision in an offseason when there were few high-profile candidates interested in the job.

Earlier in the process, Seahawks assistant Jim Mora withdrew from the process and was given a five-year contract extension that also ensures he will become Seattle's next head coach when Mike Holmgren steps down.

The decision to bypass Williams infuriated fans, who filled Internet message boards, even the one backed by the team, with angry posts. The outcry grew louder when Fassel became a leading candidate, fans wanting no part of a coach who had been fired by the Baltimore Ravens as their offensive coordinator.

Multiple days of interviews early this week with Spagnuolo resulted in him signing a new three-year contract with the Giants hours after returning home. Spagnuolo withdrew on Wednesday.

Of the remaining candidates, Fassel was the only one to get a phone call that day from the Redskins reiterating their interest and telling him to expect further contact, league sources said. On Thursday, none of the candidates was contacted, according to league sources, but observers at Redskins Park began to notice that Zorn was not at the facility as often as expected and had begun spending more time with Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, executive vice president of football operations. That led some in the organization to believe he was now interviewing to become the head coach.

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