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Redskins Looked Below the Radar

Jim Zorn's tenure as the Washington Redskins' coach included unexpected highs and crushing lows.

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By Mike Wise
Sunday, February 10, 2008

There are processes of elimination and processes of desperation. Jim Zorn, lucky guy, today embodies that last-ditch plea at closing time. He was plucked after dark by people who were too fickle to begin with, and now must pretend they had Joe Gibbs-like conviction all along.

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Their options dwindling to retreads and high-maintenance guys with control issues -- really, after every decent candidate left the prom with someone else -- owner Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato hired a virtual newbie to succeed the most important person in franchise history.

In the end, Bill Cowher and Pete Carroll merely were radio fodder. Jim Fassel, who once took a New York Giants team to the Super Bowl and seemed on the precipice of getting the job, did not turn out to be life-partner material after all.

Zorn, who took Al Saunders's job on Jan. 25-- becoming an offensive coordinator for the first time in his NFL career -- was the stunning pick for the top job last night.

Never let it be said again that Snyder won't promote a mailroom clerk to CEO. The Horatio Alger character just got a headset.

The announcement of such a below-the-radar candidate, which interestingly came on a Saturday (the same slow-news day on which Gregg Williams got his walking papers), had this shock value attached to it -- as if a caper had been solved by Shaggy and Scooby.

Zoinks, it's Zorn!

Gibbs's gig was filled by an ex-Seahawks quarterback whose greatest feat was putting Steve Largent in the Hall of Fame. When Gibbs was leading Washington to Lombardi trophies, Zorn was moonlighting in the Canadian Football League and coaching quarterbacks at Boise State.

It's nice of the organization to remind everyone that Andy Reid was once also promoted from a position coach to head coach.

But Zorn might be the most out-of-the-box Redskins head coaching hire since an anonymous offensive wizard in San Diego was plucked from obscurity by Bobby Beathard in 1981 -- when coordinators didn't have cult followings and $2 million-a-year deals.

Before he's portrayed as Everybody's Eighth Choice, Jim Zorn could turn out to be Cerrato's Joe Gibbs. In his first genuine decision as the team's executive vice president of football operations, there is real potential for symmetry here.

Like Gibbs, Zorn is principled, passionate and extremely candid. Zorn is said to have no fraud in him and plenty of authenticity. He says what's on his mind, which might endear him to the fan base but (now that Gibbs's spell has worn off of Snyder) might drive his perception-driven employers up the wall.


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