Trying to Put The QB in Coach

The Redskins continue preparations for the regular season by clipping the Buffalo Bills, 17-14, in their second preseason game Saturday at FedEx Field.
By Mike Wise
Sunday, August 10, 2008

After Tom Flores won his first of two Super Bowls with the Raiders, Bart Starr, the former Packers great, approached the coach and said, "I really want to thank you."

"I was a little surprised," Flores said by telephone last night. "I think I said, 'For what?' "

"You finally destroyed the myth," Flores recalled Starr saying.

"What myth?"

"The myth that quarterbacks don't make good coaches."

This story is related on the night Jim Zorn strode purposefully through the FexEd Field tunnel for the first time in his career as coach of Washington's pro football team last night, stopping only to shake the hands of assistants Joe Bugel and Stump Mitchell before his home preseason debut ended with a 17-14 pileup of a victory over Buffalo.

They're 2-0 when it doesn't count. But Jason Campbell looks sharp. And whether there are starters or practice-squad kids out there, they have a knack of hanging in there.

Still, based strictly on the past, Zorn has his work cut out for him. Go ahead. Look long and hard through the annals of the game, and it becomes clear why the newbie is moving on, employing his own methods, finding his Zorn identity, anything to separate him from those who coached before him.

We're not talking about Joe Gibbs; he's obvious. (And besides, Zorn has already demonstrated an unguarded candor -- a truth-telling serum apparently unavailable to any other full-of-subterfuge NFL coach, a distinct difference from his tight-lipped Redskins' predecessor.)

No, it's a positional problem Zorn must overcome. Of the 439 coaches in NFL history, just 25 have been quarterbacks of some notable measure. And many have not been very good. Just one, Flores, has won a Super Bowl, while Sam Wyche got to the big game but never sealed the deal.

Sam Huff, the Hall of Fame linebacker and Redskins radio analyst, took a roll call of great quarterbacks who didn't work out as coaches.

"Bart Starr? Fired," Huff said. "Norm Van Brocklin? Fired. Otto Graham. Fired here. Hall of Famers. Steve Spurrier. It doesn't matter. For some reason they don't work out. They all want their own people, 'Well, look who I drafted.' " Huff paused and, speaking of Zorn, added: "But this guy. . . . I think this guy could break the mold."

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