As Redskins' Offense Slows Down, Zorn's Aging Process Speeds Up

Jim Zorn's Redskins were outscored 71-6 in their final two preseason games. The team opens the regular season Thursday against the Giants.
Jim Zorn's Redskins were outscored 71-6 in their final two preseason games. The team opens the regular season Thursday against the Giants. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By George Solomon
Sunday, August 31, 2008

When Jim Zorn began training camp last month as the 26th head coach of the Washington Redskins, he was a young 55 with a gleam in his eye and a bounce in his step. When the Redskins, once 3-0 in the preseason, lost their second straight game Thursday night, this one to Jacksonville, Coach Zorn, as the local TV sports anchors call him, did not look so young.

Being outscored 71-6 in your final tuneups before the regular season opener Thursday, against the defending NFL champion New York Giants in the Meadowlands, will age you fast.

How fast?

Enough for him to keep most of the offensive starters in the game for the first quarter against Gregg (where was his 10-man defense when really needed?) Williams's defense in hopes of restoring confidence among the Redskins after that beat-down in Carolina. But three fruitless series against the Jaguars produced no points, with Zorn later explaining to reporters: "We didn't sustain [the drives], for whatever reasons."

Nor did Greg ("one G, please") Blache's second-line defense help, surrendering 24 points and 339 yards, leaving Redskins broadcaster and Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff to gasp: "The last two games have been as inept as I've ever seen. The Redskins haven't played with any heart."

If the Redskins' past two listless exhibitions strengthen the case for the NFL to expand its regular season by two games, as Mark Maske's reporting suggested in The Post, what occurred between the lines these past six days increases the pressure on Zorn.

Zorn may be a rookie head coach, but he's savvy enough to know the patience level of fans of Redskins Nation and of the suits in the owner's box is barely above zero. What appears to be a poor draft will be no excuse for the coach if the team starts 1-4.

"My advice to Jim Zorn is stay with what you know best and try not to out-coach or out-scheme people," said Bob Milloy, 64, of Olney's Good Counsel High School.

Milloy begins his 38th season as a head football coach (at four different schools) in the area. His opener Friday night against perennial DCIAA powerhouse Dunbar will be his "431st game as a high school football head coach and I'll be just as nervous as I was for my first," he said. "I always get this uneasy feeling in my stomach, and I worry that the other guys might be better than I think. But I love it. I just love it."

And what advice to Zorn would John Riggins, another Redskins Hall-of-Famer-turned-broadcaster, offer?

"Listen to Elvis and Sinatra singing 'My Way' and do it your way," Riggins said.

Tough Times on Half Street

In his two seasons as manager of the Washington Nationals, Manny Acta has been through many tough times. But none tougher than the 12-game losing streak this month that had the Nationals close to clinching "worst record in the majors" by Labor Day.

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