Catching Everyone Off Guard
Did anyone see this coming, this runaway, freight train of a football team unhinging itself from the Armageddon Express that rolled out of Giants Stadium, oh, four weeks ago?
Raise your hand if you guessed its inexperienced, wide-eyed conductor, who on Sept. 4 looked like Forrest Gump with a challenge flag in his back pocket, would call a conniving draw play on fourth down and a long one yard -- with the lead, on the road and barely more than two minutes to play.
As Fred Smoot said, in a matter of words after yet another implausible NFC East road victory, Jim Zorn has some gumption.
And against Andy Reid, of all people, who only wrote the book on how to make the gargantuan jump from anonymous position coach to guru of a West Coast offense along the Eastern Seaboard.
Reid once was Zorn, before anyone believed a quarterback coach from Seattle could move into Joe Gibbs's old office and win at Dallas and at Philadelphia, lead a cornball cheer of "hip, hip, hooray!" and get his 20-something players to buy into that postgame chant the way they have bought into everything about Jim Zorn.
Did we mention the Redskins, barring a major injury, are going back to the playoffs? They are, and I don't want to hear anything to the contrary after this surreal 4-1 start. Not the tired, old, "Don't jinx them," or, "Norv Turner reeled off seven straight after losing his first game in 1996, and he didn't make the playoffs after finishing 2-6."
Immaterial. Norv in '96 did not have the luxury of St. Louis coming to FedEx Field next week, followed by Cleveland at home and Detroit on the road. Between them, that sorry NFL lot has one victory.
With that lineup, even conservative chalk puts Washington at 6-2 on Nov. 3, when Pittsburgh comes to town for the Redskins' lone Monday night appearance. Like everything left on the schedule -- including Nov. 23 at Seattle, which got spanked by the Giants yesterday -- the Steelers are now a very winnable game.
It's premature yet to talk of Tampa in February, but it is time for the last detractor to leave the thoughts of that malodorous opener against the Giants. There is no road to oblivion here; just a nice, healthy team with a good mix of kids and old heads, who are being led by an ultra-intense guy who didn't turn out to be Lane Kiffin, after all.
In virtual anonymity, as a Mike Holmgren assistant in the Pacific Northwest, Zorn was building a large bank of football knowledge -- patterns and possibilities that might not have ever been committed to an NFL playbook had owner Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, the team's executive vice president of operations, not taken a monstrous gamble on such an unproven commodity like Zorn.