Mea Culpa Complex

The Redskins deny a final drive by the Eagles, stopping Reggie Brown one foot short of the goal line to preserve a victory at FedEx Field.
By Mike Wise
Monday, December 22, 2008

After a week of self-flagellation, of psychologically revisiting the site of that unsightly accident in Cincinnati last week, of referring to a radio host as "negative" -- on a program entitled, of all things, "The Jim Zorn Show" -- the man who said he felt like "the worst coach in America" finally cut himself a break.

"I don't feel like the worst coach in America," Jim Zorn began, "today."

Zorn's job never was in jeopardy after the most abysmal week of his Washington career. But if his team was blown out badly at home Sunday, you couldn't blame any struggling Great Falls realtor for contacting him before the season finale in San Francisco.

A week later, the agonizing, the second-guessing, the idea that he was in way over his head -- it all feels so last Monday.

After sweeping the Eagles and ensuring his first season would not be a losing one, any conversation about Zorn's status as head coach needs to be officially shelved for another year. Zorn is going to finish with at least the same record Joe Gibbs did in his first season in 1981 and could very well end up 9-7 in a year filled as much with growing pain as regret.

When a reporter informed Zorn the Redskins had been officially eliminated from the postseason after Atlanta's victory over Minnesota, the briefly subdued coach replied, "It's our fault, that's what it is.

"There's a couple more games we're going to look back on and be very frustrated about for years to come," Zorn said. "We fumbled three times in the Rams game. We had a chance to win last week and we didn't. So there's a couple losses there you get real frustrated about, or we can be even better shape than we were. We deserve what we're getting because we didn't earn the right."

There might be a few doomsayers who will point out Marty Schottenheimer was 8-8 in his one and only season before Daniel Snyder jettisoned the my-way-or-else coach; Zorn is more pliable and likable, much cheaper and -- this is a guarantee -- isn't going anywhere after this season.

He ended up 3-3 in the most rugged conference in pro football, made Jason Campbell more than incrementally better, learned the hard way how to deal with diva drama and, in that Zornball way of his (he referred to his players as having "super confidence" yesterday) he barely negotiated his way around the perception last February that Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, the vice president of football operations, had hired a flat-out rube to replace an aged and tired legend.

Of all the players Zorn can thank most for making the masses lower their pitchforks, he probably has to start with punter Ryan Plackemeier, who buried the Eagles deep in their own territory with nicely placed kicks that would've saved Durant Brooks's or Derrick Frost's jobs, and a defense that played more emotionally and maliciously than it had for most of this season.

When asked if he and his teammates believed Zorn would return next season, Marcus Washington said simply: "He's got to. No question."

There was no denying the entire franchise's tightness in manner and demeanor all week.

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