Redskins' Past and Present, Jim Zorn and Joe Gibbs, Spend a Day at the Races

Redskins Coach Jim Zorn said he and Joe Gibbs talked football last month
Redskins Coach Jim Zorn said he and Joe Gibbs talked football last month "just like anybody else would." (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Mike Wise
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Joe Gibbs and Jim Zorn stood in the rain, waiting for a NASCAR race to start as the downpour came. Until last month at Lowe's Motor Speedway outside Charlotte, the retired-for-good Redskins coaching icon and the man who succeeded him had never really spent time together.

They talked family and Washington and football, which meant they also talked Jason Campbell.

"Just like anybody else would, like two armchair quarterbacks," Zorn said, quickly adding, "With maybe a little more knowledge."

"Good conversation," Gibbs said. "We talked a little bit about everything. Not personnel, but more general talk between coaches."

Asked if he felt Campbell was mistreated by an organization that dangled him for Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez, Gibbs wouldn't bite.

"I have a different outlook on that," Gibbs said of shopping the quarterback he had plucked from Auburn. "At some point you're going to have to take the team down the field in a driving hailstorm to win the game. If you get all uptight about stuff as the quarterback -- if [trade rumors] is something that bothers you -- you're in the wrong position."

Translation: Buck up, Jason.

"You gotta realize an NFL quarterback is going to go through a lot -- all the ones I coached did," Gibbs added through that shrill laugh of his. "If it wasn't [Mark] Rypien getting benched in the middle of a season, it was Joe Theismann technically going to get benched. Or it was Doug Williams going through two teams and coming here when everybody thought his career was over."

Gibbs related his meeting with Zorn at a recent FedEx charity event in front of the Salvation Army off New York Avenue in Northeast Washington. The president of Joe Gibbs Racing had invited Zorn down to the speedway to experience the zoom of his racing team's engines, and Zorn finally took him up on the offer. He brought his son Isaac to Charlotte while also visiting his father, who lives in the area.

Zorn has been supportive of Gibbs's charity, Youth for Tomorrow. But for much of the past 18 months, since he got the Redskins' head coaching job in February 2008, Zorn has tread lightly on the topic of Gibbs, walking a fine line, paying homage to his predecessor's great past while being careful not to get caught up in the hyperbole that surrounds a legend.

For weeks during his first training camp in Washington, Zorn never mentioned Gibbs by name, and his say-anything candor felt like a cutting protest to the tight-lipped icon he replaced.

Zorn clearly felt comfortable around Gibbs and admired and appreciated what he had accomplished. But he was also confident, without being arrogant, that he could make his own mark as a head coach in the NFL.

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