After Dropping a Game to the Lions, the Redskins Are at a Loss, and at a Crossroads

(By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 28, 2009

DETROIT, Sept. 27 -- When the final tackle was completed and the numbers on the scoreboard were irreversible, part of history, Jim Zorn stood still on the sideline. The Washington Redskins players he coaches slowly began moving toward their opponents, to shake hands, to head to the locker room and the flight home. Zorn remained static, staring.

Finally, he dropped his head. Disbelief, disappointment, frustration -- all of them were evident on his face.

"There's not too many words to say yet," he said later.

Yet in Washington, results such as the one Zorn oversaw Sunday -- a dreadful 19-14 loss to the Detroit Lions, who used the Redskins to end a 19-game losing streak -- lead to fountains of words, few of them good. The Redskins have lost two of their first three games of the season, and they have looked porous on defense and unpolished on offense.

Now, a week after star running back Clinton Portis declared that "everybody in this organization [is] on the hot seat," the heat is turned up, and the team is trying to make sure any fissures don't become full-blown fractures before the season is even a month old.

"We got a lot of people in here who think they're better than they are," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "You can look at that [game] and tell. It's not practice. This isn't the preseason. This is the real deal, and . . . there's a lot of guys running around in here who think they've arrived -- and [they] haven't made a play in this league."

Zorn, 56, in his second year as a head coach after an itinerant career as a college and pro assistant, is the man who must manage the tenor of his team and oversee it going forward. He was questioned after the loss about his decision-making -- trying to go for a touchdown in the first quarter when he could have kicked a short field goal, giving the Lions another chance to keep a drive alive when he accepted a penalty -- and he carefully broke down the reasons for his thinking, though both choices backfired.

Still, he said he gives no thought to any of the overarching issues that will be widely discussed this week, namely his fitness for his position and the seemingly precarious nature of his job.

"None," he said.

In a mostly quiet visitors' locker room at Ford Field, most players tried to close ranks, casting aside the unmistakable pall over the team by emphasizing that there are 13 games remaining. Quarterback Jason Campbell defended Zorn. "Let me make one thing clear: It's definitely not on one person," he said.

"I definitely think that he's a good coach," said tackle Chris Samuels, the team's longest-tenured player. "I think that we can all do some things better, players and coaches. We're on the same page. We believe in our coach. And I think at the end of the season we'll come up out of this."

There is, though, a sense that this had better be the nadir. Detroit was supposed to be a sure win, even as Zorn talked about how improved the Lions were. "We did not treat this team lightly," Zorn said. But the result will be talked about around the National Football League: The Redskins, who had hoped to return to the playoffs, are the team that finally lost to the Lions. Detroit had not won a game since Dec. 23, 2007.

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