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With one trick play, Redskins Coach Jim Zorn shows defiance

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By Mike Wise
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The zaniest, most off-kilter called play of the NFL season began with the Redskins' punter taking a snap from the backup tight end before halftime with, incredibly, no line in front of him. As if the New York Giants were supposed to count to "Three Mississippi" before they rushed past Todd Yoder to disembowel poor Hunter Smith.

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Leaving the meekest of his players in harm's way, Coach Jim Zorn sent the rest of his offensive line and wide receivers to line up at the far left sideline for some kooky, bizarre gadget play. Watching the replay in the press box of a pass that had no chance but to be intercepted, which it was, the original thought stuck: Nuts, just nuts.

But the more I saw the replay, the deeper I went with Zorn's motivation, reaching further than even his doomed fake field goal try: Toward pure brilliance, toward outright defiance -- straight to a cutting, scripted protest in the final days of his two-year reign as a powerless figurehead.

Crazy, completely counterintuitive, but quite possibly true. That absurd call Monday night was the only way Zorn could exact some revenge on his meddlesome bosses, the only way he could get back at a splintered organization he will almost certainly cease to be a part of by the first week of January.

And if that's the case, well, it's about time.

Finally, with a call brought to you by a man who has 13 more days of Fantasy Coaching Camp left, we see the full splendor of the Z-man. Before he leaves us for good in two weeks, he finds his true Zorn identity.

Fearful he could forfeit some or all of his 2010 salary, Zorn of course can't admit toying with the playbook. And the masses will surely view the play as Zorn's signature rotten decision as a lame-duck coach, another reason to say, "good riddance" to the coach who proved to be the stopgap between Joe Gibbs and, very likely, Mike Shanahan.

But seeing the glee in his postgame grin describing that failed play, hearing him actually say, "Oh, no, it was good defense. It was really good defense. That's what hurt that play," it gave me real pause.

"The play was unique enough to where I didn't think they saw what we were really trying to do and then they smelled it out pretty quickly, we didn't really have a chance," Zorn said, still believing and smiling.

And at 4-10, two weeks from Bruce Allen firing him, why not humor himself at the expense of the people who took all the fun out of his job and life the past two years?

Publicly emasculated with every move from above, no one in authority ever having his back, for two years Zorn was metaphorically Hunter Smith on Monday night -- all alone in the backfield, big, angry men with malice on their breath, bearing down.

But Unemployed Coach Walking deserves a last meal, doesn't he?


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