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Redskins players say Zorn's locker room lacked discipline

With a disappointing 4-12 season over, Redskins players cleaned out their lockers as the team fired one coach and prepared to hire another.
With a disappointing 4-12 season over, Redskins players cleaned out their lockers as the team fired one coach and prepared to hire another. (Toni L. Sandys/the Washington Post)
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By Paul Tenorio and Rick Maese
Tuesday, January 5, 2010

In the wake of the announcement that Jim Zorn had been fired in the early hours Monday after the final loss of a 4-12 season, Washington Redskins players reflected on their former coach as some cleaned out their lockers at Redskins Park. Many praised Zorn's ability to withstand a trying season while also acknowledging a lack of discipline within the organization this season.

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Zorn's tenure in Washington started strong, with the Redskins going 6-2 in his first eight games. But Washington won just six of the next 24. As the Redskins faltered in the second half last year, Zorn started to take heat from Washington's front office, and by early this season some considered him to be a lame-duck coach.

Zorn's ability to continue working in a difficult situation won praise from several players, who also said they were prepared for a move that had been expected for weeks.

"You know, through all this he kind of stayed calm, stayed with that same look, that it's not bothering him, but you knew deep down inside it is," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "But I think he's a real tough guy. He's still new to the head coach thing, but he's gonna be real successful. He's gonna be good."

Though Zorn earned respect for persevering despite reports that he would be fired, players also acknowledged that under Zorn, the locker room lacked the discipline necessary to win.

Veterans Phillip Daniels, Renaldo Wynn and Rock Cartwright, while not placing the blame solely on Zorn, said the team lacked accountability in the locker room.

"Discipline is one of the main things you've got to have in an organization. And it stops at the top and goes all the way down," Cartwright said. "We did lack some discipline on this team a little bit and that's why, I think, the record was what it was."

In his eight seasons in Washington, Cartwright has played for three coaches. The level of discipline, he said, was different under Joe Gibbs than it was under Zorn. He wouldn't name names, but Cartwright said to the chagrin of many in the locker room, some players received preferential treatment around Redskins Park.

"Just some things that some guys got away with that some other guys -- we have 'rules guys' and we have 'guideline guys,' " Cartwright said. "Rules guys have to stick to the rules. Guideline guys, you go by your own guidelines and do what you want to do. When you got a team sport, everybody has to be rules guys and be on the same page."

Cartwright said players also noticed that some teammates had a direct line with team management and bypassed Zorn when they had concerns.

"When you've got guys that feel like they have that power, then of course that's a bad apple in the bunch," Cartwright said.

Wynn, who said he did not want to throw any teammates under the bus, said he told some younger players he wished "they didn't have to see some of the things that they've seen and experienced some of the things that they've experienced, because in this league, 'Not For Long,' as we know the cliche always says, it can have a bad effect on players where it can be a bad influence on them."

The lack of discipline is a problem Daniels said starts with the players, however, and with Zorn out, Daniels said the Redskins must find a coach who would immediately put his mark on the problem areas.

"We're going to need someone to come in here and let these guys know they're not going to get away with anything," Daniels said. "They're going to be real strict and make sure these guys do the right things. . . . I do think somebody has got to come in here and be hands on and say, 'This is not going to happen, not on my watch,' and punish the guys for not doing the right things. That's what you've got to do. If we're going to win, it's going to have to be everybody doing all the right things at the right time."

Staff writer Dan Steinberg also contributed to this report.


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