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Ex-Redskins coach Jim Zorn hired as Ravens quarterbacks coach

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 31, 2010; D01

Jim Zorn wasn't out of work long.

The former Redskins head coach, fired Jan. 4, agreed Saturday to become the Baltimore Ravens' quarterbacks coach. Not surprisingly, Zorn, who served as the Seattle Seahawks' quarterbacks coach for seven seasons before joining the Redskins, is pleased to have found work so quickly.

"I'm very excited about having a job, number one, and then having a job with another excellent organization," Zorn said in a phone interview. "The Ravens were in the playoffs this year, and they're not losing too many guys, so I think it's just a really good situation to be in."

Zorn, who went 12-20 in two seasons leading Washington, beat out Al Saunders, the Redskins' former associate head coach-offense, for the position. With the Ravens, Zorn replaces Hue Jackson, who recently joined the Oakland Raiders as their offensive coordinator. The Ravens will look to Zorn to oversee the development of second-year quarterback Joe Flacco, who has helped Baltimore reach the playoffs the last two seasons.

"Joe Flacco is a really good, young QB, so I'm definitely excited about working with him," Zorn said. "Whether it's a perfect fit, well, that'll be a good question to answer as I go along here. I hope it is. I believe it's going to be a great situation."

Zorn, 56, is under contract with the Redskins for 2010 at a salary of about $2.4 million, league sources said. He is believed to have "offset" language in his contract, meaning the Redskins would be responsible for paying Zorn the remainder of his 2010 salary less what he receives from the Ravens.

In a statement about the hiring, Ravens Coach John Harbaugh praised Zorn's background and "great résumé" working with quarterbacks. "Jim played successfully in the NFL for a long time," Harbaugh said. "He knows what quarterbacks go through in this league. He has been a quarterbacks coach and a head coach, and he is familiar with our offense.

"I've gotten to know Jim for the last couple of years, and I have been impressed with him as a person. He's a good, decent man, and he will be an excellent addition to the Ravens."

Contributing to the continued development of the promising Flacco will top Zorn's to-do list in Baltimore. While with the Redskins, Zorn often spoke highly of Flacco in conversations with reporters who cover the team, saying he believed the No. 18 overall pick in the 2008 draft is an emerging star.

"But I'm not going to presume that I'm going to come in and all of a sudden Joe Flacco is just going to fall all over himself and say, 'Oh, this is great,' " Zorn said Saturday. "I've got to earn the right to speak into life, to speak into his game, after I just see what's there."

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder first hired Zorn as offensive coordinator and then quickly promoted him to head coach in early 2008, in large part, because of Zorn's role in the development of Matt Hasselbeck into a Pro Bowl quarterback for Seattle. Hasselbeck often credits Zorn with much of his success, and Snyder hoped Zorn would have a similar affect on Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell.

To be sure, the Campbell-Zorn relationship began well. With Zorn serving as the play-caller during the 2008 season, the Redskins started 6-2 and Campbell showed signs of becoming a franchise-caliber quarterback while playing at the highest level of his career to that point.

Redskins veterans praised Zorn for his aggressive approach on offense. And Zorn became a big hit with reporters because of his on-the-record candor. But the good times in Washington for Zorn ended quickly.

Primarily because of injuries along the offensive line, the Redskins went 2-6 in the second half in 2008, finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. The offense, which Zorn directed, was among the league's least productive in terms of scoring. And although Campbell set personal-best marks under Zorn, the team's lack of success renewed questions about Campbell's ability to become a top-notch quarterback and stirred doubt in the front office that Zorn was up to the challenge of being a successful head coach.

Despite determining the offensive line was the team's weakest unit in an internal offseason evaluation of the roster, the Redskins invested heavily on defense in free agency after the 2008 season, signing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and re-signing cornerback DeAngelo Hall shortly before he could have tested the open market. Management's failure to substantively bolster the shaky offensive line prompted many Redskins observers to believe the team would struggle this season -- and ultimately result in Zorn being fired.

Sure enough, the Redskins stumbled from the outset of the 2009 season. Zorn's relationship with Campbell -- who had another career-best season statistically -- deteriorated under the weight of failed expectations, team sources said, and management stripped Zorn of play-calling duties after a Week 6 loss to Kansas City. The Redskins finished 4-12 and last in the NFC East for the second consecutive season. And now, Zorn starts over with the Ravens in a job with which he is familiar.

"The thing that I appreciate about the Redskins is I did have the opportunity for two years to be able to get in there and work hard," Zorn said. "I worked with a good staff and worked with players who really stayed with us. There were a lot of really fine things that went on that I gained experience from. And I'm taking that with me."

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