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Jim Zorn returns, still seeing the positives from his time as Redskins coach

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A diamond in the rough after a 6-2 start in his first year, Zorn somehow morphed into the fifth jettisoned coach of the Snyder era. Oh, he had some moments.

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The Z-shades, playing dodgeball with his quarterbacks, those uplifting news conferences amid the losing that clarified exactly what Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, the former general manager, meant when they said he "blew them away."

I still remember him telling The Post's Dan Steinberg about the day he skinned a coyote for his pelt after he found the roadkill back home in Washington state, detailing how shocked the neighbors were, thinking he had skinned his own dog.

You couldn't get that from Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy after practice. Heck, you couldn't get that from Rex Ryan.

The people who hired Zorn whispered that he got too big for his britches after that 6-2 start. That after biking on Saturdays with W, inviting Rush Limbaugh to watch the game from his luxury box, that the homespun, golly-gee guy changed.

That he made things too complicated for Jason Campbell, micromanaged, didn't hire the right people around him on offense.

Snyder, in a recent interview with HogsHaven.com, said he realized the error of his ways, taking a shot at Zorn in the process.

"We were headed in the wrong direction," he said. "It's very simple. And the first thing you have to do is look in the mirror and you have to say - and be honest with yourself, you can't say well, 'Hope springs eternal and it's going to get better and what Vinny Cerrato or Jim Zorn says is going to be great.' No, reality is reality. You know, I didn't call two fake field goals in a row."

Ouch.

"Look, we can dissect all those things," Zorn said. "I could go into every play. If it's successful, no one is questioning why I called it. Bottom line is, we were 4-12. Could I look back and learn things from different things I did? Yes. I've evaluated it, thought about it a lot and have moved on.

"But if you ask me to describe my two years in Washington, I would say I had a great time. It was awesome coaching the Redskins. Just awesome."

The moment I was worried for Zorn? Oh, about an hour after he was hired - the moment I spoke to a former team spokesman, who was more tickled that the organization had fooled everyone than that the Redskins may have found a gem amid a landscape of retreads.

"This guy was right under everyone's nose and nobody knew about it," he cackled. Before anyone mentioned Zorn's qualifications or his pedigree as a very good NFL quarterback in Seattle, there seemed to be this grand measure of satisfaction that a guy who had been in their employ as an offensive coordinator for barely two weeks now had the big job. That after all the dalliances with Steve Spagnuolo and Jim Fassel, the rumors about Bill Cowher and leaving a lovesick Gregg Williams in limbo, no one saw a position coach from Seattle getting the nod.

They thought Dan was going with the glitz again. We'll show them we know how to pick coaches.

Zorn wasn't vetted, his potential grooming as a head coach watched from afar over time; he merely fit the suit. He was the emergency fill-in guy after Joe Gibbs left Snyder in a tough spot by deciding at the last moment he needed to step away for the final time.

In hindsight, the Z-man was "Dave." Remember the 1993 dramady starring Kevin Kline? In the movie, the president goes into a coma and an affable temp agency owner, who looks and talks just like the leader of the free world, is plopped down into the Oval Office.

Amid the sophomoric moments - the "No, he didn't" briefings - there are also endearing ones, when the naive temp comes across as such a decent, authentic human being you actually want him to preside over the administration and, sure, the country he is asked to bail out.

Like Dave, though, Zorn turned out ultimately to be holding a space for someone in the establishment. The movie ends with him eventually running for city council. In effect, he has to start over - kind of like a certain quarterbacks coach in Baltimore.

Okay, last one. We gotta know - mistaking maroon and black for burgundy and gold the day you were named coach?

"When I looked out at the press conference, I saw maroon, black and yellow," Zorn said. "Everybody laughed. But what it did for me was absolutely tremendous."

Huh?

"It showed how much pride and commitment, both fans, media and the administration, had in the team. There was a real Redskin pride that showed because I didn't know the colors. I started studying the history of the Redskins because of that."

Even in his most embarrassing moments, the Z-man found a positive, found a silver lining.

Awesome.


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