Redskins Insider: the bye week and Jim Zorn's future

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Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2009; 11:00 AM

Jason Reid, Washington Post staff writer and Redskins Insider blogger, was online Friday, Oct. 30 at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss the Redskins on the team's bye week, and take all your questions about Jim Zorn's job security, the team's roster and plans for the rest of the season.

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Complete Redskins coverage from The Washington Post.

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Leesburg, Va.: What happened to Malcolm Kelly? I haven't seen him get on the field for the past couple games. Props to Devin Thomas for moving into the starting line-up but is it more about Kelly moving down and not being productive or has Thomas earned the new role?

Jason Reid: That's a great question. Before I answer it, however, let me take a minute to apologize for last week's chat. I was distracted taking calls while working on two Redskins stories. I'm usually pretty good at multi-tasking -- but not last week. The chat wasn't good because of everything I was trying to do on the phone, and you guys deserve better than that.

As for the question, the situation with Malcolm is not good for Malcolm or the Redskins. After impressing in training camp and the preseason, Malcolm lost the starting flanker job because Coach Jim Zorn was not pleased with his route running. I've made it clear that I believe most of the Redskins' problems are not Zorn's fault, but I don't understand what he's doing with Kelly. The reality is Kelly wasn't a great route runner in college at Oklahoma and the Redskins knew that. Or at least they should have.

What made Kelly a big-time playmaker in college was his ability to use his 6-4, 230-pound frame to outmuscle and outjump defenders who were usually smaller than him and did not possess his leaping ability. If the Redskins wanted a route runner when they drafted Kelly, well, they shouldn't have drafted him. I know that the West Coast offense is all about receivers running the correct routes and waiting in their "spots" for quarterbacks to go through their progressions, but Kelly is the type of receiver who excels at just winning his individual matchups. Put the kid in the slot, send him on a 20-yard route and he'll beat his defender often, I believe. Anyway, Thomas is the starting flanker for now. Let's see what he does.

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Capitol Heights, Md.: Jason -- Is there ANY chance that Dan Snyder will go against his position of not speaking to the media during the season to address this debacle? ?

Jason Reid: That is a great question. I would hope so, but I doubt it. Snyder is being criticized, and rightgully so, I believe, from all corners for how he has run this franchise for 10-plus seasons. From what I've been told, however, he still believes the Redskins are talented enough to reach the playoffs and that the problem is Zorn. He refuses to accept that the roster he assembled with Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, has major, major problems on offense. But I really hope he does talk. There are many things I'd like to ask him.

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DC: How can an organization which routinely finds NFL caliber players for the defense (Jarmon, Horton, Golston, Washington, Griffin, Springs, even Pierce and Ryan, though we weren't smart enough to keep them) strike out so regularly on offensive players?

Is this the influence of Gregg Williams and Greg Blache? Is the scouting department split between offense and defense? What gives?

Jason Reid: Jarmon is a young guy who appears to have potential and Horton was a nice find for a seventh-round pick. It's not as if they've selected a ton of Pro Bowlers in the last couple of drafts. I'm not ready to say they've struck out on the Kelly, Thomas and Davis. It's still a little too early to do that, in my opinion.

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Ballston, Va.: Since the NFL has no problem forcing Terrell Owens to talk to the media, do you think they will get involved with the 'Skins "sign ban"?

Will sponsors like FedEx drop out if the firestorm from the "sign ban" gets too big?

Jason Reid: Another good question. Let's see how this thing plays out for a bit. My colleague Dan Steinberg has been all over this issue and really is driving the coverage. And if you're not familiar with Steinberg's "Bog," defintiely check it out. It is essential reading these days for Redskins fans seeking the truth about the problems in Ashburn. My guy Steinberg simply has been on fire.

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Fire Dan Snyder: Honestly, is it that hard of a formula for the front office?

  1. Owner picks a GM.
  2. GM picks a coach.
  3. Coach picks coordinators.
  4. Coordinator picks assistants.
  5. GM and coach pick players that fit system.

In your opinion, will we EVER see this happen with Snyder as owner of the Redskins?

Jason Reid: Well, I don't totally agree with your formula. Most proven head coaches are not going to let their coordinators pick the position coaches. They'll let them have input, but it's still the head coach's show. Will this ever happen in Ashburn? Well, I'm really beginning to believe the Redskins won't win another game this season. If they finish 2-14 or 3-13, perhaps Snyder will change the way he runs the team.

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Alexandria, Va.: Your review of the offense this week read like one big excuse for Jason Campbell. Why are you so reluctant to criticize him when pretty much everyone else -- Jaws,Young, Gruden, Casserly, etc-- are saying he is a big part of a problem?

And please stop blaming everything on the line. In the last two games, he has had time in the first half. It hasn't made a difference.

washingtonpost.com: At the bye: the offense comes up short

Jason Reid: I'm not trying to make excuses for anyone. I'm well aware of the criticism of Campbell, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. The point I attempted to make is that when the line was intact and Portis was running better last season, the Redskins went 6-2 in their first eight games and Campbell played well. And that isn't my opinion; go back and look at the numbers.

Clearly, Campbell is part of the problem, which I also tried to explain. His confidence is shot and he's concerned about the protection. But I do find it curious how much better Orton has looked this year in Denver and how much worse Cutler has looked in Chicago? The difference? Well, Orton has the line and the playmakers Cutler had last season. Cutler has the guys Orton played with last season. Perhaps Campbell is no good as many people seem to believe. But was his performance with an effective line last season simply a fluke? Would he be a stiff playing behind the Broncos' line and throwing to their receivers? I guess you already know the answers to those questions. Thanks for your question.

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Annandale, Va.: Hi Jason,

Great work.

What's your take on Cerrato's impromptu news conference this week? Why do you think he did it?

Jason Reid: The heat is so hot on Snyder right now, I think people within the organization decided someone had to speak. Cerrato is in charge of the football operation, so he drew the short straw. I asked him that question about whether he thought he provided Zorn with a playoff roster.

I was actually trying to give him a chance to explain the difficulties of assembling a roster, and I figured he would say the defense was sound and acknowledge they knew there were problems on offense. But he just said "yes" when asked whether the Redskins had a playoff roster and then repeated his answer.

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Washington, DC: One of your readers just asked why the Redskins appear to have more success picking players on the defensive side of the ball.

Is it maybe because Snyder interferes less with that side - the less glamorous aspet of football. He is more interested in the QB, the RB, the WRs, than the defensive players. Perhaps they listen more to their scouting department there?

Jason Reid: Perhaps. I'm really not sure they have had much more success in the draft. Anecdotal evidence is one thing in mentioning a player here and there, but I'd really have to go back and research every draft under Snyder and every free-agent class before I could say there's a trend there. Know what I mean?

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Takoma Park, Md.: Campbell has been at the whim of his teams' running game since back in college. He had great backs in college. When the Redskins are running well, he does well.

He never was a "only option" type of quarterback a la Favre or Brady or Warner. If he is throwing it 30-40 times a game, chances are it it going to be a loss.

He is not in the right system.

Jason Reid: I agree with your assessment, for the most part. Here's also what I believe: You put Brett Favre behind this offensive line, with having to learn multiple offenses in his first five years in the league, with this front office and, well, I don't think he would be the Brett Favre of today.

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Denver: Jason, What direction do you think Snyder will take at the end of the season assuming Zorn is gone?

1. Hire one of the big name coaches (Shanahan, Gruden, Holmgren, Cowher) if they would even want to work for Snyder.

2. Hire another lesser known head coach (i.e. Leslie Frazier D-coord at Minn)

3. Hire a new GM and let them find a coach.

4. Other

Jason Reid: If the Redskins finish 2-14, 3-13 or 4-12, I think most people would vote for No. 4. But I can't pretend to know what Snyder is thinking.

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Chicago, IL: You wrote that ownership believes it assembled a great roster and the head coach is to blame for the losing. If that's the case, who in their right mind would ever want to succeed Zorn once he's fired? It's so manifestly untrue it's absurd. I cannot think of a bigger red flag to send to any prospective hires.

Jason Reid: I know. It's really incredible. As I listened to Cerrato the other day, I was stunned. Many league sources have told me Snyder and Cerrato truly believe Zorn has wrecked this pretty car they gave him. They've told me it's not just spin -- that they actually tell people this privately -- so I shouldn't been surprised by Cerrato's comments. But when you actually hear the words, well, it still was surprising to me. Snyder could pay a big-time coach $10 million, $12 million, $15 million a season or more, and who wouldn't listen for that type of money. He could also promise to stay out of the way and let the coach bring in his onw player-personnel guy.

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DC: While Vin and Dan deserve a fair share of criticism, don't you think they spin on Vinnies answer that yes he has provided a playoff roster is overblown? Exactly what was he supposed to say? No, I haven't? I suck? Their whole explanation revolves around injuries to the offensive line. Why even bother asking a question that has only one possible answer? Why not attempt to gain some insight?

Jason Reid: Well, to me, there's always more than one way to answer a question. As I responded to a previous question, I thought Cerrato would use the question as an opening to explain the difficulties in assembling a 53-man roster with salary-cap restraints, injuries, etc. He could have said, "Well, I thought this was a roster that had a chance of getting to the playoffs, especially with the additions we made on defense. But with our lack of depth on the offensive line, and knowing that Chris and Randy might not make it through the season, well, ultimately, it appears the roster isn't as sound overall as I thought."

Had he said something like that, and not simply, "yes" teice, there would not have been universal laughter. And people might have looked at the situation a little differently. Then again, maybe not.

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The man's mind: Do you think Snyder reads the bad press and simply doesn't accept what he reads? Or does he deliberately not read all tha's being said.

It's hard to understand how he can't be affected by it all.

Jason Reid: I think he has a pretty good idea what's in the paper I write for each day. I don't know if he minds being roundly criticized. I would think it can't be much fun, though.

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re: I asked him that question about whether he thought he provided Zorn with a playoff roster.: That was a great question, btw.

Jason Reid: Thanks. I really wasn't trying to make him look bad. I really wanted him to explain the complexities of the process in general and specifics of the Redskins' situation. He chose to take another route, essentially throwing Zorn under the bus, in my opinion.

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Arlington, Va.: So will Levi Jones take over LT, Heyer back to RT, and Mike Williams to RG? Why not just put Yoder in on either side to help and sell out one player for extra blocking, especially on 3rd and short?

Jason Reid: To show you the state of the Redskins' offensive line, Jones is being viewed as a potential savior of sorts. I suppose you could do that with Yoder. I don't know how much it'll help. Also, Fred Davis does not block well.

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do you think they will get involved with the 'Skins "sign ban"? : The NFL already weighed in on this yesterday, ruiling in favor of Snyder - that each team can set the standard for what to let in or not let in to the stadium, within reason. And the signs of any kind fits that bill.

Jason Reid: Yeah. I know. But I said to give it more time from the standpoint of what this does to the Redskins' bottom line. As I'm sure you know, fans are not happy.

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Washington, D.C.: What sort of effect do you think the bye week will have for Sherman Lewis? He's now had some time to digest several practices, call a game and, for better or worse, become more familiar with the organization.

Jason Reid: For better or worse. That's funny. Intentional or not. I don't know whether the extra time will help Lewis. Every time television cameras showed Lewis in the booth on Monday night, I saw offensive assistant Chris Meidt pointing to Lewis's play sheet and saying something. I think Meidt sitting next to Lewis and helping him will have the biggest effect.

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. R: You semi-answered a question about the defense/offense earlier, but let's take it further - fairly consistently the Skins have assembled good, sometimes even excellent defenses, but NEVER offenses. WHY? Is it that much tougher to put an offense together??

Jason Reid: Well, Gregg Williams and Greg Blache are really good at their jobs. Granted, they take different approaches (Williams prefers to blitz more than Blache, for one), but Washington, with the exception of the 2006 season, has been consistently strong on defense. The offense has struggled for a very long time. I think it has something to do with philosophy. Under Snyder, Washington, as a practice, has not drafted offensive linemen. It all starts up front.

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Arizona Bay, Az: I've asked Wilbon this a couple of times and have gotten good answers from him so let me ask you,

Who do you think is the worse owner: Peter Angelos or Dan Synder?

Jason Reid: Wow. I'd defer to Mike on that one. This is only my third year in the market and I really haven't researched each owner well enough to provide an informed opinion.

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Denver: A reasonable person might think that since Snyder/Cerrato believe Zorn ruined this "pretty car" they gave him then the fool(s) who hired him ought to be held accountable. Don't you think?

Jason Reid: well, yeah. A lot of people thought the hiring of Zorn would preove to be a disaster for the Redskins. I like Zorn personally, I think he's a good man, but he was in way over his head with these guys.

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Washington, DC: Can you comment on Aaron Rodgers ability to play behind a dreadful line, compared to Jason Campbell.

How much worse is the Redskins line than the Packers line? Aaron Rodgers, who was taken 1 pick ahead of Jason, appears to be doing well, notwithstanding his awful line.

Jason Reid: It could be that Rogers simply is more talented than Campbell or he's better suited for the system in which he plays. Rogers, I believe, hasn't had to learn three offenses in five seasons. But it could simply be talent.

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Richmond: Jason:

Why does Sherm Lewis put up with all this -- working for an inept front office and that is dong all it can to degrade its head coach? What's in it for Lewis? After such a distinguished football career, why does he need this gig? I just don't understand why he wants to be reduced to a pawn like this.

Thanks for taking my Q.

Jason Reid: Money foremost, I believe. And I'm sure he missed the game after being retired for more than four years.

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Houston TX: I know a lot of emphasis has been placed on the deterioration of the offensive line, Campbell's tenuous hold on the QB position, and on the young WRs failing to step up. But dont you think we may be getting to the time where some new RBs are warranted?

Jason Reid: Definitely. That's why they kept five running backs on the roster at one point. They need a speed back.

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Hilton Head SC: Jason, first want to thank you for keeping us informed. It helps us non local fans.

I don't want to talk about the management because it basically makes me sick and hopeless. What are your thoughts on this team not using adjusting the systems to players strengths and not relying on the younger guys as much?

We discussed the misuse of Laron Landry and Orakpo but I think we could go through many other positions including quarterback. I also don't know why they don't use Thomas on returns or the fast running backs. Also give Marko a shot. They just don't develop young guys.

Jason Reid: All good questions. If they lose another few games in a row, it would be crazy for them not to take a long look at the people and situations you mentioned.

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