At His First Practice, Zorn Already Has 'Good Feel' for the Redskins

"It's certainly a different feeling being the head coach,' " Jim Zorn said after his first minicamp practice with the Redskins on Friday. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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Sunday, May 4, 2008; Page D02

Athletes and coaches have a lot of big days in their lives. But for 54-year-old Jim Zorn, Friday was really big. "I couldn't sleep, so I got out of bed at 5:45 and was in the office at 6:15," Zorn said of the first day of his first minicamp as coach of the Washington Redskins.

And how did Zorn view what he was about to do?

"I thought to myself, 'Now I'm the one held accountable for this team, my players,' " he said after his initial practice. "It's certainly a different feeling being the head coach."

During those first 90 minutes on the field, Zorn was bouncing around in a T-shirt (more maroon than burgundy), old brown pants and running shoes. He said he stayed 15 yards behind the plays so the players could take "responsibility" for their work.

If installing his West Coast offense (more rhythm than timing, I'm told) was an immediate priority Friday, he cautioned: "This is a long-term process. The key is repetition, doing all this over and over."

And the first practice?

"Outstanding," Zorn said, showing the enthusiasm and candor that must have won over owner Daniel Snyder, who chose Zorn to succeed Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs even though Zorn never had been a head coach at any level.

Eleven years of pro quarterbacking and 20 years of bouncing around colleges and the NFL as an assistant, including the last seven as quarterbacks coach with Seattle, apparently prepared Zorn for this task and seems to have grounded him for whatever lies ahead. I thought Snyder should have hired someone with more experience, as he'd done three previous times. And who knows if Zorn will last longer than Bill Cowher's sinking portfolio?

But as tackle Jon Jansen said, "He brings a good feel to this team." That might be what the Redskins need most after what happened last season with the death of Sean Taylor, the resignation of Gibbs and a recent draft-day performance by the front office that left most fans asking, "They did what?"

Time to Assess

Cleveland's 17-point victory over the Wizards on Friday night at Verizon Center eliminated Washington from the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year, but the game wasn't even over when thoughts began turning to next season. (If you're the coach, the last thing you want to see is half of the white-shirted crowd heading for the Metro with four minutes remaining in the game.)

Team president Ernie Grunfeld's desire to keep the "core of the team together" may not be as carved in stone as it was before the playoff series began and his guys were blown out of the gym by Danny Ferry's guys twice.

Spin this any way you want: LeBron James is just too good (he's Michael, Magic and Bird combined), Gilbert Arenas (on the bench in a cream-colored suit made for cruising) and Darius Songaila (where was super-lawyer Brendan Sullivan when we needed him?) out, Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson just lucky.

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