Redskins Coach Zorn Recaps First Season

Zorn quotes John Wooden

ASHBURN, Va. -- Jim Zorn decided to dress up a bit for the final team meeting of the season, sporting a burgundy and gold tie with diagonal stripes.

"When I addressed our players, I wanted to address them in such a way that had some purpose to it," the Washington Redskins coach said.

In his speech, Zorn quoted John Wooden ("Don't mistake activity for achievement"), passed out a sheet of paper detailing offseason "pursuits," asked his players to do unmanly things like keep lists and calendars, and told the married ones to tread carefully as they return to the normal routine of family life.

"I know that from personal experience," Zorn said. "My wife has been completely in charge for so many weeks, now I step back in and I go, 'Why is that there?' That doesn't go over very well."

The players might not have been sure how to react, but by now they've learned to expect the unexpected from the emotional rookie coach whose bright-eyed optimism rarely wavered during an 8-8 season that ended with Sunday's 27-24 loss at San Francisco.

"Coach Zorn has been coach Zorn all year," receiver Santana Moss said. "You knew it was going to be a little different than how coach (Joe) Gibbs expressed things. Coach Zorn is going to give you a little more than what's normal."

Zorn then met with reporters for one final Monday news conference. He reiterated his feeling that he has the Redskins headed in the right direction, even as he realizes he might sound a bit out of touch with reality considering the team started 6-2 and finished 2-6.

Zorn called his West Coast offensive scheme "sound" and said Jason Campbell would remain the starting quarterback going into training camp next year. He said he would like to retain all of his assistant coaches and left no doubt that he plans to continue coaching the quarterbacks and calling the plays. He knows that an offense that ranked 28th in the league in scoring needs to improve, and said he'll spend the offseason evaluating ways to get that done. He knows he ruffled a few feathers by the way he publicly critiqued his players, but he's not about to stop.

"Hopefully it builds strength and it doesn't build bitterness," Zorn said. "I'm trying to give our players the truth so they can deal with the truth, and sometimes that's hard."

The next bit of truth some players will hear is that they are no longer wanted or needed in Washington. Last year, the Redskins overhauled the coaching staff but left the roster largely intact. That's not expected to be the case this offseason, with age and salary cap issues catching up at many positions -- particularly along the offensive and defensive lines.

"I'm pretty sure this offseason there will be some dramatic changes, some may be shocking," Campbell said. "We've all got to be prepared for it."

The major free agents are guard Pete Kendall, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and defensive lineman Demetric Evans, but right tackle Jon Jansen, defensive end Jason Taylor, linebacker Marcus Washington, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, guard Randy Thomas and cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot all packed their bags in the locker room wondering whether they had done so for the last time as Redskins.

"I think I can still play at a starter's level and help a team," said Kendall, who is 35 and regularly sits out practices with aching knees. "But it's not my opinion that counts."

Making many of those decisions will be executive vice president for football operations Vinny Cerrato, who desperately need to put together a decent offseason to validate his position at the head of the front office. In one of the stadium scenes posted Monday on the Redskins' own Web site, there was a fan holding a green and red sign with a message for owner Dan Snyder: "Dear Danta, please bring us a real GM."

Cerrato, in his own sorta-kinda-roundabout way, has said Zorn will return next season, so his next task is to prepare for free agency and the draft. The Redskins' 10 draft picks this year produced mixed results -- the three second-rounders were particularly disappointing -- and trades have left the team with only four selections in 2009.

The Redskins' final record essentially matched the predictions of preseason. Zorn's fresh approach probably helped win a few games early on, but his inexperience didn't help as teams figured out his offense late in the season. The offense never scored 30 points in a game.

Still, if not for losses to lowly St. Louis and Cincinnati, the Redskins would certainly have produced their first back-to-back playoff seasons since Snyder bought the team in 1999. As it is, they finished only one game worse than Gibbs' 9-7 team of 2007.

"We've got to find a way to win the games we're supposed to win if we're ever going to be an elite team," Campbell said.

As for Zorn, the year came full circle when he was asked about the colors on his tie, which was a gift from Snyder. At his introductory news conference 11 months ago, the coach mistakenly referred to the Redskins' colors as "maroon and black" and has continued to catch grief for it.

"Burgundy and gold, baby," Zorn said. "Burgundy and gold. Thank you for asking."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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