I wish I could say I knew what Jim Zorn was doing. I wish I could tell you that I see some sort of wonderful master-plan being hatched in the background; but I can’t.
Jim has lost me entirely.
Now before you get to thinking that I think Zorn is a complete idiot; he is not. However there were some things that happened this weekend that have me really worried about his coaching and leadership ability.
This past weekend, the Redskins beat the Rams by the anemic score of 9-7. In the post game interview with Sonny Jurgenson, Zorn was asked about a specific call on third and goal.
The play called for a hand-off to Clinton Portis, and for Portis to throw to the end-zone. The pass was broken up.
“Third down, I’m the quarterback, and you call the halfback throwing the ball for me, I’m calling timeout or calling an audible,” Jurgensen said. “I’m not letting the halfback throw it. That’s what you pay me for.”
“Well then, I would have to take you out of the game,” Zorn countered. “As soon as you called timeout, I’d say what’s wrong with my play, because….”
“It didn’t work!” Jurgensen interrupted.
There was a long pause.
“No, but I called it to work. Alright?” Zorn said. “We called it to work. It didn’t work. There were a lot of plays out there that didn’t work. And I’d take you out of the game. Sorry, Sonny.”
Now it is worth mentioning that Sonny Jurgenson is a Hall of Fame Quarterback with a Super Bowl Ring. Jim Zorn has neither of these distinctions.
Jim went on to further explain his call on this play in his Monday press conference.
“It was a play we had in our gameplan, it wasn’t a grab bag,” Zorn said. “And we thought if we showed run, because we had been running edge runs with Clinton on the goal line. And I thought, ‘All right, here it is.’ And Clinton has thrown touchdown passes before. Well what happened was, when we came off the line of scrimmage, we came off backing up, and when the team saw that, they just played it right down the line. The safety felt that this was gonna be a pass….And so we had to kick a field goal.”
Here is the breakdown of the previous four plays.
On First and 10 from the St. Louis 35. Clinton Portis was given the ball and gained four yards.
On Second and 6 from the 31, Jason completed to Santana Moss for 24 yards.
On First and Goal from the 7, Portis ran left for no gain.
On Second and Goal from the 7, Portis ran right for no gain.
So, I guess I’m a little confused as to how the defense would be thinking “running play” here; this is an obvious passing situation.
Now I’m not going to Monday Morning Quarterback here (especially since it’s Tuesday) but this is what has me worried about Zorn. He has displayed for the world to see, that his QB has no options in the red zone. If the QB lines up and sees coverage that looks like it’s going to defeat the play, he can’t call time out for fear of being benched.
Clinton Portis’ comments about Zorn being a “genius” last year are starting to come into focus. It was obvious that Portis was being sarcastic when he made those comments, but this exchange with Sonny Jurgenson shows a level of arrogance only rivaled by Dan Snyder when he first purchased the team.
Much has been said about the coaches’ level of trust in Jason Campbell, but what about the players’ level of trust in their coaches?
Zorn’s retort about “we called it to work” makes me really question his abilities. Of course you called it to work. That’s why you have plays. You don’t call plays to fail, but you should call plays when they are most likely to work.
You might win a hand a poker with a pair of two’s but that doesn’t mean you go “all-in” every time you get that pair.
That play may work great against cones and tackling dummies. It may even work great against your B-squad defense that you practice against. It might even work when the other team has no idea what you might call, like say on first down when it could be either run or pass, but on third and seven you gotta know they are looking for the pass. Especially when both the previous plays were running plays stuffed for no gain.
In poker it’s called a “tell.” Sure they saw your guys back up, but they also knew to look for your guys backing up. You have to remember that those guys over there across the field are just as smart as you are; maybe smarter. You can’t just assume that they will fall for a play because you called it to work.
You should value input from your players. You should trust them to make key decisions from time to time. Sure you don’t want a QB screwing up your game-plan by running his own show out there, but you need to at least have some flexibility that allows him to audible to something else in a specific situation.
Apart from the red-zone playcalling, I think Zorn called a great game. The team moved the ball effectively and got to within the opponents’ 10-yard line on four separate occasions.
Zorn needs to recognize his role in the red zone disaster from this weekend. If he fails to recognize that he could have been better and that it wasn’t just his players not executing (because admittedly, there was some of that going on too) then the whole team will collapse under arrogance and fail.
It’s okay to admit when you are wrong, Coach. No one will think less of you. It’s perfectly reasonable to say “y’know, I thought that was the right play, but I’m going to look at it this week and see if maybe there was a better call.”
What you shouldn’t do is argue with a man who has probably forgotten more about football than you ever knew; like you did with Sonny Jurgenson.
All of Redskins’ Nation is praying for you Jim. Please figure this out by Sunday. You don’t want to be remembered as the coach who gave the Lions their first win in over a year do you?
More By Bobby Johnson
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- Redskins Held to Victory over Cowboys - September 14th, 2010
- Redskins/Ravens - Postgame Thoughts - August 24th, 2010