Monday, February 11, 2008

Every Joe's got his thorn

So the second most valuable sports franchise in the western hemisphere is left to decide between Jim Fassel and Jim Zorn for their next head coach. Such is the fate wrought by Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato. I had come to grips with Fassel. He'd had some success in the regular season, taking the Giants to the Super Bowl in 2000, been coach of the year, and, most impressively, been to the playoffs with Dave Brown. During the Super Bowl I was sure Steve Spagnuolo had vaulted to the top of whatever list the Redskins are using, and I'm sure they could have had him for the $15 million they spent on Zorn. But Washington surprisingly promoted Zorn from offensive coordinator to head coach Saturday night, after about two weeks with the team. And Gregg Williams thought they didn't promote from within.

Profootballtalk believes that Cerrato was the biggest reason for the surprise hire, as he would have felt threatened by any kind of big name. Another popular school of thought is that no one wanted the job, because having Snyder and Cerrato control the roster was putting the coach in a position to fail. I was trying to come up with a worse hire than Zorn, and the first two I came up with were the last two hires by the Raiders: Lane Kiffin, who had been a college OC for one season, and Art Shell, who had been out of coaching for more than a decade. So that's what the Redskins have become: the Raiders of the east coast. A high spending version of the Raiders.

Here are my biggest concerns with the hire:
  1. The Seahawks players and front office had seven years to get to know Zorn, and yet they still chose Jim Mora, Jr. over him as Holmgren's successor. Granted, the Redskins seemed to want Mora as well, but Washington had a relationship with neither coach. Seattle knew Zorn and went with Mora.
  2. During the press conference it was incredibly obvious that Zorn was overwhelmed. I'm willing to give him a pass on calling the Redskins' colors "maroon and black," but you couldn't help but get the impression that Zorn didn't believe he earned the job. "I was taken aback, but not quite speechless because the first words out of my mouth were 'Certainly, I'd like to do that.' It was a little bit shocking." Tony Sparano and John Harbaugh have also never been coordinators, but they both gave the impression that they believed they should be head coaches. I'm not getting that from Zorn.
  3. Zorn is expected to bring the West Coast Offense to D.C. It's not enough that Jason Campbell will be learning his seventh new offense in eight seasons going back to college. But the Redskins' personnel is suited to be a vertical offense as opposed to a diagonal offense. Their starters are both 5'10" and 200 lb or less, their top four wide receivers average 5'11" 197.5 lb. West coast receivers are expected to be larger, in order to shield the balls from defenders on slants.
  4. Zorn was hired based on his reputation for working with quarterbacks. As head coach he could still serve the duties of quarterbacks coach and work hands on with Campbell. As head coach he has to be a CEO, taking away his strength as a teacher working with QBs. And now he needs to hire an offensive coordinator and a quarterbacks coach, after the most sought after position coaches have been hired by more organized franchises. Basically, would a combination of Fassel as head coach and Zorn as OC be more desirable than Zorn as head coach and whoever they can hire (Titans assistant Sherman Smith is reported to be the target) as OC?
  5. Why did they feel the need to give him $3 million a year? The typical starting salary for a new head coach is $2-$2.3 million a year. The obvious answer is that the more Snyder spends on him, the more he can say "look how sure I am about my choice."

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