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Zorn Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry


Jaw set, mind firm. (By Preston Keres - AP)


The truest words about this whole Zorn-Portis thing were written by Boz, two days ago, before everyone had made nice-nice and put this unpleasantness behind them. The key part:

From the day [Zorn] arrived to coach the Redskins, he's said what's on his mind, in detail, with footnotes. He loves analysis and nuance. He's a perfectionist, even when it comes to his own opinions. Somewhere, he went wrong. Maybe a blitzing linebacker broke the fib button on his lips long ago.

I'm no veteran sportswriter--heck, I'm no sportswriter--but I've never encountered another coach who was so unwilling to fudge just a little bit in the interest of political correctness. Sometimes he misunderstands a question, and sometimes he doesn't want to answer a question, but once he starts, the truth--as he sees it--pours out.

So anyhow, the strong-willed Portis at least nodded in the direction of "my bad" to the media yesterday, saying "we talked about what our conversation should have been, and realized it was a situation that we let go too far." And right at the end of his post-practice remarks yesterday, Zorn had an easy opening to do the same. A reporter asked whether it was true that he had showed some contrition in his remarks to the team, and whether it was true that both men had said things better left private.

"Uhhh," Zorn said. "I'm trying to think of what I would say that I didn't feel really good about."

He paused.

"I can't think of anything," he concluded.

It was a "Whoa!" moment. It was violent, sudden, wicked and every other Zorn adjective, times 20. It was Zorn saying that the truth of his words was more important than some sort of nuanced sound bite for the cameras.

"Because that was the impression that at least one of your players got from your speech," the reporter continued.

"Well, um, uh," Zorn said. "The only thing that I would say is that if I have put somebody out there and hung somebody out to dry and just said, 'Deal with THIS,' in a manipulative way, then I don't think I'm doing it right as a head coach. Do you see what I mean? And if I think I'm so high up as a head coach that I can put somebody out there and not feel anything about that, then I don't think I'm doing my job.

"Because what I've told those guys, and I believe this, is we're all in this together. And we all have accountability, we all have responsibility....If I was apologetic for anything, it would just be to reiterate to those guys that that's not what I'm trying to do, I'm not trying to manipulate. I don't even know how to do the politically coy, let-me-just-drop-this-load-out-there and see-how-they-deal-with-it type of psychology. I truly am, I'm trying to be transparent to those guys so that they can trust what I say. And how I live. And how I fight. And how I compete."

It's admirable, on the one hand: sticking to your guns, staying true to your principals, not deviating from what you believe in merely to smooth some edges. But you could also probably call the man a tad stubborn, if you were so inclined.

Like with the punt returning thing. Antwaan Randle El hasn't exactly been running free and clear all over the field, as you may have noticed. On Tuesday's Jim Zorn Show, Steve Czaban asked about the public sentiment to try out Rock Cartwright on punt returns.

"Yeah," Zorn said, in a "yeah-as-in-no" sense. "That won't happen this year. It's still gonna be Antwaan."

Why not try Rock, he was asked?

"Because Antwaan's our punt returner," Zorn said.

Like Zorn himself acknowledged, perceptions of all this stuff are completely dependent on wins and losses. If they win, he's the charming goofy ex-assistant and ex-robot waiter buyer who refuses to compromise on his core beliefs. If they lose, he's a wind-up toy mule with blinders and no brakes. But he doesn't care. See, he was also asked whether he fears that players are losing faith in his system.

"I don't fear that," he said. "I think it can creep in, [but] I don't FEAR it....I think in a time of crisis, your belief system gets challenged. And it's a crisis of belief. What happens when you get challenged like this, when things look bleak, when things aren't going well? [Do] you really believe in what we're doing? And if you can say yes, then you set your mind. You set your heart. You set your jaw. And then you start getting after it."

By the way, considering Portis practiced yesterday, I think it's fair to say that Zorn set his jaw hardest.

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 11, 2008; 1:49 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Comments

Hey Dan.. I side with Portis on this thing, but I think there are a couple ways to parse all the stuff Zorn said here. "I'm trying to think of what I would say that I didn't feel really good about." IMHO it's hard to tell what he means by this! "I'm trying to think of what I would tell the media that wouldn't be the wrong thing to say," or "I'm trying to think of what happened in the meeting that I didn't feel good about," and maybe he wasn't hearing the same question you guys were asking, as he tends to do.

"The only thing that I would say is that if I have put somebody out there and hung somebody out to dry and just said, 'Deal with THIS,' in a manipulative way, then I don't think I'm doing it right as a head coach."

He seems to be saying in a very wordy way that "If I've called guys out to manipulate them into hearing criticism, than I wasn't doing the right thing. I wasn't trying to do that."

Of course, I still don't know what he WAS trying to do, and I still don't know whether he'll call out guys in the press again - hopefully not. Does he get that even if he WASN'T trying to hang people out to dry, it'll still be perceived that way? I could see how guys would get frustrated not understanding what he was trying to tell them. I think the real test will come after a game where he has to talk about things that didn't go well, and will he himself take responsibility for that.

Posted by: alyce_b | December 11, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Portis did sort of say "my bad" yesterday but also said he's BFF with Snyder and Cerrato which didn't strike me as much of a conciliatory remark.

Still if Zorn weren't so stubborn about making adjustments to the offense maybe they'd be like 9-3 right now and there would never have been a problem.

Posted by: alyce_b | December 11, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

"It was a "Whoa!" moment. It was violent, sudden, wicked and every other Zorn adjective, times 20. It was Zorn saying that the truth of his words was more important than some sort of nuanced sound bite for the cameras."

I'm sorry, what was Zorn supposed to apologize for? I'm glad he's not going sound bite for sound bites' sake. Agree with him or not, he's done a good job explaining himself here.

Posted by: WorstSeat | December 11, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

what an arrogant jerk....wonder who Little Danny will hire to replace him in another year?

Posted by: griffmills | December 11, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

One word: Wildcat
Portis, randel el, campbell
unstoppable

Posted by: BMACattack | December 11, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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