Zorn Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry
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."
"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.
December 11, 2008; 1:49 PM ET
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