Joe Theismann: Not a Make or Break Year For Zorn
The D.C. sports radio debuts roll on this week, with Joe Theismann launching his show Friday morning following the preseason game in Baltimore. (He's also doing the TV for that game and for two other preseason contests with Mike Patrick.) Theismann and ESPN 980's Kevin Sheehan will be on air from 8-10 a.m. the weekday morning following every Redskins game this season. Theismann said he hopes his show will offer "a voice of reason" about the Redskins while also occasionally covering college and high school football. And though Theismann has speculated in the past about having a daily show, he said this remains an experiment.
"Right now I'm just getting my toes into the water," he said. "If people like it, I certainly would consider the possibility, but right now I'm just looking at this particular year, this particular show, and let's see what the future holds."
Of course, if Tony Kornheiser goes on to get the 10 a.m. slot he's said he hopes to nab, that means that Kornheiser would follow his old TV partner onto 980's air.
"I just can't seem to shake him," Theismann joked. "The guy wants to be wherever I am. He wanted to play golf with me because we always played the best golf courses. He wanted to go out to dinner with because we always got great tables. He wants to be on radio, and now, wouldn't you know it, he follows me again."
[Repeat: He was joking.]
Theismann has been a frequent visitor to Redskins practices this offseason, and considers himself friends with both Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, but he said he hopes to approach the show as an objective media member and not a homer. I chatted with him today about his goals for the show, his thoughts about the '09 Redskins, and whether he'll refer to the home team as "we." [Some of the order of the questions has been changed for clarity.]
So what are you gonna do with the show?
What I'm really trying to do is make it an enjoyable listen. I've spent a lot of time around the Redskins over the last few years. People have a lot of different opinions, and what I want to do is just add my two cents to it. I think it's gonna be a very special year for the Redskins, I'm very excited. I think defensively we can be one of the top two or three teams in the league, and offensively we have the potential, if the defense is as good as I think it can be, I really feel like we'll be in a position as a football team to be able to have better opportunities offensively to get things done....I could be crazy, but if the Redskins have the kind of year I believe they can have, Jason Campbell can be a Pro Bowler. I'm curious about Devin [Thomas] and Malcolm [Kelly]; I mean, real curious about the kids to see what they can do.
You refer to the Redskins as we?
Yeah, I've spent a lot of time around them. Trust me, I will be objective. I mean, anyone that knows me knows I can be objective. I don't intend to take this radio show and just be a homer....When you do radio, people will have seen the game, and I refuse to insult fans. If somebody doesn't play well, we will talk about it. So I want to be objective, I want to be honest, I want to be fair. I have no axe to grind whatsoever with the football team....
I think there's a way to present something that can be educational, it can be informative and it can be fun, and it doesn't have to be nasty. If a guy screws up, hey, the guy screws up, he knows it. I want to tell people why.
So a big issue this year with Nats fans has been Rob Dibble, who refers to the Nats as we. Some fans like it because they know where he's coming from, and others don't like it, think it's inappropriate. Do you think you'll refer to the Redskins as we on air?
I am not a part of the Redskins, but I am a Redskins fan. Will I refer to them as we? Quite possibly. I wouldn't say yes or no, but I would endeavor to try to be objective, just like I did when I did a Redskins-Cowboys game, or a Redskins-Eagles game, or a Redskins-Giants game. In that instance, I am not a part of them, but because I live in the Washington area, because I've been a part of them, I am a Redskins fan, so I feel that it is we.
So do you think you come at this as a Redskins fan or as a media member?
I'm gonna approach it as a media member. That's my intention. Because it's not gonna be just an entire two hours about the Redskins....What I'm gonna try to do is pretty much cover the gamut, and we'll get an idea as we go whether people want to hear more of a certain thing. If people want to hear more about the Redskins, we'll do it. If people want to hear more about college football, we'll do it. A lot of shows I do, fans call, but not enough people get to say something. I will do this, if you're babbling on, you will be cut off. If you want to have a visit, go to the restaurant and I'll sit there and talk to you.
You're friends with Daniel Snyder, right? And you're friends with Vinny, too. Wouldn't that make it hard to be critical, of say, personnel moves?
No, not at all. Vinny and I have been on different sides of the fence regarding Jay Cutler. He wanted him, I didn't, and I voiced that publicly. I said I thought it would be a mistake. Jay Cutler has a 16-20 record. Jason Campbell has a 17-20 record. If you listen to the show, you'll hear umpteen reasons I think it would have been a mistake. If you're gonna replace someone, replace him with someone with a 20-3 record. You're trading an orange for an orange....I've always thought that radio is one of the most free-flowing mediums that you have. You're not restricted by time for the most part; if you want to take a little bit longer to say something, you can. To be honest with you, it was one of the issues Tony Kornheiser ran into when he left PTI and the radio to go into the booth. The booth is all about soundbites; radio is about explanation.
The tendency in D.C. I think is to predict Super Bowl after every win and to demand everyone in Ashburn get fired after a loss. Is that hard to avoid?
It won't be hard for me, I'll be honest with you. I can look at it in a very objective way. We play in the toughest division in football, and there are segments of the schedule that are gonna be very critical. When we do this game on Thursday night, it's one of the things that I want to look at, what's our schedule look like? What's the schedule of the teams in the division? Of the teams in the NFC East, I think the Redskins upgraded themselves the most, I think the Philadelphia Eagles were next, I think the Giants were after that--and that's only because Umenyiora is coming back healthy. And I think the Cowboys really helped themselves the least.
I don't see where the Cowboys got that much better in the offseason, and to be honest with you, I think they made a huge mistake getting rid of T.O. I think everybody in this division is delighted he's in Buffalo. Matter of fact, back in 1974, I made a statement and I had to go see George Allen. I basically said I didn't play for George Allen, I played because I loved the game, I loved the fans and all that stuff. And there was a headline in a paper, 'Theismann Doesn't Play for Allen,' so George calls me to his room. And on my way through the locker room one of the more veteran individuals whose name I won't mention said, 'I hope you get your bleep bleep traded to Buffalo.' When T.O. got traded to Buffalo, I thought jeez, I've heard that before.
Let me ask what you think about Jim Zorn, because a lot of people see this as a make-or-break year for him. What are your impressions of Zorn?
I totally disagree with this being a make-or-break year for Jim. It's the second year in the system, it's the second year as the head coach, it's the second year as the offensive coordinator. There's so many things to deal with and learn. Practice looked so much different this year than a year ago, the players are a whole lot more comfortable and efficient, and it's the reflection of having a year behind you.
Here's the thing you have to understand, last year Jim wasn't really gonna be the head coach, he was gonna be the coordinator. And then boom, all the sudden, here you are, the head coach. I'm sure Jim's sitting there going, 'Well, I can do this, but my plans have changed a little bit, now I have not just the offense to deal with but special teams, defense, my coaches.'
And this is one thing that people don't understand, the most difficult thing for the first-year coach is he has to teach the coaches how to coach his philosophy and system, and so the players have to learn from a coach who's learning. Take that to any place in the workforce, you know how difficult a task that is. That was what he had to overcome a year ago. I think he's much more comfortable in his role as head coach.
Let's face it, depending on how Fred Davis, Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and Chad Rinehart do will tell you what kind of job Vinny did as a GM. This is an incredibly important year for him. That was his first draft. Remember, Joe Gibbs was head of football operations before that. These kids were all Vinny's choices, and now Vinny gets to be evaluated on his contributions. Certainly Horton was a great find in the 7th round last year, and I think Kevin Barnes can be quite good....If you're gonna be successful as a football team and an organization, you need your number one [picks] to play. I don't think Jim's under the gun at all, and Vinny knows, 'Hey, these kids are my future.' I personally think he's done an excellent job filling the needs that we have.
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