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Zorn discusses the Randle El mystery

At the end of Jim Zorn's weekly radio spot with ESPN 980, he's asked a question submitted by a fan. Often, it's forgettable. This week, it was on point.

"Why is Antwaan Randle El still returning punts?" was the question submitted by Jerome Travers. That's pretty much the perfect way to ask the question. Zorn's answer was long and not entirely satisfactory; the fact of the matter is, Randle El has been one of the league's very worst returners all season. But Zorn still trusts him, and said he personally made sure Randle El was on the field for the punt he fumbled. His full answer:

"Well, I'm the one that put him in on that very last punt that we fumbled," Zorn said. "I told Danny [Smith] I want Antwaan in there, because of the sure catch. And he just misjudged it. It hit him right up underneath the upper part of the shoulder pad, and he was taking off at the same time he was catching it....

"There was no [disagreement], I just said Hey, I want to make sure I've got Antwaan in here, and that decision obviously failed at that point. But we're gonna make some adjustments and things like that. It doesn't mean that Antwaan is gonna be totally sitting on the bench the whole time, but we're gonna try to get other guys involved. Truly, we just haven't had [options] besides Santana [Moss], with DeAngelo [Hall] going down. That was the guy we were trying to gear up.

"We're a little bit in a situation that we're gonna try to get Devin [Thomas] more involved now, Santana will be more involved, we'll see what happens as we go along with DeAngelo, just try to get him back there as well. That'll just be another guy in the mix. [Justin Tryon] hasn't shown yet that I would trust him and go Yeah, let's get him in right now. He hasn't worked at it from that standpoint of decision making, sure catching. Now, he should be working at it, which he is, but we haven't felt the comfort level.

"As a coach, you've just got to have the comfort level. That's why I had Antwaan in there. You know, I had a comfort level, and it proved to be a little of a backfire, but that doesn't' mean he's not gonna catch the next 10 in a row. It's just at that particular moment, it was a bad deal."

What this tells me is that Zorn still hasn't noticed that even when Randle El does surely and comfortably catch the ball, he's not good at returning it. But at least it sounds like some mild change is on the way.

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 15, 2009; 1:59 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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How much did Cerrato pay for a #3 WR and mediocre punt returner? He deserves credit for that!

Posted by: vmrg1974 | December 15, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Zorn deserves the credit for ARE still returning punts. Yet one more reason he deserves to go.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | December 15, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

From today's chat:

Reston, Va.: I take it Oakland only has two quarterbacks. If they have a third-stringer, it makes you wonder how bad he is if he can't beat JaMarcus Russell!

That game was my first exposure to JaMarcus. Wow. Has there been another starting quarterback who was so painfully inept?

Dan Steinberg: Charlie Frye. He's third. Oakland fans were supposedly chanting for him.


I was at the game, sitting high atop Mt. Davis. And, yes, the Raider fans were chanting for Charlie Frye. Russell may be the most hated man in Oakland, other than Al Davis.

In fact, the week before the game, Russell was quoted as complaining that his teammates never played as hard for him as they do for Gradkowski. After the 'Skins had sacked JaMarcus a couple times, not only were the fans sitting near me convinced that the O-line was intentionally letting the Redskins get to Russell, they were applauding it.

Posted by: js_edit | December 15, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Get lost, Zorn. What have you been watching all year?

Posted by: jtheisman | December 15, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Zorn. Just wow. It's as if getting neutured before wasn't enough. He needs all personnel decisions taken off his plate too. Ya know what, take his headset away and just let him be the new mascot, headdress and all.

Posted by: pgugino | December 15, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

It's one thing to be loyal, but having Randle El return punts has hurt the team this year. Not only does he fumble the ball, but he barely gets any yardage when he actually gets the chance to run. He shouldn't be doing anything on special teams for the rest of the season.

I'd rather have Orakpo return punts than Randle El.

Posted by: mkremnitzer0 | December 15, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

How about clock management in the 1st half 2 min drill?! Ya botched that one too, coarch.


Posted by: DikShuttle | December 15, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

2006: Started all 13 games in his first season at ASU ... an incredible kickoff returner, he averaged 41.2 yards on five kickoff returns late in the season.

Posted by: dcsween | December 15, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Why is Zorn so scared to make some changes? The season is over and so is his coaching career with the Skins.

ARE needs to be benched on punt returns
Use Moss, Hall, or Thomas for punts

Use Marko Mitchell more with the fade routes when Skins have ball in the red zone. They did one this past game but to MOSS who is the shortest receiver on the team.

Put Cartright back on KO returns as Thomas is moved to punt returns.

Posted by: fearturtle44 | December 15, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

As much as I detest the way "Mr. Daniel M. Snyder" and his lap-dog Vinnie have treated Zorn, if Zorn is the man responsible for ARE being on the field when there is a punt, then its time for Zorn to be FIRED.

How ludicrous and shameful that ARE is still in that job.


Posted by: AWWNats | December 15, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm just wondering why everyone (coaches, fans, JReid, Jasno before him) thinks that one person can't handle both kickoff and punt returns. From George Allen forward, there has been a long tradition of specialists--Herb Mul-Key, Larry Jones, Eddie Brown, Mike Nelms, Brian Mitchell--who handled both jobs, and Nelms and Mitchell went to the Pro Bowl for it. Isn't it fascinating that in the era of 40-man rosters, George Allen thought it was worth saving a roster spot for someone who rarely if ever contributed as a position player, but in these days of 53-man rosters with a 5-man practice squad, no one looks for a pure return guy? The Redskins have the same problem as most American businesses: they cannot shake the idea that change is bad. I can hear Vinny saying it now, "But we've never done it that way before."

As for the specific issue of ARE, well, let's see. I noticed in week three that every time he ran the quick slant, the shallow cross, or an option route on third down, he was caught from behind and came up short. It happened again this past Sunday, and it will happen again until the coaches realize that he's slower now than James Thrash. And that's slooooooooowwwwww.

Posted by: BabeLaufenberg | December 15, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

You would think that after having his play calling responsibilities stripped he would say "f it" and do what he thought was rightn not what the boss wants. If he is then it's obvious why he has to go. Wonder how long it will take to dump him(and Vinny) after the last game?

Posted by: vegasskinsfan | December 15, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Zorn is proving himself to be a schelp-rock! anything he touches turns to crap. Whenever he said "every play I called failed" that was no BS. The team has rhythm with Sherm Lewis calling plays. You can honestly tell when Zorn tries to interject. WTF is he seeing that he wants to kee putting El back there???

Posted by: SkinzNWiz | December 15, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Paging Mr. Spiller, Mr. C.J. Spiller, your services are needed in the DC Area. We need someone like Spiller who can do everything ala Desean Jackson from Philly. We have lacked that explosive type of back for way too long. Let a Ganther be the heavy runner, or a Betts, but get that CJ type back to fill in the Joe Washington type of role, and also drop back for punts and KO's and take it to the house.

Posted by: Chip42 | December 16, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I still recall that 100 yard td punt return. Randle El has it, Zorn is getting it right by not listening to the whiners out there.

Posted by: martianpackets | December 16, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Losing respect for Zorn. He has had MANY opportunities to give Sherm Lewis credit for the team Offensive turnaround the last 5 weeks and he hasnt.
Sherm should have the last laugh and be named new Head Coach and permanent Offensive coordinator when the season ends.

Posted by: cliftonbiz | December 16, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Has Zorn been watching the games??? If he has a comfort level with Randle El returning punts then he's as delusional as The Danny & his idiot side-kick Vinny. This is clearly NOT the same guy who returned punts in Pittsburgh when special teams feared him. Everytime he enters the game for a punt (and lately for a pass) I scream at the TV "Cut him now before it's too late". Guess what? Too late.

Posted by: jpd721 | December 16, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

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