Best moments of the Zorn Era
Jim Zorn lasted something like 695 days as the Redskins head coach. That's about 21 days less than Steve Spurrier. Both men leave with 12-20 overall records. Zorn was 3-9 in the NFC East, and Spurrier 2-10. Both men lost their final three games, and six of their final seven.
But I don't want to see the Zorn Era reduced to a few numbers. It ends in embarrassing and forgettable fashion, and there were plenty of awful moments, but there were also a few bright spots, and a few quirky spots, and a few genuinely great spots. So before we completely erase Jim Zorn from our lives, let's quickly review the six best moments of the Zorn Era. The only rule is that Zorn--a man Santana Moss once described as "jolly go lucky"--needs to be involved in the story. Coming up next, the Worst of Zorn.
1. Hip Hip Hooray vs. NFC East: There's no doubt that the high-water mark of the Jim Zorn Era came in Philadelphia, when the Redskins finished a two-week stretch that included wins at Dallas and at Philly that ran their record to 4-1. This coincided with the lightning rise of the Hip Hip Hooray movement, which included a long Hip Hip Hooray segment on ESPN. "That's the new thang now baby, that's the new thang," Demetric Evans said at the time.
Both games also featured Daniel Snyder celebrations caught on camera. "We play physical, we win!" he screamed after the Dallas win. "At Dallas! At Philly!" he yelled, as I recall, after the second win. But credit for Hip Hip Hooray is reserved for Zorn.
"When I was a player, I thought when we were doing this, 'What's wrong with old school?" Yeah, let's go. Hip Hip Hooray!" Zorn once said. "It's kind of a special cheer for special games, anyway, in my mind."
2. The Z Shades: This dates from Zorn's first preseason, when the story of his personality was still to be written. And when Zorn started setting up these bizarre little tents to provide shelter from the sun, it just sort of showed that we were in a different era, dealing with a very different sort of coach. The Z Shades continued into the regular season; the first win of the Zorn Era, a comeback win over the Saints, featured makeshift hand-held Z Shades on the sideline.
"I had a couple words for them as the game went along," Zorn said, "and my quote was, 'Do Not Get Tired!' And one guy said, 'Well, I'm getting tendinitis.' I said, 'At halftime, get some ice. But you can't get tired. You've got to hold these things.' So they did a nice job there."
The Redskins outscored the Saints, 14-0, in the fourth quarter of that game, and players said the Z Shades were a huge help.
"Heck yeah, it helped keep the sun off you," Cornelius Griffin said. "I was sitting up under that thing, and I moved? Man. Oh my God. It made a big difference."
3. Stay Medium: This sort of emerged at the same time as Hip Hip Hooray, and it would come to define Zorn's tenure; even when he was answering questions about getting fired just about every minute of the day, he remained sort of medium. Medium seemed cool when the team was winning, and it was infuriating when they were losing, but Zorn was consistent.
"That's one of his wiiiild words," Jason Campbell noted at the time. "Keep Medium. I've never heard 'Keep Medium;' I've always heard "Stay level" and "Stay low key about things," but his word is 'medium.' "
"We just need to continue to get better," Chris Cooley said. "We kind of have to stay medium here, not get too high on what we're doing, and just get back to work."
He kept it up all last season, briefly re-igniting hope with that road win in Seattle. He kept it up during this season of misery, adding at least some dignity to the mess.
"This is not an easy thing," he said when he lost his playcalling duties, calling his comfort level with the switch "somewhere between 1 and 10. It's not at 10." That's medium.
And like I said, he kept it up till the very end, allowing this season to end with more decorum than it deserved.
"When and if I get clipped in the side, at least what I've done is prepared in every possible way to go into the offseason," Zorn said last week, via John Keim. "It's not difficult at all. It really is healthy. It is sane and it is not worrisome. That's what I do and I owe it to our staff and owe it to everything that we do, my whole makeup."
4. "Are You OK????!!!???" The Redskins' win in Detroit last year was ugly, but it was a win, and it seemed to keep Zorn on pace for a playoff appearance in his rookie year. Still, it led to the only angry media outburst of his career, when Ryan O'Halloran of the dearly departed Washington Times tried to ask about time management, and Zorn thought O'Halloran rolled his eyes.
"Ok, well then you keep looking, you keep rolling your eyes, and I'm getting ticked off! " Zorn exploded. "And I think [fist smash] I'm answering your question! Are you ok? Ok."
There was indeed this angry side of Zorn that we didn't see much in his second year, but it was fun for a while. Remember when he exploded at punter Durant Brooks for trying to call for a field goal snap before Ethan Albright had the ball?
"Mr. Official was standing over the ball, and [Brooks] asked for the ball," Zorn explained. "And, you know, I was thinking to myself, 'Why are you asking for the ball?' It was like we iced our own kicker," Zorn said. "So I was pretty bent out of shape."
5. The Games: The slip and slides, the dodgeball drills, the whole wacky arsenal of tricks were supposed to make the quarterbacks more aware and more mobile. Judging by Jason Campbell's performance, they failed. But they made for some great, great preseason photos, and with Zorn having molded Matt Hasselbeck into a Super Bowl QB, there was hope that he could do the same with Campbell.
6. The Quirks: I know this is of more interest to me than you, but never again will we have a pro football coach in this town who skinned a dead roadside coyote even though it looked like a yard dog and had it made into a pelt for his couch, played "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley on the viola with a symphony while wearing a tuxedo t-shirt, used to own a chain of gadget stores called B.N. Genius, listens to "ambient music," models athletic wear, smooches on the Kiss Cam, wears new-age necklaces, studied cast-metal sculpting, commuted on his bicycle, praised a player by saying he was "not a schmuck," took ice dancing lessons, entered a whitewater kayaking competition, played the ukulele, wanted to be a museum curator, built model ships, read Kit Carson biographies, and once answered a question about whether he was a guru by saying "I'm a Roo, but I don't know if I'm a Goo." He was weird, but he was interesting as heck. He made my job a lot easier than any coach I've ever met, and I'll definitely remember that.
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