Players remember Zorn
Because it's hard to get great player quotes about a coach who hasn't yet been hired, I figured we might as well take one more day to reflect on the coach who was just fired. Thus, I asked a few players how they'd remember Jim Zorn.
"I don't know," Carlos Rogers said. "You know, he's kind of different. I would put him as the same [level] as Jason [Campbell]. You know, he's got tough skin. You know, through all this he kind of stayed calm, stayed with that same look, that it's not bothering him, but you knew deep down inside it is. But I think he's a real tough guy. He's still new to the head coach thing, but he's gonna be real successful. He's gonna be good. And with that offense, I know it, because Seattle has beat us our last two playoff times that we went in there. And I know it's a great offense. And with [Mike] Holmgren being in Cleveland, he'll have another job."
Chris Cooley was one of Zorn's loudest defenders during the bad times this year, and the tight end continued to speak highly of the Z-Man after the demise of his tenure.
"Honestly, I'll remember him as an extremely hard worker, and a guy that was completely loyal to his players and his team," Cooley told me. "I thought he was a good friend; I thought he worked his [tail] off. Obviously it never materialized for him, and that's unfortunate. And I'm sure giving him a second go-around, completely over, he would change a ton of what he did, and he would say, 'I've learned a huge lesson.' But I thought he did everything he could and tried everything that he knew how to do."
Cooley's friend and locker room neighbor Todd Yoder focused on Zorn the man, and how he dealt with his final weeks in charge.
"During what I would say was a hugely controversial season, he stayed with us, he was true to his personality, and you've got to respect that," Yoder said. "It was rough in every aspect, for players, coaches, what he had to deal with. I think for him to get through the season the way he did is a testament to the man he is."
Others focused on his quirks.
"I'll just remember him for being a good guy, a nice guy, a guy who had a great sense of humor and a guy who told some crazy stories," Rock Cartwright said.
And indeed, that leads to the best answer of the day, provided by Chris Wilson.
"The years weren't all bad," Wilson said. "Of course, it's a production league, it's about being successful, but I'll just remember how soft-spoken he was. Just a lot of stuff."
A few of us started laughing, since "soft-spoken" isn't necessarily how you think of an NFL head coach.
"But it's funny, I'm sure the guys on this team will laugh," Wilson said. "Not like to try to tear him down in a spiteful way, but that's how he is."
Wilson also said he'd remember Zorn's pet peeves, how early he liked to get up, how he had such a unique way of gesturing on the field, and "how awkward he was at speeches." So Grant Paulsen asked for an example of an awkward pre-game speech.
"He asked the team who's ever been whitewater rafting," Wilson remembered. "And I think only maybe two hands went up. If only two hands out of the whole team goes up, we're probably not gonna relate to the metaphor, but he goes ahead anyway with this whitewater rafting metaphor."
Only white players raised their hands, and Fred Smoot stood up and said that's why it's called whitewater rafting. But Zorn was undeterred.
"And he explained it, saying how important it is to not let go of the paddle," Wilson concluded. "And related that to no matter what happens in the season, be who you are, continue to play with pride, continue to fight, even with all the media speculation. Even back then, it was about not focusing on that and just holding on to the paddle."
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