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"Zorned" enters political lexicon

By Jonathan Newton - TWP

When I read how House Minority Whip Eric Cantor was comparing Jim Zorn to Barack Obama, I immediately thought, "That's dumb." His strong prose--"These days D.C.-area football fans aren't the only ones sorely let down"--did nothing to dissuade me from my original opinion.

But it turns out Cantor wasn't alone in seeing the downfall of Zorn as some grand metaphor having to do with something or other that might allow the scoring of a political point with aggrieved Redskins fans who don't really pay attention to a single thing in the world except for the fate of their head coach. All manner of U.S. officials, it turns out, are worthy of being compared to Jim Zorn, whose very name has informally become part of the intelligence lexicon.

Check out The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, who recently wondered, "Is The Intel Chief Being Zorned?"

Making the rounds among the ranks of the "formers" -- that is, former senior intelligence officials who are now free to discuss the politics of the intelligence community, is a new verb. To Zorn, as in to render ineffective but to retain a subordinate. The context, for those who don't live in Washington, was the decision by the poohbahs at the Washington Redskins to temporarily retain head coach Jim Zorn but give play-calling abilities to someone else, effectively neutering his authority and credibility....

Is Adm. Dennis Blair, the director of the Office of National Intelligence, being Zorned by the administration? Surely not, officials say.

I can see the scene now: a dark coffee shop hidden inside a Pakistani cave, two men huddled under cloaks in a back corner. One tells the other that he's just made contact with a retired CIA officer who's volunteering in Michigan, and that Officer Lewis will be re-entering the field, with the title to match. As the second man realizes what's happening to his authority, he turns violently to the side, then falls onto the ground, whimpering into the mud. "Dude," says the bearer of bad news, as he flips down his hood. "You just got Zorned."

Then there's Neil Cavuto, talking about something or other on Fox News soon after Zorn was fired:

"Jim Zorn is out as head coach of the Washington Redskins," he thundered. "Janet Napolitano still in as head coach of Homeland Security. He lost some games and lost his job. She could have lost a lot more, and keeps hers."

Why, you see, it's a perfect comparison. Zorn, unique in the history of professional sports, "lost some games" and got fired. Whereas Napolitano, unique in the history of government agencies, "could have lost a lot more," and did not get fired. It's like comparing a basket of warm sesame dinner rolls to Greivis Vasquez; so obvious it seems almost impossible that no one has previously made the connection.

Then there's Mark Greenbaum, who seems to have published pieces on the Obama-Zorn connection in two different publications. From Roll Call, under the headline: "Obama Must Hope He Doesn't Suffer Jim Zorn's Fate."

Last year was a disappointing one for the Washington Redskins, and especially for the team's recently fired head coach, Jim Zorn. The team notched few meaningful victories, giving Washingtonians little to cheer about. In fact, the Redskins' season was a lot like last year for President Barack Obama and Congress: What began as a year with strong promise ended with little accomplished.

Another perfect comparison, so long as you ignore the fact that this didn't begin as a year with strong promise for the Redskins, which then destroys the entire comparison. Greenbaum's musings were published by the Christian Science Monitor, under the thought-provoking headline, "After a year like his, would Obama make it as an NFL coach?"

"Like Jim Zorn of the woeful Redskins, Obama showed himself to be an ineffective leader of what should have been a productive Congress," explained the sub-hed. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this says that both men were ineffective leaders of what should have been productive Congresses. Right, Rep. Portis?

"Players are responsible for their own performance, but when teams lose often, coaches get fired," read this piece, which again, was about the president of the country. "So it was no surprise that head coach Jim Zorn was dismissed soon after the Redskins finished with a dismal 4-12 record."

By the way, I keep forgetting to note that in this Lapine Dictionary from Watership Down, there is indeed a word called Zorn. It means "Destroyed, murdered. Denotes a catastrophe."

For the record, Jim Zorn still doesn't seem to realize that he got Zorned. Pro Football Weekly recently asked the coach if he thought he got a fair chance in D.C.

I thought it was a fair question. Zorn appeared a little put off by it, but he answered anyway.

"I don't know about the question, whatever it is, but I got as long as it was deemed to me to be the head football coach," he said.

The injuries to the offensive line clearly were devastating this season, but Zorn wasn't into making excuses for what happened last season.

"Well, there were a lot of things that happened during the season, but certainly ... I could name all the things, but then it would just be a bunch of whining anyway. We played with who we had."

And when Jason Reid asked Zorn about facing the Redskins in the preseason with his new club, he also ignored his Zorning.

"I don't have any vendettas or things to prove or anything like that," he said. "I'm the quarterback coach. It's not like I've got some type of particular wish."

Also, for the record, Matt Hasselbeck recently compared Zorn to...well:

Hasselbeck likened a young quarterback to Daniel LaRusso from the 1984 hit movie ''The Karate Kid,'' and he likened Zorn to Mr. Miyagi.

Much like Daniel's karate training consisted of painting fences and waxing cars, ''You're thinking, 'This is doing me no good,''' Hasselbeck said. ''Then it shows up a in a real-life situation, and it's like, 'Now, it makes sense.' "

So if you see Jason Campbell spinning a hand drum down by the Tidal Basin, feel free to tell him he can knock it off.

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 1, 2010; 12:38 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Next: Ovechkin shows respect for his coach


give Cantor a break, analogies like this between politics and sports--though far from perfect--are not that uncommon.

Posted by: Barno1 | January 12, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for proving my point, Steinz

Posted by: Barno1 | February 1, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Don't give Cantor a break. He's a grinning and useless jackass.

Posted by: mack1 | February 1, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Is that the same mack1 that used to attack me on Redskins Insider a few years ago? Good to see you pal. Glad to see you're still fighting the good fight and personally attacking those you disagree with ideologically.

Posted by: Barno1 | February 1, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, but Zorn at least had an out: Accept Lewis and promote to Asst HC -- Offense. Instead, Zorn continued to botch the 2 min drill and, as Doc Walker pointed out in the pregame to the SD game, Zorn started calling all the plays again at the end of the season. At this point in his career, calling plays isn't his strength.

It's one place Zorn (uncharacteristically) let hubris hamstring his HCing ability. He's just not ready to call plays. The failing was not to realize that personally, and to let the discourse shift from a place to improve to one about ego and honor. (cb. Gibbs 2.0, who felt his offense wasn't good enough and was too quick to let someone else take the reins.)

And everyone with a 1 at the end of their nick is a loser. (I kid Hasselhoff, I kid.)

Posted by: WorstSeat | February 1, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Hello to you too Barno. Still defending pricks I see.

Posted by: mack1 | February 1, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

reading this blog just makes me angry

Posted by: BMACattack | February 1, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

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