Jim Zorn was widely considered a good guy, a well liked coach. Not much was known about him when he arrived in DC. It was perhaps the fact that fans and players knew very little about him, that everyone was ready to give him a chance and allow him do what he felt necessary to help this team win. Zorn was expected to take their reins of a team that had been recently vacated by the organization’s most holy name in it’s storied history. Regardless of the result of his second tenure, Joe Gibbs’ successor was given a difficult task of simply following him.
On the day he first spoke, Redskins Nation united in disbelief when he utter the words “..maroon and black…and yellow” as the colors of this Washington team. A culture that had sustained its tradition for decades or triumph and even failure at times, was in the hands of a man who was initially hired to be offensive coordinator before being promoted almost instantly. This honeymoon lasted two full seasons, and the team was once again floundering and worse off that it had been in years.
The locker room was a mess, leaders were not heard and coaches not adhered to. Star players missing, and no one knew who was boss. That has since changed since Mike Shanahan has come to town. In no way am I suggesting that he has righted the ship, but he has already won one battle: the battle to determine who is really in charge. How do you figure he is in charge? He cut players. Not just players but veterans who have been among the top earners for the last few years. The same players who were able to dictate what they earned, and were almost guaranteed a playing spot. However, not all of those players were removed, but the message was clear and simple: “this team is going in a new direction and I [Shanahan] call the shots”.
The reaction of this apparent “dictatorship” appears to be…appreciated. Yes appreciated. All players want to get paid, but all players want to win. Any coach can come in a say they want to win. However, what will a coach do to win? What will they get their players to do in order to win? This past Monday, the beginning of off season “voluntary” workouts commenced, and the Redskins managed to produced 100% attendance.
This dedication certainly has incentive, but probably not the same incentives offered in the past. “You work hard and you might have a spot on this squad” is the mentality, and it is paying off. Jason Campbell, quarterback, said this to Jason Reid of the Washington Post:
“It’s just totally different than it used to be,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “Yeah, they’ve changed a lot of stuff around in the weight room, painted and moved some other stuff, but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s really the feeling you get now just being [in the building].
“You just see how professional it is and guys are doing things the right way. Usually in the past, guys wouldn’t be focused like this right now. A lot of guys who showed up [for the voluntary offseason conditioning program] wouldn’t be here in the past. And even in the weight room, a lot of guys just used to do their own thing. But it’s all structured now. There’s a plan for everything we’re doing.”
Jason Campbell says there is a plan for what is going on, let’s hope that this plan is one that works and transform this team from a group of 53 millionaires into 53 men hungry to win a Lombardi Trophy. If the plan set in does not end with that goal, then they might as well scrap everything.