OK, I’ve been weighing all of the Zorn talk in my head the last couple of days and I’m ready to talk about it semi-intelligently. The bottom line? I have no clue, but I’m intrigued and willing to watch. No excited anymore, mind you. But intrigued. There are several parts to this discussion as to whether Zorn is a good coach– 1) Some people think Snyder settled for Zorn when everyone else turned us down. 2) Some people just don’t like Dan Snyder and any decision he made other than Gregg Williams (Gibb’s choice) would have been generally hissed at. 3) Some people think Zorn is in over his head never having been an OC or HC before. 4) Some people really like Zorn because he’s a good teacher but they don’t think he’ll have time to teach while being the HC. Let’s break these down.
This is total crap. Gregg Williams begged for the job for weeks. Jim Fassel, despite being universally hated by Redskins fans was on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning yesterday talking about how much he wanted the job and how great a job it is. Yes, Mora decided to withdraw, but he was promised the Seahawks job and he’s from Washington state. Yes, Tony Spagnolo withdrew, but come on, would you really want to leave a team you’ve struggled with for years less than 48 hours after those struggles and efforts got you a Super Bowl? Talk radio and TV were alight with this quick opinion that no one wants to work for Dan Snyder despite the fact that Joe Gibbs left retirement for him, Steve Spurrier left his cushy college job for him, and there were Super Bowl coaches begging for the job.
As for settling, I’ll admit, Jim Zorn was the least famous name on the list. I’d have preferred Ron Meeks or Russ Grimm both of whom have more experience at roughly the same age. But did anyone think the Cowboys would be better off with Wade Phillips than Bill Parcells? Would anyone have said Norv Turner could get the Chargers to the championship game? There is clearly something about these guys that make an impression on owners that the average fan just can’t see. I’m willing to believe the story that the more Snyder got to know Zorn, the more he just realized that this was the guy. Sometimes you just look at a man and see he’s a leader and a man of substance. I’m not saying that we’ll automatically be better off with Zorn. I’m just saying any Cowboys fan who honestly thought Wade Phillips was going to lead the team to 13-3 the second his name was announced should be made a GM immediately.
Dan Snyder Sucks
This is the one I’m tired of hearing the most. I’m not saying the man is perfect. He’s not. I’m not saying he hasn’t made horrible mistakes. He has. But the major charge levied at Dan Snyder is that he is too involved in the football decisions and that he is not Jack Kent Cooke. Well excuse me, but those of us old enough to actually remember Cooke will be the first to tell you that he was a serious micromanager and that Dan Snyder hasn’t been accused of anything that Jack Kent Cooke didn’t do two decades before. His son was VP of the team. He negotiated contracts directly with many players. He even had a reputation from previously owning other sports teams of firing coaches and managers way too quickly. The difference between Cooke and Snyder is simple– 3 trophies. And those trophies didn’t come because Cooke was “hands off” or “hands on.” They came because he paired a good GM, Bobby Bethard, with a good coach Joe Gibbs, at a time when you could hold the core of a team together for years if you were willing to pay them.
Look at it this way. The most respected owners in NFL history are probably the Rooneys in Pittsburgh. In the 70’s, they won 4 Super Bowls. In the 80’s and 90’s? Zero. The 00’s? One. It is very hard to win a Super Bowl even when you are good at what you do and have been doing it for a long time. If Snyder is a bad owner, it isn’t because he is hands on. And winning a Super Bowl may erase the feeling that Dan Snyder is a bad owner, but it won’t change the way he behaves or makes decisions. It will just change perceptions of those methods.
Zorn is Over His Head
I’ll admit it. This one scares me a bit. Jim Fassel pointed out again on Mike and Mike that Zorn now has three jobs he’s never done– head coach, offensive coordinator, and play caller. This is true at the NFL level. We should point out for the sake of accuracy that Zorn did call the plays as OC at Utah St when they had one of their rare winning seasons. What is that worth? I don’t know. Probably not a lot. The game clock is shorter in college so at the very least, Zorn should be used to getting plays in quickly which was a problem we had. Also, Joe Gibbs had never been a head coach before taking the job either. I guess my real question here is how is a head coach made? Are they born or are they made? Zorn has displayed true leadership wherever he has gone. As a QB of an expansion team, he really helped that team stay together. If leadership and substance is more important than football experience, we got a great guy. It seems to me that inside the locker room that may be enough, but at the podium, at the press conference, in the board room, it may not be.
Let’s just say, I think this is a great experiment in leadership here. If this works, I think we can safely say that coaches are born and not made. I’m eager to find out.
Zorn Won’t Have Time to Do What He Does Best
This is total crap. Zorn has the ability to divide his time any way he choose now. As OC, he would have been forced to keep his head coach’s schedules and priorities. As head coach, if he wants to move in with Campbell and buy cats, he can. He has a veteran team with a veteran staff. The defensive scheme and terminology is staying the same. The special teams are intact. Zorn said at his press conference that he is keeping the running game and terminology the same in deference to Joe Bugel and the gang. In other words, the only thing new on this team will be the head coach and the passing game. If Zorn wants to school Campbell as his main priority he can. Not only that, but the OC he hires will allow him to choose if teaching Campbell himself is a priority or if he can hand it over to the new OC. Look, coaches coach. That’s what they do. And sometimes they coach directly, and sometimes they hire the right guy to coach the guys so they can do other things. But whoever is in Jason Campbell’s grill every day will be teaching him exactly what Zorn wants him to learn.
I still think 75% of the dislike for this decision has to do with Cerrato and Snyder and not Zorn. I think if we would have hired Zorn in 48 hours people would have been surprised but excited because Zorn was obviously so impressive he got the job quickly. But come on. If a Fortune 500 company picked a CEO in a matter of days or a week, their stock would plummet. Why should any organization pick the most important person in the company in less than the 30 days it took Snyder? And why shouldn’t they interview a ton of different people?
I’m satisfied that the process was great (except I still want to know why we didn’t interview Grimm) and while different than what the NFL usually does, shouldnt be shunned. Remember, Snyder was shocked that Gibbs retired. They were talking extension. The other teams fired their coaches in mid-season or knew that they were going to do it at the end. They actually had been prepping the search for months. Snyder had to do many of those early investigations on the fly in the middle of the interview process.
If you take the process out of the decision, the only question that remains is whether Zorn is ready for the job. I don’t know. But I’m intrigued by the decision. We picked a man on strength of personality. And one that reminded me a lot of a young Gibbs. He was funny, self-deprecating, a family man, a man of substance, and man that came from a great “coaching tree.” I’m entirely willing to give him several years worth of chances and I think we could have something special here. We could also have Norv part deux. But I’m keeping an open mind, and I hope you guys do, too. Hail Skins!