When the Washington Redskins skulked off the field after being defeated by the Kansas City Chiefs 14-6 yesterday, they faced a half empty home stadium filled with rage and dismay.
Head coach Jim Zorn went into the game with the wrath of Redskins Nation on his shoulders. Many legends of the team have been critical of Zorn's coaching ability. Even Hall Of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen faced a possible ban from the broadcasting booth due to his questioning the teams game plans week to week.
Zorn's inept play calling was on full display versus the winless Chiefs. It got so bad that Zorn benched starting quarterback Jason Campbell in favor of veteran reserve Todd Collins. Collins played worse than Campbell did, but he did lead the Redskins to their only points of the game.
Due to the Redskins inability to sustain any semblance of an offensive threat, the Redskins will be replacing Zorn with veteran offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis as the play caller. Lewis joined the team a week ago, yet the immediate move seems necessary to all observers.
Washington became the first team in NFL history to start a season by facing six winless opponents. Many of the games were deemed cupcake matches before the season began, and would help the team get off to a fast start before the hard part of their 2009 schedule faced them. Now the Redskins face the Philadelphia Eagles before heading into their bye week. The Eagles are coming off an embarrassing loss of their own, and should be expected to be fired up facing their divisional rival.
Though many of the Redskins players showed vocal support for Zorn this week, their play on the field has stated otherwise. Many are frustrated, and trying to circle their wagons to show unity. Some players, like Albert Haynesworth and Andre Carter, played an excellent game versus the Chiefs. Many of the rest of the team played uninspired and seemed to belie the statements they wanted Zorn to stay on board.
The defense has been excellent all year, even despite the fact cornerback DeAngelo Hall tends to give opposing receivers a ten yard cushion on virtually every passing play. The unit has kept the team in every game, only to be disappointed by the lack of offense created by their teammates.
What can be seen on the offense is a unit in shambles. The offensive line has suffered two key injuries, and has been shuffled virtually every week the past month. The wide receivers have given little production, causing the Redskins opponents to crowd the line of scrimmage and stop the run with relative ease. Clinton Portis, the starting running back, has obviously lost a step and is becoming more fragile and injury prone with each time he totes the ball.
The only consistent weapon Campbell has had to rely on is All Pro tight end Chris Cooley. Due to Zorn's play calling, Cooley went without a reception versus the Carolina Panthers two Sunday's ago. It was the first time Cooley had gone a game without a reception since his rookie season in 2004. With teams focusing on Cooley, his opportunities will be fewer unless one of his teammates steps up and provides help.
The team has yet to show a fire in their belly overall as a team, despite the fact they state they support their head coach. Some asked the front office for a vote of confidence for Zorn, but none was forthcoming. After another lackluster game, none should be expected.
Zorn looked like a beaten man at his press conference after the game. He had the look of a man who knows his days in Washington are coming to an end, and quite possibly his last days of holding a significant job in football. It seems doubtful Zorn will ever again assume the duties of a head coach or even offensive coordinator at the professional level. He has appeared to have been over matched and out of his league since day one on the job.
With the Redskins days away from their bye week, the possibility of Zorn being fired looms much larger. The game against the Eagles will be played in front of a nationally televised audience on Monday. The spotlight of the teams dysfunctions will be on full display, and may be even harped on if the Eagles handle the Redskins with ease.
Zorn himself is not the sole blame for perhaps fielding the worst Redskin team since 1960-61. Washington won just two total games over those two seasons in a time that is generally considered to be the low point of the franchises long history. Though the Redskins won just three games in 1994, this team might have a hard time exceeding that win total despite having two victories already this year.
Vinny Cerrato is the teams general manager, and the man most responsible for assembling this underwhelming bunch of players. It is a team built through poor drafts and bad free agent signings, which has been a signature of the Cerrato era in Washington. Though Cerrato should hang onto his job for now, mostly due to his friendship with team owner Dan Snyder, it would be virtually astounding to see him hold any type of position with the club, or anywhere in the NFL again, after this season concludes.
If Zorn remains the head coach for the entire season, he should be viewed as a figurehead image only. With Greg Blatche handling the defense and now Smith handling the offense, Zorn's duties should mostly involve him standing on the sideline as a spectator with a very good view he doesn't deserve.
There are a gaggle of ex-head coaches available for hire in 2010. Names like Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren, and Bill Cowher have been bandied about. Only Shanahan and Holmgren have experience as a general manager, and would most likely want to hold that role as well as coach if they were interested in coaching again.
One problem is that Shanahan has been strongly linked to the Dallas Cowboys next season if Wade Phillips, the current head coach, fails to get Dallas into the playoffs next year. Holmgren stepped down from his job in Seattle after last season to spend more time with his family, and would seem to be even less interested. Yet, with the fact the Redskins took a chance on Zorn and even Steve Spurrier in 2002, it seems unlikely they will gamble with an unknown entity again in the near future. This means Russ Grimm, an Redskins legend, will probably not get a chance despite having many of the teams alumni having stated he would be a good option.
Another issue will be trying to get an established entity to want to work under Snyder, an owner who gets too heavily involved with the teams operations despite admittedly knowing little about football. Snyder grew up a fan of the team and wants to win. Unfortunately he has a tendency of not being content with just marketing the team, which is his area of expertise.
If Snyder is as miffed as the rest of Redskins Nation, then he will clean house upon the completion of the season by starting with Cerrato and Zorn. Then he will have to commit to respected and able personnel and step back and let those hired try to build the team up with the many able parts already in place. The talent is there on the roster, for the most part, but it will require sound, able, expert coaching and leadership to bring it out.