WASHINGTON (AP) - After a suspenseful month of exhaustive
interviews involving at least 10 candidates, the Washington
Redskins decided their coach would be: none of the above.
Instead, it'll be first-timer Jim Zorn taking the mantle from
Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs. Two weeks after being hired as the
offensive coordinator, the former Seattle Seahawks quarterback was
promoted to head coach Saturday night in a surprise ending to a
secretive process that tried fans' patience and produced a new
favorite every week.
The 54-year-old Zorn agreed to a five-year contract and will be
introduced at a news conference Sunday.
"I've always dreamed of being a head coach with a franchise
rich in tradition like the Redskins," Zorn said in a statement
released by the team. "As a player who had to fight Redskins teams
at RFK as well as at our home field, I know about the history of
this franchise as well as the passion of its fans. I won't let you
Zorn was the Seahawks' quarterbacks coach for the last seven
years, helping develop Matt Hasselbeck into a Pro Bowl player, but
he had never been a coordinator for an NFL team until the Redskins
came calling. Now he's making the jump to head coach.
"We're proud that our search was diligent, thorough, and
resulted in today's announcement," owner Dan Snyder said. "Jim's
track record and reputation as a player, great teacher, and as a
coach makes us confident that they will translate to success for
Zorn becomes the sixth coach under Snyder, who bought the team
in 1999, and he ends a string of high-profile coaching hires by an
owner who had developed a reputation for hiring top names at a top
price. Snyder's last three coaches were Marty Schottenheimer, Steve
Spurrier and Gibbs. None had a cumulative winning record, although
Gibbs took the Redskins to the playoffs in two of his four seasons
before his resignation Jan. 8.
Zorn's hiring came after Snyder held marathon sessions with a
variety of candidates. Two prominent names, Jim Mora and Steve
Spagnuolo, withdrew from consideration to remain with their own
teams. Jim Fassel had multiple interviews, but fans were seething
when word got out that the former New York Giants coach was a
Others who didn't fit the bill for a variety of reasons included
Steve Mariucci, Ron Meeks, Pete Carroll and Jim Schwartz. Redskins
assistant Gregg Williams had the support of many players, but he
had been unsuccessful in his previous stint as a head coach in
Buffalo and was fired after meeting four times with Snyder about
Meanwhile, during several of the interviews, candidates
mentioned Zorn as a favorable possibility as an offensive
coordinator to replace Al Saunders, whose offense had been a
disappointment for the last two years.
In the statement released by the team, Snyder - who has been
widely criticized during the coaching search - went into detail to
explain how Zorn ended up with the top job.
"We knew of Jim's stellar offensive reputation, so we hired him
as coordinator, but we also suspected he would be a strong
candidate for head coach," Snyder said. "After our first six-hour
interview with him, I told Joe (Gibbs), 'This guy would make a
terrific head coach.' But we stayed true to our commitment to
interview every candidate."
The Redskins had to wait until the Super Bowl was played to
interview their final candidate, Giants defensive coordinator
Spagnuolo. After Spagnuolo announced on Thursday that he'd rather
stay with the Giants - who gave him a new three-year, $6 million
contract - Snyder said he invited Zorn to lunch.
"I told him we were considering him as the next head coach, and
asked if he wanted to move forward. Without hesitation he said
'absolutely,' and that's all I needed to hear," Snyder said. "We
spent two days taking Jim through the same interview process as
every other candidate. Those sessions only confirmed my earlier
comment to Joe: Jim Zorn will be a terrific head coach."
In his new role, Zorn will have plenty of guidance. Snyder kept
most of Gibbs' staff intact, including veteran assistants Joe Bugel
and Greg Blache. Blache was promoted to take charge of the defense
after Williams was fired.
"Those guys have been around," Gibbs said from the garage area
at Daytona International Speedway, where his team was preparing to
compete in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout exhibition race.
"So what they did is continuity-wise, they kept the coaching staff
and the support group and the training group and everybody, so he's
in a real solid (situation)."
Zorn takes over a team that went 9-7, snatching the NFC's final
wild card berth on the last weekend of the regular season, before
losing to Seattle in the first round of the playoffs. The team is
also well above the salary cap, although it has already started to
address that problem by opening contract renegotiations with some
of its highest-paid players.
The offense will undergo an overhaul under Zorn, who is expected
to install a version of the West Coast attack. He will also have to
sell himself to players who have expressed disappointment that the
job didn't go to Williams, who has been hired as defensive
coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Zorn is a longtime local favorite in Seattle. He was the
franchise's original starting quarterback in 1976, played nine
seasons with the team and is in the Seahawks' Ring of Honor. He
returned as an offensive assistant from 1997-98 and again as
quarterbacks coach in 2001.
He also coached in college for nine years as a quarterbacks
coach or offensive coordinator at Boise State, Utah State and
Minnesota. In between his coaching stints in Seattle, he spent two
years coaching quarterbacks with the Detroit Lions.