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Zorn in an awkward spot

Zorn in an awkward spot

Bob Molinaro, Washington Redskins reporter for the Virginian-Pilot in Tidewater, did a Q&A with Jim Zorn when the Skins were down in Virginia Beach for their annual Beach Blitz.

Certainly, nothing earth-shattering was revealed in the interview. I did, however, find one of Zorn's answers interesting because it pointed out a challenge that he faces that most other rookie coaches don't have to deal with.

Here is the exchange:

Will your system make Campbell a better quarterback?

I just cringe answering a question like that, because it might imply that the staff before me failed, and that's not it at all.

Usually, when a new coach takes over he doesn't have to tiptoe around making sure that he doesn't say anything that could be interpreted as a knock on his predecessor. Sure, you don't want to go around slamming the guy you replaced, but by the same token you don't have to be guarded in any implied criticism.

However, most new head coaches aren't replacing legends with busts in Canton, Ohio. In fact, Zorn is in a spot where few, if any, have been before.

He's replacing Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls here in his first run. While his second run wasn't as successful, he helped get the Skins back on the right track. On top of all that, he's a better person than he is a football coach.

Now, many who followed the team through the glory years and the more recent so-so comeback—present company included—have had some critical things to say about the way Gibbs coached in his comeback.

But that would be vastly different from Jim Zorn coming in and going negative on Coach Joe. We have been here, watching every play of every game, following every event from week to week, month to month, year to year. We've earned the right to take issue with the Hall of Famer.

Zorn, on the other hand, has been hanging out on the Left Coast for most of the past few decades. He hasn't been here so he hasn't built the credibility to be critical of what Gibbs did and didn't do.

And, no doubt, behind closed doors, Zorn occasionally wonders, "What the hell was he thinking?" when watching film. Every once in a while he's talking to a player who was here last year and wants to say, "He wanted you do it that way?" And, behind closed doors, Zorn might let such comments pass through his lips.

That doesn't mean that Zorn thinks he's smarter than Gibbs or that he knows more than Gibbs. Different coaches have different ways of getting things done and it's natural that what one coach thinks makes perfect sense would have another coach rolling his eyes

But in public, talking to reporters, he has to be very careful not to let anything slip. For the next several months, well into the season, Zorn will continue to "cringe" every time he gets a question that involves an answer that could be phrased in a way that might be considered to be a knock at the way Joe Gibbs did things.

Zorn is just starting to live down the "maroon and black" gaffe. He doesn't need to make another verbal misstep. It's obvious that he's being consciously careful not to.

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast Episode 40 - Seriously, when will the Redskins pick a coordinator?

#RedskinsTalk Podcast Episode 40 - Seriously, when will the Redskins pick a coordinator?

As the Redskins settle into the offseason without both an offensive and defensive coordinator, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler debate who will get the jobs, and when they will be announced. 

Related: NFL Mock Draft 1.0

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Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

The Redskins have interviewed some high-profile candidates for their open defensive coordinator position. When it was reported that they will meet with former Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, the reaction among the fans was, “Who?”

Let’s take a look at what Tarver’s qualifications are to get the job of running the Redskins’ defense.

Before becoming a coordinator: At the age of 22, Tarver took a coaching job at West Valley College in California, and did that while earning his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Santa Clara. After that he was a graduate assistant at UCLA for three years before getting into the NFL in 2001, when the 49ers hired him as a quality control coach. Tarver worked his way up to outside linebackers coach in 2005 and did that job until 2010, when he was let go went Mike Singletary was fired as the head coach. After a year as the defensive coordinator at Stanford, Dennis Allen hired Tarver to run the Raiders defense in 2012.

More Redskins: Early first-round draft possibilities

Note: If you want more complete stats on Tarver’s defenses check out his page on Pro Football Reference. DVOA stats via Football Outsiders. A negative DVOA percentage is better than a positive number. Zero is average.

For players, * designates Pro Bowl selection, + designates first-team All-Pro

2012 Raiders (4-12)

Rankings: Yards 5,672 (18th), points 443 (28th), takeaways 19 (26th), 3rd down 39.1% (20th), DVOA 12.5% 29th
Notable players: DT Richard Seymour, DE Lamarr Houston

It should be noted that Allen had a defensive background so he had a hand in these numbers. This team just wasn’t very good as indicated by the fact that Seymour, at age 33, was one of their best defensive players.

2013 Raiders (4-12)

Rankings: Yards 5,918 (22nd), points 453 (29th), takeaways 22 (21st), 3rd down 43.1% (28th), DVOA 10.3% (26th)
Notable players: S Charles Woodson

They did make an effort to shore up the defense by bringing back Woodson and drafting cornerback D.J. Hayden in the first round. But Hayden only played in eight games and Woodson could only contribute so much at age 37. The pass defense struggled, ranking 29th in DVOA.

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

2014 Raiders (3-13)

Rankings: 5,721 (21st), points 452 (32nd), takeaways 14 (30th), 3rd down 38.5% (14th), DVOA 6.3% (26th)
Notable players: LB Khalil Mack, S Woodson

Allen was fired after an 0-4 start and Tony Sparano took over as interim head coach the rest of the way. Sparano has an offensive background so perhaps Tarver is more fully accountable for these results than those in other seasons. They did draft Mack with the fifth overall pick but his impact as a rookie was limited as recorded four sacks. Hayden again missed half of the season and, again, the defense was near the bottom of the NFL.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.