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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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Cousins believes "a lot rides" on the coming Redskins season

Cousins believes "a lot rides" on the coming Redskins season

RICHMOND—While Kirk Cousins has had a lot of success in his first two seasons as the Redskins’ starting quarterback, he and the team didn’t finish last season the way they wanted to. They lost four of their last six games to finish out of a playoff spot. With the game on the line in the season finale against the Giants, Cousins threw an interception as the team was driving for a late score to win or tie the game. The loss was the final blow to their playoff hopes.

As with any disappointing situation, Cousins and the team must walk a line between learning from the mistakes that were made—and there were many beyond the Cousins interception—and dwelling on the past. Cousins said today that the failure to make the playoffs will help drive the team this year.

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“I think what it does is it gives us an edge, because we stay humble and hungry because we left the season realizing we do have a long ways to go,” Cousins said of the late-season woes. “We do need to improve if we want to go in the direction that we all believe we can. In that sense we’ll take the silver lining that nobody is content, nobody is entitled, nobody feels like we can rest on what we’ve done in the past.”

While they can focus on the silver lining for now, Cousins says that they realize that coming close to the playoffs but missing out year after year won’t cut it. That’s what gets coaches fired and leads to players losing their jobs.

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, the final update

“We do feel like a lot rides on this season up ahead,” he said. “Hopefully, that gives us a sense of urgency all through training camp to be really focused, and as a result gets the best out of every one of us so that our team can play as well as we possibly can.”

Cousins is playing on the one-year franchise tag. He has been quick to point out that many of his teammates are either on one-year deals or in the final season of a multi-year deal. Cousins is one of over a dozen starters or key contributors who will become free agents in 2018. If they are going to stay around they can’t go 2-4 down the stretch like they did last year.

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

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Redskins' Cousins says he bets on the system, not on himself

Redskins' Cousins says he bets on the system, not on himself

RICHMOND—As Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins goes into playing under the franchise tag for the second straight season, the phrase commonly used about him is that he is betting on himself, eschewing the long-term security of a multiyear deal in favor hoping to improve his leverage by playing on the tags.

However, Cousins said that is a misconception.

“I don’t know that I ever bet on myself, I bet on the system, he said. “It has nothing to do with myself. I’m just going out and playing and there’s never been anything but positive feelings. I’m excited to get to work here. As I’ve said, my wife and I love it here and we’re in a good place.”

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Ever since the deadline for him to sign a long-term contract this year came and went without a new deal, Cousins has been trying to debunk the notion that he has a desire to leave the Redskins as soon as he can. Appearing on 106.7 The Fan last week, Cousins said that the Redskins are his “first choice” to be his team going forward. He talked positively about his future in Washington again today after the Redskins first training camp walkthrough.

Although there was talk that the contract negotiations took a sour turn at the end after team president Bruce Allen revealed some of the details of the team’s final offer to Cousins, Cousins indicated today that everything is fine.

“W e’ve done a good job communicating between me and the team,” he said. “We’re on the same page and we’ve done everything we can possibly do to get that settled and move forward. I think we’re all in a good place right now and we’ve got enough to worry about getting our offense playing at the level we need to have a great season so I can be back in future years.”

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, the final update

What it really comes down to, what Cousins believes will make things good in the future for him and the Redskins, is success on the field.

“If you win football games, everything else takes care of itself,” he said.

“In the offseason, the ball’s in the team’s court. But from Week 1 to Week 17, the ball’s in my court and I’ve got to go play football well. That’s where my focus is.”

There likely will be more talk of Cousins future beyond the 2017 seas in the coming weeks and months. It appears that for right now that is the furthest thing from Cousins’ mind.

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