THESPORTSDOC- In the Doldrums: Zorn brings bashing on himself

Despite a cream-puff schedule, Zorn hasn't won.
Keith Allison

With Tennessee, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay all winless, and Detroit, Kansas City, and Cleveland nearly so, it seems odd that the focus of everyone's criticism is the Washington Redskins. They've won only two games, but they're one of seven teams that can say that: all in all, 13 of the 32 teams in the NFL have won two games or fewer.

So why is Jim Zorn taking all the heat?

Turn on any sports channel or open any sports page and Steve Spagnuolo and John Fox aren't going to jump out at you. Although both men coach teams with records as bad or worse than Washington's (St. Louis and Carolina respectively), they sit back and watch Jim Zorn take it on the chin. This NFL season it seems nothing is as valuable as low expectations, and plenty of coaches are thanking their lucky stars their teams have little talent and show even less promise.

On last Sunday's Football Night in America, Peter King, Keith Olbermann, and Rodney Harrison were giddy when discussing Zorn's failings, and were just as euphoric when listing the reasons greenhorn Raheem Morris, coach of the 0-6 Buccaneers, and elder statesman Jeff Fischer, the equally abysmal Titans' coach, were most certainly not going to be fired. If it weren't for the genteel, soft-spoken, and delightfully insightful Tony Dungy, Zorn wouldn't have received an ounce of respect.

Why the Redskins? 

Many people will cite unfulfilled promise as the reason for their ire, and there's no denying Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, and Chris Cooley can be shellacked for not living up to their potential. There's also no denying that Albert Haynesworth should be able to run two plays without needing an hour in a hyperbaric chamber, but any expectations of the obese defensive tackle who didn't bother participating in training camp are futile. 

And what about payroll? The Redskins are a big-market team, and if they were willing to pay "Fat Albert" $100 million (with incentives), then no doubt hundreds of millions more they spent should be making something good happen. Any team that throws around big money has no excuse for such poor performance.

If that's the case, the Raiders, the Browns, the Titans, the Rams, the Dolphins, the Bills, and the Panthers should all be in line ahead of the Redskins for a good smack. 

Washington ranked 18th in total 2008 payroll with $111,963,684. The 2-4 Raiders came in at number one with $152,389,371; the 1-5 Browns ranked number four at $131,916,300; and the six time-loser Titans paid out $126,017,443 for a seventh-place finish.  

Granted, those aren't this year's numbers; but as none of those teams are completely rebuilt, they're pretty telling figures, right?

Perhaps the most valid complaint one can make about the Redskins is that they have failed to win even with a cream-puff schedule. Every team that beat Washington came into the match-up winless. Aside from the Giants in the opening game, the Redskins have faced the weakest opposition in the NFL. If Washington lost to Kansas City in week six– when the Chiefs were still winless– what can they possibly do in week seven against the 3-2 Eagles or the as-yet-undefeated Saints in week 13?

But even with all their faults, the Washington Redskins are not the worst team in the NFL, nor is Jim Zorn the worst coach. So why is he the poster boy for all that's wrong in the League? 

The answer is as age-old as it is easy: if the NFL were the Phantom Tollbooth, Jim Zorn would be the Doldrums. Zorn hasn't shown an ounce of giddyup since the beginning of the season, and he exudes defeat before, during, and after games. His long face, his constant sighing, and his tired and lifeless eyes are killers of confidence, and everyone from the players on the field to the fans in the stands to the commentators on television can feel it. 

With their continued unwillingness to completely cut Zorn loose, it seems Redskins management has never read The Phantom Tollbooth and is unaware that the only way to get out of the Doldrums is to do the opposite of what got them there in the first place.


Juanita Giles lives in Keysville where she makes videos and updates her">Sports Doctor site.