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Of Gun Slingers and Mojo Lost

By Mike Keys | December 26th, 2009


 I have this recurring nightmare. 

Ford Stadium is rocking.  Redskins ball, third down, 9 yards to go. The thunderous voices of all 6542 Lions fans in the house are drowning out Jason Campbell’s efforts to audible out of the option pass called by coach.  Sonny is in the booth screaming “It won’t work!”  Sam Huff chuckles “He’ll bench you, Sonny”.

The ball is snapped anyway… ughhhhhhh… 

Sonny vs Jim

I’ve sat and listened to “the interview” several times.  I sit, mouth agape, in astonishment, every time.   “I’m sorry, Sonny… I’d have to bench you.”

I want Jim Zorn to succeed.   Really, I do.  His is one of the great stories of the NFL.  No, he’s not a sure inductee into the HOF.  No, he has no oversized rings on his hand.  No, he’s never kissed a Lombardi trophy while screaming “I’m going to Disneyland!”  But he was an undrafted free agent whom eventually became the bright face of a struggling expansion team.  Had he remained with his original team, he likely would have languished in anonymity.  Had he played with any number of other fairly well endowed teams, however, he may well have become Brett Favre.  He was talented, and was a gunslinger.   He played by the seat of his pants… he was fun to watch.  He had guts.   He knew how to call plays.

When he was announced as the new Head Coach of the Washington Redskins, my initial response was “well… that’s… um…  interesting.”  I thought about it.  It grew on me.  “This could be just what Jason Campbell needs”.  A gunslinging coach… one with a love for adventure… a gambler… 

What did we get?  One who is practicing defensive coaching.  “Coaching not to lose” rather than “Coaching to win”.  How odd.  Last year, part of my mantra was “Campbell needs to play with emotion.  He’s too controlled.  He’s too afraid of making a mistake.  As a result, he was missing the obvious. 

This year, Campbell seems to have loosened up some (admittedly, I’m still waiting to see him bring that dragon to the game with him, but there have been hints that weren’t there before).  Now, it’s the coach who needs to tap his emotion.  He’s afraid to make a mistake… As a result, he IS missing the obvious.   I now wonder… was it Campbell?  Or, was it the coach, all along.

When does a halfback option work?  Answer:  When the Run is working and is expected.  As a result, the defense sells out the second they read sweep.

When does a halfback option NOT work?  Answer:  On a passing down… ummm… such as 3rd down and long… you know?

Yes, Jim… you “called it to work”.  The problem is, it was an obvious passing down, and no one respected your run enough to sell out to it.  Bad call, Jim.  Man up, and admit it.  Stop arguing with one of the greatest “on the field” play callers ever.  Here’s a thought, Jim.  How about signing up for a course at the “Sonny Jurgensen College of Advanced Play Calling”?  They may even have an express course.  Nobody is more of a homer than Sonny… and when Sonny starts to get off the bus… you’d better be listening.

Mike Shanahan is off somewhere, his substantial coaching resume in his left hand, waiting for a call from his friend, Dan Snyder.  We cannot afford to go through another coaching change.  We need Jim Zorn to get with the program, find his old Seahawk gun slinging mojo, and start coaching to win.  Now.  We need Zorn to succeed.

A loss at Detroit may well spell the end of the Jim Zorn Experience.  Heck, a marginal win may not be a good thing, but a loss would be a true disaster.  We are in the NFC East currently…  I can tolerate a lot, but not being the laughingstock of the Division.

They say that what’s important is whether the game goes into the W or L column.  Yeah… usually that is true… but not this week… not tomorrow.  It must be a W… and it must be by 12 points or more… The Redskins DO NOT LOSE to Detroit.  It’s not permitted.  Beyond that, this offense must produce touchdowns… several of them.

I cannot recall any game against a less talented team ever being more important than this one.  Win big, and confidence is restored.  Win small, and the doubts continue.  Lose?  Not an option if the season is to bear fruit.

What to do, Jim?  I don’t know… but calling the game as though you were on the field yourself might be a start… as I recall, you weren’t too bad in your day.  That’s right… I’m suggesting that you trust your players. 

I really hope I wake up on Monday morning wondering why I was ever worried…

Categories Posted In | Washington Commanders |

5 Responses to “Of Gun Slingers and Mojo Lost”

  1. Excellent read, Mike. Thanks for the effort. This is good stuff!

  2. I was smirking as I read this dead-on assessment of Zorn’s shortcomings in the Rams game.

    His touchy interview with Sonny lets me know he is feeling the pressure to win now as he should.

    It will be disaster mode in DC if Zorn can’t pull off a victory against an 0-19 team.

    Hope he has a gameplan designed to challenge the Lions secondary this week.

    Don’t see Ronnie Lott in the silver & blue backfield so not going to buy any excuses that our receivers couldn’t get open.

    Prediction: Skins get the win and score two Redzone TDs.

  3. Well I get that the Sonny interview was a tad… odd… but since when did Sonny become the harbinger of truth and knowledge?

    Ever listened to the Redskins broadcast? I’d bench all three of them. If Larry Michael knew any less about football… he could be the Redskin’s general manager.

  4. Having come of age as a Redskins fan in the ’60’s, perhaps I’m a bit of a Sonny and Sam homer… it is what it is. Sonny’s opinion carries a bit of weight. He happened to give voice to a question that thousands of us had. As we watched the play unfold, I suspect many of us were screaming, in unison, “what are you doing???” Sonny’s “IT DIDN’T WORK!” was just the echo of that. But this isn’t about Sonny. It’s about the occasionally bizarre play-calling of the current coach, and what appears to be a very defensive mind set once he hits the red zone. Sonny is not doing the play-calling down there. Zorn is.

    Everyone has an opinion about Sonny and Sam. I happen to love their incessant bickering. They are color commentators… and no matter what, THAT is color.

    And, what the heck does the mouthpiece named Larry Michael have to do with this? I miss Frank Herzog.

  5. Took me awhile to get used to the mindless banter of all three mouthbreathers. Sonny always sounds like an exasperated single mother. Sam simply speaks out of his bum. Reminds me of the Ferris Bueller scene with Rooney at the snack bar.

    “What’s the score?”


    “Who’s winning?”

    “The Bears.”

    Larry Michael is an afterthought broadcaster.

    Herzog is calling games for the G-men now.

    Can’t wait to hear from the team about what went wrong today versus the Super Bowl bound Lions.

    Zorn if you thought Sonny was crotchety last week. Strap on your helmet.

    This one may hurt a bit.