Did Zorn seal his fate with loss to Lions?

September, 27, 2009
9/27/09
6:06
PM ET
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Albert Haynesworth and the Redskins fell to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


You always hear people talk about how "on any given Sunday" an NFL team can rise up and beat you, but the Detroit Lions had become the exception. On Sunday, the Lions won for the first time since Dec. 23, 2007, and in doing so, have effectively put Jim Zorn's head coaching career in jeopardy.
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He appears safe for the moment. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Redskins are not expected to make any moves with Zorn, a team source said Sunday night.

However, with Sunday's 19-14 loss to the Lions, the Redskins are now a team in crisis. This wasn't some sort of fluke in which the Lions received a bunch of breaks. They were, in fact, the best team on the field Sunday -- and that leaves the 1-2 Redskins in a tough spot. I guess the eternal optimist would look at the Skins' schedule and think they'll have a good chance to win against their next three opponents -- the winless Bucs, Panthers and Chiefs.

But after observing Sunday's game against the Lions, I wouldn't feel overly confident about the Redskins completing that sweep. I do think that Zorn, who is 9-10 since taking over in 2008, deserves the chance to at least see how things go during the next few weeks. Can he get his players to rally around him? I really have no clue at this point.
Andrew Weber/US Presswire
Jim Zorn’s job may be in jeopardy after the Redskins’ latest defeat.

If the Redskins could somehow rally and be 4-2 heading into an important division game against the Eagles on Oct. 26, then Zorn probably deserves to finish the season. But if the Redskins don't pull out of this tailspin, then I'd expect to see owner Dan Snyder make an in-season change -- perhaps during the bye week after the Eagles game. If you make a change right now, I'm not sure you're helping anything. Snyder hired Zorn to be the head coach, playcaller and quarterbacks coach. For better or worse, he's invested a lot of time and effort in quarterback Jason Campbell. Do we actually think making defensive coordinator Greg Blache the interim head coach would spark this team? I don't think it would make much difference.

The defense should bear just as much of the blame as the offense for Sunday's loss -- maybe even more. It was manhandled in the trenches by a nondescript offensive line, and Kevin Smith surpassed 100 yards on the ground. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was supposed to transform this defense into something special, but Sunday, Lions rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford was rarely under intense pressure.

It's easy to second-guess Zorn on his decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Lions' 1-yard line early in the game, mainly because it didn't work. I didn't really have a huge issue with that decision because I thought the Skins' defense would've been up to the task. The Lions instead capitalized on the momentum of that play and drove 99 yards to make it 7-0.

You can cry all day about the questionable pass interference penalty on safety Chris Horton in the fourth quarter, but that's not where the Redskins lost the game. From the start, they couldn't match the Lions' intensity. The Redskins also should have been a desperate team, but that's not the attitude they brought to the game.

Zorn is a cerebral guy who will attempt to convince his players this week that all is not lost. But I sense that his methodical approach is beginning to wear thin in the Redskins' locker room. There just seemed to be no sense of urgency from anyone during Sunday's game.

And there was one final decision by Zorn that didn't make a lick of sense: With the ball on the Lions' 36-yard line with eight seconds left, he called for Campbell to throw short on the hitch and pitch -- and pitch. It was a clueless play, which fit pretty well with the way the Skins played Sunday.

Just from looking at a couple of different polls, I think it's safe to say that at least 65 percent of Redskins fans would like to see Zorn fired right now. But in this case, I don't think a firing will jumpstart the team. Washington has so many flaws that it's hard to really pinpoint anything.

Stafford, a quarterback who'd barely completed 50 percent of his passes through two games, had his way with the Skins' secondary, and the Lions were able to rush for 154 yards. It's time to admit that the Redskins are one of the worst teams in the NFL.

To single out Zorn at this point is the wrong way to go. But then, Snyder has never let logic stand in the way of a rash decision.

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