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Monday, January 4, 2010
Zorn fired after 12-20 run with Redskins

ESPN.com news services

Jim Zorn has been fired as the head coach of the Washington Redskins, the team announced Monday morning.

The Redskins were 4-12 this season, capped by a 23-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. It was the team's worst record in 15 years. Zorn was 12-20 in two seasons in Washington.

"No one in the organization is satisfied with our record over the last two years," Redskins owner Dan Snyder said in a statement released by the team. "And I am sure that Jim would concur with that statement. It has been painful for him, too. I certainly accept responsibility for mistakes that I have made. I am hopeful that our fans will accept my commitment and pledge to deliver a franchise that can compete in the NFC East every season."

Bruce Allen, Washington's new executive vice president and general manager, said Zorn was informed of the decision shortly after the team returned from San Diego.

"I just know that last place is not Redskins football," Allen said. "Last place two years in a row is not Redskins football."

Zorn left team headquarters with a security escort around 4:45 a.m. without commenting, according to The Washington Post.

"Bruce Allen spent many hours examining the football operations, and we are both determined to do whatever it takes to build a championship team," Snyder said. "That process begins today."

The Redskins held a news conference Monday to announce what had been speculated about and rumored on for months, ever since Washington lost to Detroit in Week 3. Zorn later was stripped of his play-calling responsibilities prior to an Oct. 26 game against Philadelphia.

Neither Snyder nor Zorn were made available for comment.

One Redskins player said the team called a team meeting for 11:30 a.m. Monday, at which time the players were expected to be debriefed about Zorn's dismissal and in which direction the franchise will go.

With Zorn out of the picture, the focus will shift to whether Snyder can do enough to lure former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan to Washington.

"We're in the process of talking to people," Allen said. "We have a good game plan of what we're going to do."

An official within the NFL told The Associated Press that Shanahan spoke to Allen by phone on Monday as the team moved quickly.

It's no secret that Snyder admires Shanahan. The two men have known each other since the late 1990s, when they attended the same Pro Bowl, stayed in the same hotel in Hawaii, and wound up having dinner together one night. Since then, the two men have remained in contact and have had a friendly relationship.

Shanahan would represent a higher-profile coach than Zorn, who was hired as the Redskins' offensive coordinator before being promoted before he had coached an NFL game.

Zorn was peppered with questions after Washington lost its regular-season finale to San Diego.

Asked about the reports that he would be fired Monday, Zorn responded: "I would not even comment on that. There are a lot of things, I'm sure, out there as far as stories. There already has been. So I get that. I'm working on our team meeting, our offseason schedule, and until I'm told that I'm on any other effort, I'm getting ready."

He also said: "I'm still reeling from this loss. Anything that I say about my future here would just be babbling along. I'm going to be forthright and ask and get things moving, but I certainly want to be the head coach here."

Zorn started 6-2 as a rookie head coach last season, but Washington struggled down the stretch and finished 8-8.

This year's team has been dogged by numerous injuries, a lack of depth and off-the-field distractions, but also by an inability of Zorn's West Coast offense to consistently find the end zone.

Zorn appeared to be on the brink of being fired in October, when play-calling responsibilities were taken from him after a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs dropped the Redskins to 2-4.

Those responsibilities were given to consultant Sherman Lewis, who had been retired and was calling bingo games at a senior center and delivering Meals on Wheels two weeks earlier.

At the time, Zorn stopped short of saying he was given an ultimatum, but said he would comply with the request "because I want to stay here and win."

Days later, then-executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said Zorn would finish out the season. Cerrato abruptly resigned last month.

Zorn, formerly a quarterbacks coach with the Seattle Seahawks, joined the Redskins as an offensive coordinator in 2008.

Two weeks later, he found himself the team's head coach after the team had interviewed coaching candidates for a month.

He had never been a coordinator for an NFL team before the Redskins hired him and wasn't even on Snyder's list of candidates when Joe Gibbs retired at the end of the 2007 season.

Whoever follows Zorn will be the seventh coach hired by the Redskins since Snyder bought the team in 1999. Snyder has interviewed assistant coach Jerry Gray for the job, according to the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which monitors minority hiring in the NFL.

Gray's interview was an effort to comply with the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to consider a minority candidate for its head-coach position. With the Rooney Rule satisfied, the Redskins are free to act quickly to hire a replacement for Zorn.

"I don't know what to expect. Nobody does," Gray said after Sunday's game. "Bruce is going to evaluate everybody."

Asked if he would like the job, Gray said: "Well, if it's open and they call me, of course I do."

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.