ASHBURN, Va. - -As Redskins players filed into the locker room after Friday's practice, most hadn't heard that executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato had stated publicly that Jim Zorn would finish out the season as Washington's coach. Told of the news, linebacker London Fletcher smiled and pumped his first.
"Wow," he said. "Finally some good news around here."
It has been a difficult few weeks for the Redskins, the team's struggles on the field intimately tied to the uncertainty off it. But in assuring Zorn that he would have his job for at least the remainder of the season, the front office has sought to stabilize a team that was awash in confusion and drama.
"We was the soap opera for the NFL for the last two weeks," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "Hopefully it'll calm down a little bit."
With the offense struggling and management stripping Zorn of his play-calling responsibilities after Sunday's loss to Kansas City, speculation about Zorn's job security had intensified. Speaking on his weekly radio show Friday morning, Cerrato said he wanted to make "a few things perfectly clear."
"Jim Zorn is the head coach of the Washington Redskins, and will be for the rest of this season," Cerrato said on ESPN 980's "Inside the Red Zone," "and hopefully into the future."
Cerrato had declined to discuss Zorn's future in recent days and weeks. He hasn't spoken publicly since deciding Sunday to install Sherman Lewis, brought out of retirement 2 1/2 weeks ago to serve as an offensive consultant, as the team's new play-caller. Zorn did not agree with the decision and briefly considered quitting that night, according to his friend and former teammate, Steve Largent.
After practice Friday, Zorn said he did not need a public declaration of support.
"My deal is, I'm the head football coach. I want to be here for the next 10 years," Zorn said. "That's my story. I have a contract; it says what it says."
Zorn said he did not hear the morning's radio show and said Cerrato had not offered similar assurances in private.
Cerrato was not made available to comment Friday.
Zorn did concede that it could alleviate a big distraction surrounding this team.
"If it comforts the players, awesome," he said.
His players echoed that sentiment after practice. Players say they can now play games without worrying about whether their performance will cost Zorn his job.
"Now guys don't have to worry about thinking about it anymore or even talking about it," Campbell said. "We just worry about going out and playing on Sundays and Mondays and not feel like you're playing for certain reasons. You're just playing to win."
Despite Cerrato's vote of confidence, the final decision likely belongs to owner Dan Snyder, who has been through six coaches in his 10 years as owner. Snyder has made no similar proclamation that Zorn's job is safe.
"Dan has never spoken to the media during the season for over a decade now," Cerrato said. "And Dan's thing is, he feels that during the season, the stage belongs to the head of football operations, the coaching staff, the players. That's why he doesn't talk, all right?"