Ravens hire Zorn as QB coach

Ex-Redskins head coach, former NFL QB will continue Flacco's education

January 31, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

The Ravens named Jim Zorn as their quarterbacks coach Saturday, the most intriguing and high-profile hire by coach John Harbaugh.

Zorn, 56, was fired by the Washington Redskins on Jan. 4 after a disastrous second season as their head coach. The Ravens, though, were overwhelmed by his experience: 11 seasons as an NFL quarterback, 11 seasons as a respected NFL quarterbacks coach and a familiarity with their offense.

"That's a great resume for us," Harbaugh said.

Zorn's primary goal is to continue the development of Joe Flacco into an elite, franchise quarterback. Zorn becomes only the second quarterbacks coach for Flacco, replacing Hue Jackson (who joined the Oakland Raiders as their offensive coordinator Tuesday).

"Joe Flacco is a really good young QB, so I'm definitely excited about working with him," Zorn told The Washington Post. "Whether it's a perfect fit, well, that'll be a good question to answer as I go along here. I hope it is. I believe it's going to be a great situation."

Zorn added: "But I'm not going to presume that I'm going to come in and all of a sudden Joe Flacco is just going to fall all over himself and say, 'Oh, this is great,' " Zorn said Saturday. "I've got to earn the right to speak into his life, to speak into his game, after I just see what's there."

Although he took heavy criticism as the Redskins' head coach, Zorn is a highly regarded mentor for young quarterbacks.

As the Detroit Lions' quarterbacks coach in 1998, he was instrumental in helping rookie Charlie Batch adjust to the NFL. Batch's 88.3 passer rating that season ranks as the fourth-highest rookie mark in NFL history.

As the Seattle Seahawks' quarterbacks coach from 2001 to 2007, Zorn was pivotal in the growth of Matt Hasselbeck, who went to three Pro Bowls and set 12 franchise records while working with Zorn.

"I am excited to hear about the addition of Coach Zorn to our staff," Flacco said in a statement released by his representatives. "The amount of success that coach Zorn has achieved on the field both as a player and coach is going to be a huge asset to me personally, and to us as an organization."

Zorn's handling of quarterbacks comes from personal experience. An undrafted rookie, he became the charismatic leader of the expansion Seahawks for their first 7 1/2 seasons.

Throwing to his favorite target, Steve Largent, Zorn was named the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1976 and became the second player inducted into the team's Ring of Honor.

"Jim played successfully in the league for a long time," Harbaugh said, "and certainly understands what an NFL quarterback goes through."

When Jackson left the Ravens on Tuesday, Zorn immediately expressed interest in the job at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

He is looking to repair his reputation after becoming the latest coach to fail in revitalizing the Redskins under owner Daniel Snyder. With Zorn, Washington finished last in the NFC East twice and lost 18 of its past 24 games.

The Redskins struggled last season because of numerous injuries and the inability of Zorn's West Coast offense to reach the end zone consistently. After Washington didn't score more than 17 points in its first eight games in 2009, the front office stripped Zorn of the play-calling duties and gave them to Sherm Lewis, who came out of retirement.

Zorn was initially hired by the Redskins as their offensive coordinator in January 2008, but he was promoted to head coach a couple of weeks later by Snyder.

"I'm very excited about having a job, No. 1, and then having a job with another excellent organization," Zorn told the Post. "The Ravens were in the playoffs this year, and they're not losing too many guys, so I think it's just a really good situation."

He is still under contract with the Redskins for 2010 for about $2.4 million, according to the Post. It is believed the Redskins will be responsible for paying Zorn the remainder of his 2010 salary minus what he earns from the Ravens.

"I've gotten to know Jim the last couple of years," Harbaugh said. "He's a good, kind and decent man. He's an exciting addition to our staff."

Note: Troy Smith wants to play for the Browns, the Ravens backup quarterback recently told ESPN Radio's Cleveland affiliate. Smith, who grew up in Cleveland, has occasionally talked about his affection for the city since he was drafted by the Ravens in 2007. When asked about his desire to play for the Browns, Smith told ESPN Radio: "There is no doubt about it. It has always been a childhood dream of mine."

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