The FOX Sports announcing crew was here today, Dick Stockton, Brian Billick, and Brian Baldinger along with their producer and director, all watching practice and holding production meetings in preparation for Sunday’s game.
Through last season, Billick was the Baltimore Ravens head coach, a legendary offensive mind on a team that relied heavily on its defense, with quarterbacks who never quite seemed able to execute his system. So he seemed like a logical person to ask about Jim Zorn’s first season here. Our conversation was short, but both illuminating and encouraging, at least with an eye toward the long-term.
This is Jim Zorn’s first season calling plays for an NFL team. He’s clearly got ideas on offense, but what adjustments will he have to make as a head coach?
He doesn’t have to make any adjustments as a play caller. He’s been around long enough, he’s played in the NFL, however many, eleven, twelve years. The challenge for Jim is just putting all the pieces together as quarterback coach, offensive coordinator, dealing with the media. There’s a lot to be dealt with that … I don’t care how well you try to prepare yourself. Until you’ve lived it and created YOUR routine — and his routine’s gonna be different than Mike Holmgren’s was, so he’s got to find his rhythm and his own routine as a head guy.
In your years in Baltimore, you were an offensive-minded guy on a team best known for its defense. Based on last week’s game, it looks like Zorn might be in a similar situation. How does he deal with that?
When you become a head coach, you’re no longer an offensive head coach or a defensive head coach. You’re the head coach. Now, certainly, he’s going to be held accountable not only for 16 wins, but for 1200 playcalls. And that’s a tough double-whammy to take.
The fans obviously need to look for IMPROVEMENT. Is the team looking better this week than they were last week? It’s a work in progress. Fans don’t like to hear that. You want to win now, you’ve got some assets, but by the same token it is a learning curve not just for a new offense, but a new STYLE of offense. Defensively, it’s pretty much the same system, a little bit different under Greg Blache, so obviously you can expect them to go about it a little bit differently. But the offense is clearly on a learning curve.
What’d you see from that offense in practice, then?
You know what? The ball wasn’t on the ground a lot. It looked like the typical “west coast” practice in the sense that it was very high tempo and not a lot of balls on the ground. And that’s a good thing.