There was a noticeably different tone to Coach Zorn’s press conference today, a change that actually addresses some of the most common concerns about his approach during this second half of the season. There was little (if any) discussion of execution, of specific mistakes made by players, of plays that had gone wrong.
What we saw instead was a coach who seems to have fully accepted that something in his approach might need to change as well, and it was interesting to see Zorn’s blunt frankness trained on himself.
(And, I was excited to hear, one who is even willing to consider deferring the decision if he wins the coin toss.)
Here’s a fairly long transcription of the bulk of the press conference — the questions, as always, come from the assembled media members, and they’re not transcribed precisely because the microphone on my recorder doesn’t pick them up, but I’ve tried to give a sense of what the question was as best as I can remember it.
Is this situation challenging to your naturally optimistic personality?
“I’m not sure I could ask any more of the players. I just keep asking them to give more and more, and they’ve really given so much. I think at the beginning of the season we asked a lot of them, and they responded well, and I think these last six games, I think that we’ve asked a lot of them, and they’ve responded well.
“I really feel like — even before this juncture, but certainly now, I’ve got to look at myself.
“That’s one of the reasons why I gave the players an opportunity to stay away [today]. To me it’s all about me, and I need to check my plan of attack and all of our staff, we need to reevaluate what we’re doing to see if we’re going in the right direction. I really believe we’re building a good foundation, but certainly when these things get strung across the board I certainly have to take, and I do take the responsibility for some of these games just not turning out like we had planned.”
What kind of look do you need to take at yourself?
“I always ask the players to be honest when they look at the game and be very self-critical. So that’s what I’m going to be to myself, just criticize my overall coaching of this football team.
“Where do I need to improve. Not only on Sunday, but on Wednesday, and Monday. All these days, all this game planning, all the paying attention to detail, those are the things that I need to make good use of this time [for] and I will. Because it hurts. I just feel like the worst coach in America, to have to lose the way we’re losing.”
But doesn’t the talent level affect that as well?
“I don’t think that it factors in when we line up on Sunday and we’ve asked all of our players to put it on the line. I think that they risk a lot, and I think that they are putting out tremendous effort, they’re putting out tremendous emotion to come out there and play. And we can win. We can win some of these games. We really can. I just have a hard time looking at talent and saying it’s just talent, no-brainer, and move on.”
Is it just scheme that’s leading you to have problems getting a win, or did the team come out flat?
“I think that it’s all of that, and I think having to win… We ended up giving the ball up early and they ended up scoring. We ended up behind. I think that was the issue, especially in the games before when we’ve ended up behind, we’ve found it hard to win. That’s what I need to question. What can we do differently when we get ourselves in a situation where we’re behind. What actually needs to happen. That question and all of the above need to be looked at and it certainly will.”
Why the slow starts to games?
“Part of it is that our first drives have not been successful. We make up the first fifteen. It’s a coaching decision to put that group of plays out on the field, and we’ve had to punt.
“Maybe it won’t hurt to defer if we win the toss, you know what I’m saying? I willing to try anything and I feel like our offense and those players have enough confidence in themselves to get the job done in that first drive. It may be the mix we’re trying to put together.”
But there have also been defensive breakdowns early in games; what about that?
“To be honest with you, on those sudden changes, we gave that football team a short field and we allowed them to get excited about the game. That was the big issue, so we’ll look at that as well.”
Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato seemed down after the game — did they talk to you afterwards?
“I mean, we’re all down, and certainly it goes without saying that we’re all feeling bad. I think that they’ve done a tremendous job of trying to get everything that we could get going personnel wise and put this team together, and really it’s up to me to coach it, so really there’s nothing to be said.”
Have they given a hey, hang in there message?
Would that be helpful?
“Well, I have conversations with them all the time – it’s not like I’m getting the silent treatment. That part of it’s not dysfunctional; we’re all trying to work to win, but those things … we’ll work them out internally, not externally, and we’re trying to move along.”
Do you feel you have their support?
“I feel we have tremendous support from both those guys. They are passionate about this football team and want the best for it. I can say that emphatically. I can tell you that honestly.”
Do you think the players are not responding to specific coaching, or….?
“I think that’s it. Not responding to the specific coaching, and we need to be more specific. We need to notch our game up as coaches, because we’re not getting the win. But we’re getting tremendous effort – and I said this earlier – they’re giving us all they can give. I mean they’re really fighting to do a job.
“Again, our practices last week? Great. I couldn’t say, oh, we need to emotionally be there, guys, because they were, they were committed.”
You preach staying medium, but do you get rattled?
“Not rattled, but I’m deeply concerned, and I want to look internally, inside of our coaches, and it starts with me. It truly just starts with me. I’ve got enough to look at myself for the next couple of days to make sure that we can make some moves here to help get this team on the right track.
“We’ve got a huge game coming up, and I’ll say this: it can’t be like an offseason scheme evaluation where you’re looking at every single area, because only have so much time to prepare for this next game, but there is some time, and I’m going to take it.”
Do you have a way to get the pulse of the locker room?
“I will talk to our players and … our players are so good about being together as a team that I probably won’t get the real story, because they just want to win. But I think I’ve been open with these guys enough to where they can come in and speak their minds. And, again, I do think that these guys have put it all on the line every week, and they’ve been giving me great effort.”
Are you concerned about the overall communication between coaches and players?
“I’m not concerned about … what do you mean, am I “concerned” about that.”
It seems like players don’t always understand what’s going on with their roles, as with Carlos Rogers this week…
“If that’s the case then, again, there’s part of the coaching problem. But I haven’t felt that. I haven’t felt that we’ve kept players in the dark. But, again, it’s something to look at, it’s something to express.”
With the playoffs all but out of reach, is this an opportunity to evaluate some of the younger guys in increased roles?
“I think they’re already participating, and I think you can do some of that, but I’m not going to throw in the towel, ever, and we’re going out to win. We’re not necessarily going out to evaluate.
“I feel just sick that we started out so fast, and … I think about how the fans feel, how you all must feel in here, because of the progression that we started with and then to run so flat. So I think we owe it to everybody to win, and however we have to get that done we will.”
What is the owner’s temperament? Angry? Disgusted?
I don’t want to answer a question on how I think the owner feels.
What happened with Rogers this week? Coach Blache talked about his stomach illness, but he practiced after that….
“What we wanted to do as we started this game because … and really, Shawn [Springs] was a factor in it as well, because Shawn has the opportunity to play in this game because he was healthy. That was the issue. We felt like DeAngelo [Hall] was playing very well, we had two very dangerous wide receivers on the field, and we have four very good cover corners. And, unfortunately, we can [only] play two at a time when we’re not in nickel. And that was the issue.
“So we put DeAngelo out there, and certainly we were going to put Shawn out there, and that’s what happened.”
But Carlos was the #1 corner most of the season…
“Yeah, and I think it was Greg [Blache]’s and Jerry [Gray]’s consensus that we had to at that particular time, just based on … you know, that stomach illness was no trite illness. It took him down, so much so that we even got blood tests to see what was going on in there. Because usually a stomach flu, you’re over it and then you’re back. You throw up one day, feel pretty good the next day, and this took it’s toll. That factored in, and then Shawn being healthy factored in.”
Is it too early to say if Rogers and Rocky McIntosh will be starting next week?
That’s early, yeah.
Is evaluating yourself as head coach different from doing it as a position coach?
“I think that’s all a part of me being the major part of this decline, is just making sure that I take responsibility for being the head football coach, and I think a lot does fall on my shoulders, and I feel sick to my stomach thinking about having to go and do this kind of evaluation.”
Is it possible that you’re overwhelmed as rookie head coach?
“I don’t really know what that all means, but to me … if I have, I’m going to let that all take its course as I try to figure some of these thing out and why we’re losing. But I haven’t felt overwhelmed in calling plays, I haven’t felt overwhelmed in speaking with Jason’s game and trying to get him up to speed in the position, and I think I’ve gotten pretty good response. But there’s something wrong there.”
Can Jason Campbell develop if he can’t get time to throw?
“I think that’s just part of the game. You watched Eli Manning get sacked eight times in a game yesterday, that was a rough go for him. So you’ve just got to play through it. You’ve got to be able to play the next one. And that’s the thing: even if the protection breaks down, the thing that Jason’s smart enough – and I think he’s doing a tremendous job – he is playing very, very tough football, standing strong when a breakdown happens. I think he’s got tremendous talent, and I think he’s been improving as we’ve gone along.”
What about Santana Moss’s penalty, how do you feel about that?
“He truly didn’t know that pulling out his towel and wiping his shoes off was a penalty, but if you use anything as a prop, they’re gonna throw the flag. But, you know, all’s I know is that Santana’s a tremendous player and he does give us a spark just with his play. And players, I think, are trying to go to extra lengths to try to be better – better than they are – and I think you look at all the efforts our good players have given, and I’m just proud of them. I really am.”