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Saturday, October 4, 2008

What are Philadelphia Writers Writing About This Week?

Similar Paths for Jim Zorn, Andy Reid

By Ray Parrillo - Staff Writer, The Philadelphia Inquirer
October 2, 2008

The career path for an NFL head coach usually includes one of three stops: You've either been an offensive or defensive coordinator for a successful team, a successful college coach, or you've been fired as a head coach by another team but look good enough to recycle.

Andy Reid traveled none of those routes.

Neither did Jim Zorn.

Both graduated from the Mike Holmgren School of Coaching after majoring in the West Coast offense. It's a crowded class, but only Reid and Zorn assumed top jobs directly after serving under Holmgren as quarterbacks coach - Reid with Green Bay and Zorn with Seattle.

Reid and Zorn will match wits Sunday when the Eagles play Washington in an important division game at Lincoln Financial Field. Zorn and the Redskins made their presence felt in the NFC East on Sunday by defeating the Cowboys in Dallas, 26-24. It was their third consecutive win after an opening-day loss to the Giants.

After his news conference yesterday, Reid said he thought he was well-prepared to become a head coach in 1999 even though he hadn't been a college head coach or coordinator in the league, because you can learn most of what you need to know as a quarterbacks coach.

"It [being a QB coach] gives you an opportunity to see everything and evaluate everything," Reid said. "You've got to know every phase of the offensive game and then at the same time, you have to be very well-schooled on what defenses are doing. The part that gets left out is the special teams. I was lucky enough to coach special teams.

"And then Jim played in the NFL for a number of years, so he got to see a few different people do their thing and he learned from that."

Unlike Reid, an offensive lineman in college, Zorn, 55, was a successful NFL quarterback during nine seasons (1976-84) with the Seahawks. But like Reid and most other Holmgren disciples, Zorn has an obsession with details, a passion for play-calling, and an instinct for developing quarterbacks. The difference, aside from experience, is that Reid and Donovan McNabb have been together for a decade. Zorn is in his first season with Jason Campbell.

In his fourth year, Campbell is learning a new offensive system for the fourth straight season. Yet his transformation into an accurate, reliable passer is apparent.

Campbell is second in the NFC with a 102.2 passer rating and is the only quarterback in the NFL who has started a game without throwing an interception. He had a career 77.3 rating coming into the season. Campbell has completed 65.3 percent of his throws, nearly 8 percentage points higher than what he had entering the season.

"It looks like he and Jim have a good relationship," Reid said. "He has great command of that offense right now."

It sounds as if Zorn, in developing Campbell, has more emotion than than Reid, which is not difficult. Laughing, Campbell called Zorn "a wild man" yesterday during a teleconference.

"It's a great relationship," Campbell said. "He's a pretty emotional guy. I call him the wild man. You never know what you're going to get out of him during quarterback drills."

Zorn understands Campbell's reference to him as a wild man.

"I'm very competitive. I love to win and I demand a lot," he said. "I'm very hands-on. I try to pay attention to the details. I don't miss much with Jason. Partly because I played and partly because I care and I know what I'm looking for - I'm just trying to get him to play freed up and play with the same kind of intensity."

As they study the videotape of one another's offense, Reid and Zorn see a lot of similarities. They have built their offenses on the principles they learned from Holmgren.

"In this system, everybody's got the basics, the foundations that made this offensive system so difficult to defend," Zorn said. "So I'm sure we have the basics. We may have a little bit different terminology, but the concepts are the same. Then we branch out a little bit. We try different things. This offense is quite flexible. It allows for some creativeness."

Zorn originally was hired to be the Redskins' offensive coordinator. Two weeks after his interview, they offered him the head coaching job, succeeding Joe Gibbs. The step up in positions was fine with him, as long as he maintained control of the offense and the play-calling.

"I didn't want to give that up," Zorn said. "I felt very strongly about what Mike did in Seattle and even what Andy's doing in Philadelphia, and it can be done. Yeah, I definitely wanted to stay with that tack, if you will, and it's working so far."

Reid and Zorn may have taken similar paths to their first NFL head coaching jobs, but Reid had to build the Eagles from the bottom up, while Zorn inherited a team that made the playoffs last season.

"He took over a team that I think was very well-coached," Reid said. "It's very easy for a new head coach to come in and goof it up. I think the thing Jim has done is come in and challenge the players to take it to another level. They've responded. I'm not in his locker room or his meetings, but however he is delivering it, they're listening and performing."