‘Outsider’ Zorn Hired … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

When Todd Haley was done putting together his first Chiefs coaching staff, he brought in nine coaches and kept six. For his second season, Haley brought in nine coaches and kept six.

Now, in the third season of the Haley Era his coaching staff is complete for the 2011 season with the hire of quarterback coach Jim Zorn. He brought in one coach and kept 14.

After three attempts if Haley does not have a staff in house that is good for him, he has nobody to blame but himself. He’s shuffled the deck twice, and this time just replaced one man who departed – offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

Continuity has become a major part of Haley’s approach and there are obvious reasons for that. Maybe the biggest is that the head coach does not want to go backwards in any fashion after a 10-6 season with a division title. Haley is going into year No. 3 on his contract of four years. Clark Hunt could step in and give him an extension right now, but that’s not likely to happen. Hunt likes his employees uncomfortable and concerned about their jobs and futures.

If Haley hasn’t taken that all into account, then he’s not nearly as smart as he’s shown over the past two seasons.

That’s what makes the hiring of Zorn a move worth dissecting because it doesn’t contribute to continuity and it broke one of the major elements that have gone into the formation of the Chiefs coaching staffs for the three years that Haley and GM Scott Pioli has been on campus.  

Zorn has no connection to Haley, Pioli, Bill Parcells or Bill Belichick. He’s not part of that family tree in any fashion. He did not coach with Haley at the Jets, Bears, Cowboys or Cardinals. He never played or coached for the Browns, Jets or Patriots. Among the major assistant coaches on the Chiefs staff, there’s only one other member who did not have paths that crossed previously with Haley – defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas. (Assistant-assistants like Pat Perles (offensive line), Adam Zimmer (defense), Nick Sirianni (offense) and strength and conditioning assistants Mike Clark and Brent Salazar did not work previously with Haley.)

What brings Zorn to the Chiefs remains largely unknown since Haley was not available to speak yesterday about the hiring. He was quoted by the team in a statement as saying “As a former head coach with more than two decades of experience playing and coaching the quarterback position in the NFL, Jim has a tremendous working knowledge of the game and he will play a big role in the continued development of our football team.”

Whether Zorn will have major input in game planning or play calling in the passing game is a question waiting for an answer. Based on Haley’s statement, his job is to handle the team’s quarterbacks, starting with Matt Cassel.

That’s going to be an important job for Zorn, and one that will test all his skills that he used in the past to develop quarterbacks for head coaches Bobby Ross in Detroit (1998-2000), Mike Holmgren in Seattle (2001-07) and John Harbaugh last season in Baltimore, along with his two seasons as head coach of the Redskins.

He worked with Charlie Batch, Matt Hasselbeck, Jason Campbell and Joe Flacco over 13 years. Combined, they threw 244 touchdown passes against 150 interceptions, with five of the last six seasons sporting a completion percentage above 60 percent. When he was fired, Flacco was upset and reacted publicly.

“I’m not happy about it, and they know I’m not happy about it,” Flacco told the Baltimore Sun. “I’m not going to be happy about it for a long time.

“I believe I benefited from him as a player. He helped me play with confidence. Come Sunday, he had me prepared to play against any defense. He was a big part of the offense.”

Nearly all of Flacco’s statistics improved in one season under Zorn. Compared to the previous season, nearly all of Flacco’s stats improved with his TD passes (25) and passer rating (93.6) increased, while his INTs (10) decreased.

Flacco praised Zorn’s “straight forward approach” and said the coach talked through everything from a player’s perspective. Essentially, it appears Zorn was fired by the Ravens because of problems in the relationship between him and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

Any head coach and quarterback relationship needs a buffer, someone between the two who can put out fires when they develop. And, they do develop. One need only remember when Haley yanked Cassel from the Tennessee game because he was straying off the planned approach.

Understand this: Haley and Cassel share several personality traits, the biggest being their competitiveness. These guys are different enough to look at a situation from varying views, but to back up their thoughts with that shared competitiveness. It can be an explosive combination on game-day, on Tuesday when the game plan is put together, on Wednesday and Thursday when the game plan gets implemented.

There’s nothing unusual about this type of relationship between head coach and QB. It’s not something peculiar to Haley and Cassel. It happens all the time in the league. In fact, if it did not there would be concerns about the personality of head coach and player.

Zorn has been in the middle of these types of situation for years. First, as a starting quarterback for the better part of seven seasons for Seattle and since in 14 seasons as quarterbacks coach and head coach. It’s a background that will prove very important to keeping the offense moving forward.

It will also be important in the development of Cassel. There’s no questioning the improvement that he made from 2009 to 2010. For the Chiefs to move forward, he will have to move his play forward as well. His completion percentage must get better than last season’s 58.2 percent. His yards per attempt must get better than 6.9 yards.

These are small steps that pay big dividends and will require more practice work, more tape sessions and more skull sessions. It will help Cassel that his conversations will be with a guy who has been there on every side of the equation. Most of Zorn’s time coaching QBs in the league was under the West Coast offense that Holmgren took to Seattle when he left Green Bay. But he has experience as a player and coach in many different offensive styles

Check the numbers below. They indicate that Hasselbeck, Campbell and Flacco all showed improvement in their production under Zorn. He has the skills and the knowledge to make a big contribution to the 2011 Chiefs offense. Whether he does, will depend on how well he can navigate between Todd Haley, Bill Muir and the rest of the coaching staff and Matt Cassel and the rest of the quarterbacks.

Season

Team

Starter

Att

Cmp

%

Yds

TD

INT

Sk.

Rating

2010

Baltimore

Flacco

489

306

62.6

3,622

25

10

40

93.6

2009*

Washington

Campbell

507

327

64.5

3,618

20

15

43

86.4

2008*

” ”

Campbell

506

315

62.3

3,245

13

6

38

84.3

2007

Seattle

Hasselbeck

562

352

62.6

3,966

28

12

33

91.4

2006

” ”

Hasselbeck

371

210

56.6

2,442

18

15

34

76.0

2005

” ”

Hasselbeck

449

294

65.5

3,459

24

9

24

98.2

2004

” ”

Hasselbeck

474

279

58.9

3,382

22

15

30

83.2

2003

” ”

Hasselbeck

513

313

61.0

3,841

26

15

42

88.9

2002

” ”

Hasselbeck

419

267

63.7

3,075

15

10

26

87.8

2001

” ”

Hasselbeck

321

176

54.8

2,023

7

8

38

70.9

2000

Detroit

Batch

412

221

53.6

2,489

13

15

31

67.3

1999

” ”

Batch/ Frerotte

558

326

58.4

4,074

22

14

64

83.9

1998

” ”

Batch

303

173

57.1

2,278

11

6

37

83.5

*-head coach of Redskins.

NFL PERSONNEL FILE FOR TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15

  • CHARGERS – placed franchise player designation on WR Vincent Jackson.
  • CHIEFS – named Jim Zorn as quarterback coach.
  • COLTS – placed franchise player designation on QB Peyton Manning.
  • EAGLES – placed franchise player designation on QB Michael Vick; placed transition player designation on K David Akers.
  • JETS – placed franchise player designation on LB David Harris.
  • RAVENS – placed franchise player designation on DT Haloti Ngata.
  • TITANS – named Chris Palmer offensive coordinator.

6 Responses to “‘Outsider’ Zorn Hired … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • February 16, 2011  - ED says:

    I think Zorn is great hire he’ll make Cassel a much better QB. Now its up to Pioli to get Cassel more weapons in the passing game. Ravens defense exposed the lack of weapons we having when trying to throw the football. And as for Haley making staff changes. Media and fans need to understand that’s the life of being an NFL head coach. Your assistants move on to better jobs because maybe they get elevated to head coach. This isn’t the 60′s or 70′s where assistants stay around forever. I know KC situation is different but come on. The only major changes always occured at OC. Gailey wasn’t good fit who’s going to argue with that move with the way team played this past season. Crennel over Pendergast come on defense is clearly better. Last Weis decided he’s not doing the NFL grind anymore. That’s not Haley fault. Did him and Weis always get alone? NO. But what head coach and OC does. Weis could’ve took OC job with another NFL team he chose go back to college which lets me know his decision was more about wanting to be part of the college game than it being a problem working with Haley. Media kills me with this Haley is impossible to work for myth. Who else do you see leaving and I never heard his assistants bash him. Anyways there was no ties with Zorn but Haley did stay true to his philosophy in finding the right guy and with this hire he did.


  • February 16, 2011  - RW says:

    Zorn has two formidable tasks to achieve:

    1) Get consistentcy out of Cassel
    2) Get along with Haley

    Those two are tough enough but perhaps achievable? Then, Zorn will have to develop a solid backup QB which the Chiefs don’t have at present but might remedy in the draft? (This may be the primary reason he was hired when you come to think about it)


  • February 16, 2011  - el cid says:

    When you look behind the hiring, I am guessing of course, I see Haley deciding that for Cassel to get to the constant playoff QB, he needs help. Not just a OL but coaching. Specifically, a coach who handles QB, hello, Mr Zorn. Weis showed everyone that when you have the right coaching support, Cassel is markedly better at QB. Weis left, and a coach like Zorn is needed to continue Cassel’s developement.


  • February 16, 2011  - Anonymous says:

    Forget Cassel. What can Zorn do with our two gawd awful back-ups?


  • February 16, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Jim Zorn is such a thoroughly decent man and accomplished coach that it looks like a smart match for Cassel. As Bob points out, it is good to see Haley go outside his comfort zone with a coach with whom he had no connections. To me, that shows confidence and a sensitivity to Cassel as a person as much as a developing QB.

    Those who focused on Haley’s temper flare-ups have missed his smart, calculated and conservative nature. He’s a creative problem solver whose passion misleads. And while Haley will make mistakes, his self-reflection will hopefully keep them to a minimum and offset them with constructive moves like hiring Zorn.

    Right now, it looks very good on paper.


  • February 16, 2011  - el cid says:

    Haley designated with franchise tag, so we can check that debate off the list.




Get the Flash Player to see the slideshow.


Categories

Other News

Archives


RSS


Pages

Home