Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maybe Playcaller-Off-the-Bench Is A Better Idea

Would he hand the card over? Could he?

The New York Times' great Fifth Down NFL blog has a silly post up right now, positing that perhaps the Redskins' fortunes might turn around if the coach was willing to put in a relief quarterback when Jason Campbell started struggling.

In the first place this is the MacGuffin of the post, the thing that sets up the plot but really has nothing to do with the story. The rest is throwaway. Bretherton even gets in a topical but totally nonsensical reference to Robert Henson's Twitter fail, the graf literally appears to have been accidentally cut and pasted in from another post.

Setting aside the fact that quarterbacks are not subbed in and out in the modern NFL, at least not healthy starting quarterbacks on teams planning to make the playoffs, the problem with the Redskins is more with head coach Jim Zorn's playcalling than with Jason Campbell's play.

The receiver option on the second play from scrimmage against the Giants, the halfback option to Clinton Portis on what was already a passing down, running wide on fourth and one at the Rams goal line.

Even adjusting for poor receiver play and poor run blocking, the playcalling seems uninspired and at times bizarre. So I need to ask this question:

Just how tightly is Jim Zorn bound to the playcalling duties? Could he ever consider giving them up for the good of the team?

So far it seems as though coach Zorn does not believe his playcalling, strategy or gameplans are the problem. Maybe they are not, we do know for sure he does not think so, coach Zorn believes the problem is execution.

Which is true but playcalling and execution are not mutually exclusive.

There are many examples of coaches giving up or taking playcalling duties for the good of the team, it may yet come to that for Jim Zorn to show the team is more important than he and his playcalling prerogative.

Andy Reid periodically turns playcalling over to Marty Mornhinweg, probably the best example of this was the 2006 Redskins at Eagles game, Brian Westbrook ran for 115 yards and the Eagles won 27-3. That was also incidentally Mark Brunell's last start for Washington. Marty continues on the Eagles staff now and he and Andy Reid have a great relationship, so who calls the plays is not always about where you stand with the organization.

Going the other way, Giants head coach Jim Fassel took away playcalling from Sean Payton after seven games in 2002, after which New York went from 13 points a game to 26 points a game. At the time it seemed like a career killer for Sean, since then Jim Fassel has sort of disappeared and Sean Payton has become a pretty good coach, so giving up playcalling is not the kiss of career death.

Of course for Redskins fans, Joe Gibbs gave up playcalling duties after the 2005 season, hiring and handing them over to Al Saunders, for two seasons there was much handwringing and teeth gnashing about whether Al was any good, or if Joe even gave him the freedom to call the offense he wanted, so it is never really about the person or personality calling the plays but rather the execution and results.

But who would call the plays for Washington? The obvious choice would be Sherman Smith, a veteran of both Jim Zorn's beloved west coast offensive schemes as well as the run oriented offenses in Tennessee with Eddie George and LenDale White.

Has Sherm ever called plays at the NFL level? I have no idea, let us assume not in any significant count.

But so what, Jim Zorn never did either.

Think about it coach Zorn, because even if you are not, others are for you.

Jim Zorn: Getty Images from here.