Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kiddie Contract

So then I lay under the bus like this...

A little light has been shed on why things are happening they way they are this week and it has to do with verbiage in Redskins head coach Jim Zorn's contract, verbiage that no top drawer NFL coach would tolerate.

Brief review of timeline: Redskins lose to Chiefs, in the aftermath of the game Sunday night coach Zorn meets with shadow general manager Vinny Cerrato who suggests coach Zorn relinquish playcalling to lighten the heavy load of running the whole team. Coach Zorn does not disagree he is overburdened and agrees to turn playcalling duties over to a person to be determined later who turns out to be offensive consultant Sherman Lewis who has been out of football for five seasons and been with the team for less than three weeks.

Today's reporting reveals that in that meeting after the Chiefs game coach Zorn initially refused to concede then, and get this, the lawyers were right there with copies of coach Zorn's contract. It was pointed out to coach Zorn that his contract mandated compliance with the owner's requests, apparently any and all requests, even those pertaining to principle coaching duties.

Today's Washington Post story lightly references this interaction with the lawyers, some additional detail can be found in today's Washington Express, the tabloid daily I pick up on Metro, it is owned by the WaPo and runs mostly condensed WaPo content. There is no link to the Expressified version of the story and I wonder why it was not present in the WaPo full version. The link to today's Express issue in PDF is here, the story is on page 15. Here is the portion of the Express piece relevant to coach Zorn's contract:

Three sources said Zorn has told associates that before he left FedEx Field for home Sunday evening, he had discussions with Redskins laywers in addition to Vinny Cerrato, the team's executive vice president of football operations. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Zorn was told by the Redskins officials that he would be fired if he did not give up his play-calling responsibilities.

The lawyers, who the sources did not identify, produced Zorn's contract and reiterated to him that he had to do as Redskins owner Daniel Snyder wished. Through a team spokesman, Zorn and team officials declined to comment.

"They went to the point of pulling out his contract and said, 'You have to do whatever the owner tells you to do,'" [Hall of Fame receiver and coach Zorn's friend Steve] Largent told a Seattle radio station.

I presume one of the lawyers present for this interaction was David Donovan, the team's general counsel. There are a few takeaways from this story:

1. Redskins coaches should always be accompanied by their lawyers. If the team is going to pull horseshit like sic the lawyers after football games then coach Zorn should be represented as well.

2. The well is so polluted that one side of the arrangement is now talking through its attorneys.

3. Coach Zorn signed a really weak rookie coach contract if the owner has the ability to list the head coach's coaching responsibilities, dictate who has them and how the team is coached.

As I read on another blog today and cannot find the link to, Jim Zorn is a popular guy in the NFL, a lot of the guys he played with are still around in official capacities, a lot are in the NFL advocacy business and he has touched many current and former players. Dan Snyder is not popular. Although coach Zorn may not score another two million dollar per year deal in the near future, he will not hurt for work. So I hope this is coach Zorn sticking to his principles as his nuts get cut off again and again and not him desperately hanging for a legitimate firing so he can get paid.

Does anyone really think Mike Shanahan or Bill Cowher would accept this type of clause in his contract? Does anyone think these guys or any name brand NFL coach would want to come here, even if such a clause were not in his contract, after watching how this team has treated this coach on the way down to the gutter? Rich Tandler:

Players, coaches, scouts, and all other prospective employees will be considerably more difficult and more expensive to come by now that people know that the guy in charge left Jim Zorn twisting in the wind when Zorn was guilty of nothing more than being unable to coax any production out of an offense that had been left without a competent line due to the incompetence of Dan Snyder and his sidekick Vinny Cerrato.

You judge character by seeing how people treat those with no power over them. In this instance, Snyder is coming up way short.

Dan Snyder and Jim Zorn: Nick Wass / AP photo from here.