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As New Head Coach, Zorn's a Fast Starter


His team found a way to turn back Detroit 25-17 on the road last Sunday, so Jim Zorn now stands at 6-2 at the midway point of his first year as Redskins head coach.


Most first-year NFL head coaches stumble and bumble their way through it--at least initially. Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, for instance, lost his first five games in 1981.

Certainly it's much too soon to compare Zorn to other head coaches, let alone Hall of Famers, but now that Zorn has won six of his first eight games, the question becomes: What's the ultimate standard for a head coach in his first NFL try?

George Seifert. Chuck Knox. Red Miller. George Allen, too.

Now, that's a list of first-year head coaches Zorn wouldn't mind joining.

In modern NFL history (since 1970), the best season for a first-year head coach was turned in by George Seifert for the 49ers in 1989. Siefert took over a ready-made club coming off a Super Bowl title under Bill Walsh.

His club went 14-2 to win the NFC West, then steamrolled Minnesota 41-13 and the Los Angeles Rams 30-3 in the playoffs. Seifert's San Francisco team then routed Denver 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV.

Red Miller coached Denver to a 12-2 finish in 1977. Winners of the AFC West, the Broncos turned back Pittsburgh 34-21 and Oakland 20-17 to qualify for Super Bowl XII. Dallas handled Denver 27-10 in that championship encounter.

In 1973, Chuck Knox went 12-2 in his first year with the Rams. Los Angeles, which won the NFC West, lost to Dallas 27-16 in the divisional playoffs.

Zorn, of course, has ties to Knox and considers him a coaching mentor. Zorn played quarterback for Knox in Seattle in 1983-84.

When Zorn first wanted to try his hand at coaching, it was Knox who he approached first. Knox actually discouraged Zorn from the idea, but Zorn persisted and made his way up through the college and NFL coaching ranks to the Redskins' top spot.

In terms of Redskins history, the most successful first-year head coach is George Allen, whose 1971 team went 9-4-1 before losing at San Francisco 24-20 in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

It bears repeating that the standards set by Seifert, Miller, Knox and Allen are far off in the distance for Zorn.

But at this point, Zorn has exceeded expectations as a first-year head coach.

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