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The Sons Of NFL Coaches, Scott Turner and Ken Zampese Team Up To Lead Redskins Offense


At some point during the hiring process, Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera approached Scott Turner with a question: if he were to become offensive coordinator, who would he want the quarterbacks coach to be?

In Turner's mind, the answer was simple: Ken Zampese.

Having coached the quarterbacks in Minnesota and Carolina, Turner admired what Zampese had done with Carson Palmer and Baker Mayfield -- both No. 1 overall picks -- as well as Andy Dalton. It was clear to Turner that this was someone adept at developing young signal-callers.

Turner also knew Zampese. Their fathers, Norv Turner and Ernie Zampese, were both longtime NFL coaches, so their paths crossed often. For years, the two met for coffee at the NFL Scouting Combine before working quarterback drills together. 

Turner and Zampese see a lot more of each other nowadays. They traveled to the combine as members of the Redskins' mostly-new coaching staff, and they'll be in constant communication as they prepare for the 2020 campaign.

And while this is the first time they'll be coaching together, that familiarity will be crucial as they attempt to optimize an offensive with several young pieces.

"Getting [Zampese] here was so big for me because of how much I trust him and how much I think about him as a coach," Turner said during a live taping of "Grabbin' A Bite" at D.C. Prime in Ashburn, Virginia. "I've studied his quarterbacks, the guys he's coached, and just wanted to have him come here to help us, to help us win."

For both coaches, football is all they've ever known. Zampese was 8 years old when his father began his NFL coaching career with the San Diego Chargers in 1976, while Turner was 2 when his father started working for the Los Angeles Rams in 1985. Their fathers even worked together from 1987-1990. 

With Ernie Zampese as the offensive coordinator and Norv Turner leading the wide receivers, the Rams put up points in bunches using the "Air Coryell" offense, which Ernie Zampese brought over from the Chargers. 

It's a vertically-focused scheme that hinges on rhythm and timing, and with it, and Rams were among the NFL's top 4 passing offenses from 1988-1990. Thanks in part to the Rams' success, Norv Turner got his first offensive coordinator job with the Dallas Cowboys in 1991. He still refers to Ernie Zampese as one of his biggest mentors.

Both coaches continued to implement the Air Coryell offense throughout their careers. Ernie Zampese moved on to coordinator positions with the Cowboys and New England Patriots and then served as an offensive consultant for three teams. His career ended in Washington in 2004. Norv Turner, meanwhile, is three-time head coach (Redskins, Raiders and Chargers) who has been an offensive coordinator for seven franchises. In 2019, he served as a special assistant to then-head coach Ron Rivera in Carolina.

Turner and Zampese have followed in their father's footsteps, as they have a combined 29 years of NFL coaching experience entering the 2020 season. Together, they'll implement their own version of the Air Coryell with the Redskins.

"It's cliche to say, but just a team that's going to attack the defense," Turner said. "We're going to try and push the ball down the field in the passing game, and we're going to be physical up front in the running game."

With Zampese in place, Turner said he will not have to worry about the team's quarterbacks. He trusts Zampese to teach them everything necessary to thrive in the Redskins' offensive scheme, just as he's done with other young signal-callers in other places.

Zampese's coaching style relies on accountability and reliability, and he'll expect as much from second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins. He will not wait on Haskins, either; it'll be up to the 2019 first-round pick to match Zampese's pace when learning the offense, recognizing defenses and putting himself in the best position to be a franchise player.

Above all, though, Zampese will preach communication, discipline and respect -- all of which he gleaned from his father growing up. At that time, Zampese did not know if he wanted to become an NFL coach. But he saw how his dad treated others, cultivating longstanding relationships during his four decades of coaching.

"Everyone that my dad was around always left with a smile."

Zampese will attempt to foster similar relationships in Washington, and what better place to start than with his offensive coordinator and fellow son of an NFL coach? After all, their correspondence will be pivotal in determining the Redskins' offensive future.

"It makes the communication really easy right out of the gate because there's a mutual respect and a history behind both of us in this system and in football," Zampese said of Turner. "It makes it smooth right out of the gate, and it's fun because it keeps our families together, it keeps our dads involved and it's a lot of fun."