Sherman Smith joined the Redskins this offseason as offensive coordinator. He is working closely with head coach Jim Zorn as the Redskins' transition to the West Coast offense. Smith spoke with Redskins.com and media after a recent practice:
Q: How did Jim Zorn convince you to come to the Redskins?
A: "I had told him when I came on my visit, 'My head is there, but my heart wasn't.' I had been in Tennessee for 12 years. It was really just realizing that it was a great opportunity to come here and be a part of a good organization, go to the playoffs and to coach with a guy I have a great deal of respect for. Then I met the rest of the coaching staff here and said, 'Man, we have a chance to do something special.' That is all he said, 'Just think about what we can do.'"
Q: You played with Jim Zorn in Seattle. What was he like as a quarterback?
A: "He was a good leader, good player. He did a good job. [He was] detail oriented, just like he is now as a head coach. [He was] a competitor. He demanded a lot of himself and from the people around him. That is why he was successful as a quarterback. He will be the same way as a coach."
Q: How did Jim Zorn handle the early years in Seattle when the Seahawks were an expansion team?
A: "No one expected us to be successful, but we were. We generated a lot of offense, won a few games here and there. So people were really excited about what we were doing. People weren't looking at us like we were a failure. They were saying this is an up-and-coming team with an exciting offense. We have Jim and Steve Largent, and we can run the football. People treated us like we were really doing something good."
Q: What is the new Redskins' offense going to look like?
A: "You'll see the versatility. Everyone can get the football. There are ways you can get the ball to Santana [Moss], Antwaan [Randle El] and Chris Cooley. You can get all your weapons involved in the game. It will be hard, I believe, to take one guy out of the game because you can go with so many personnel groupings and get everyone involved."
Q: Does the experience of the coaching staff help speed up the learning curve?
A: "Coaches have to be good teachers and all of the [assistant coaches] on this staff are good teachers. Plus, we have good students. They want to learn and they want to do well. That makes it easier. [Assistant head coach-running backs] Stump Mitchell is very familiar with the terminology because he was with Jim for seven years, so he has been a great help answering questions. The whole staff--they're just a bunch of good teachers, good coaches. And you have players that want to learn."
Q: How are you managing the transition to offensive coordinator?
A: "Any time you do something for the first time, the first time around the track the steps are unfamiliar. You just have to get familiar with the steps, the responsibility and all of that. We have done the game plan, now it is just more of the organization. Like [defensive coordinator] Greg Blache said, it is more of the paperwork stuff that you have to do. The responsibility of putting a game plan together doesn't fall all on me. It is all of us together. It is interesting. I like parts of it. I like to coach guys. I had fun coaching my own position, but now just overseeing and watching the other guys, allowing the coaches to coach their players, I would never step on anyone's toes out there because I know what it was like as a position coach. You don't want that done to you. [I am] just trying to be the type of coordinator that I wanted when I was a position coach."
Q: How will you and Coach Zorn handle the play-calling?
A: "It's going to be smooth. We all get together and put the plan in and one guy calls the game on Sunday. Jim has been looking at offense through a quarterback's eyes, so he is going to do a great job. No one is saying that is the job they want, because we all understand that is the job he is going to do. But we will all put the plan together."
Q: Will Clinton Portis have the same role?
A: "The thing we told the guys when we got together on Friday is this: people are going to say we were a sound team at the end of the season. We were sound in what we did. They are going to say that we were disciplined. They are going to say that we were physical and that they could run the football and protect the quarterback. We are going to run the football. We have to be able to run the football in order to throw it. We are going to protect the quarterback. That means we will be able to throw the football. Clinton's role, as a runner, as a receiver--he will be a pronounced guy in our offense, as everyone should know that he should be."
Q: What are your impressions of Jason Campbell early on?
A: "I am really impressed with Jason. I was in Tennessee with Vince Young for two years and Vince came out as a third pick. With Jason, he is just very mature. You can tell he has been studying. He takes a great deal of pride--he wants to be a championship quarterback. He wants to lead his team to the championship. He is on top of it. I am just impressed with the guy thoroughly. He understands what it takes to prepare, to win and he is doing it right now. He is going to be a great quarterback."
Q: How do you handle the competition at wide receiver?
A: "It handles itself. You have some veterans that aren't going to step back because we drafted two guys in the second round. They are going to step up. They are going to step up and say, 'It is good to have these guys here to give me a [rest], but I'm not conceding anything.' And that's good. Competition makes everyone get better. Antwaan, Santana, James [Thrash]--all those guys, they are going to get better because of the young guys. We will be a better team because of the competition."
Q: The Redskins are coming off a playoff season. Should the players have the same belief and expectation heading into 2008?
A: "They should expect to be a playoff team. There is no doubt about it. [We aren't] coming in here and saying we are rebuilding. We hope to get in the playoffs. It is an expectation that every guy has. We are not stepping back. We expect to be better than we were last year. We are going to do some things that were done last year, just better. We should be better."