Redskins players defend Zorn, spread blame for team's 2-3 start

ASHBURN, Va. -- Jim Zorn already has the look of someone playing out the string of his employment.

One Washington Redskins veteran says he just hopes the coach is around "for the remainder of the year." Another is calling out everybody, saying "it starts with the ownership."

Potential Zorn replacements

If the Redskins decide to fire coach Jim Zorn during the season, they have two potential interim candidates in-house, NFL Network's Jason La Canfora says.

But here's one more fact that pretty much sums up the current state of the Redskins: On Sunday, they had a guard playing tackle, and a tackle playing guard.

And it's only getting worse. After his team gave up five sacks and gained just 198 total yards in Sunday's 20-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Zorn announced Monday that six-time Pro Bowl tackle Chris Samuels will miss next week's game against the Kansas City Chiefs with an injury.

What are the Redskins going to do? Punt on first down? How is this offense, which hasn't scored 20 points all season, going to move the ball behind this line?

"My responsibility -- and it really is my responsibility -- is to even have that work," Zorn said.

Zorn usually has at least a tinge of optimism about him, but his mood was definitively downbeat after reviewing the video of yet another loss to a winless opponent. Only four NFC teams have worse records than Washington (2-3); the Redskins have played all four -- and lost to two of them.

With Kansas City at 0-5, the Redskins are about to become the first team in NFL history to play six consecutive games against winless opposition. Unless they find a way to improve, it could be their last competitive game for a while.


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"I want to win. That's what I'm here for. That's what the Redskins are all about," Zorn said. "We've lost two tough games. I feel bad. I'm hurting, and our team is as well. These guys are guys with resolve. I'm a man of resolve, and we're going to get back at it."

Questions about Zorn's job security arise almost daily, to the point that the players supporting him are stating goals that are increasingly modest -- such as getting him through the final 11 games of the season.

"I admire his character," defensive end Andre Carter said. "I admire the level of integrity he has as a coach as well as a person. I just hope that he's here for the remainder of the year."

Twenty-one games into his first head-coaching job, Zorn still has serious game management problems. The Redskins burned their last timeout with 8:47 to play Sunday. And a stretch play behind a leaky offensive line on the 3-yard line resulted in Clinton Portis being tackled in the end zone for a safety.

But the Redskins are in the mess they're in also because of their personnel. The front office failed to adequately address the offensive line in the offseason. Portis no longer looks capable of breaking off an explosive run, and second-year receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas have just 11 catches combined in five games.

"We've got a lot of things we need to iron out, a lot of problems," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "It's from personnel to coaches to whatever it is, there's a lot of things we need to iron out, and until we address those issues and turn it around, we're going to be the same, going up and down. It not only starts with the players, coaches; it starts with the ownership. They bring everybody in and they've got last say-so of everything, so that's where it starts, I guess."

It's unusual for a player to implicate owner Dan Snyder and executive vice president for football operations Vinny Cerrato along with everyone else. After painting that picture, Rogers was asked what could be done in the short team to address the team's needs.

"You can't do too much right now," Rogers said. "You just have to go with what you've got and make the best for it, and that's what we're doing. They're making changes where they feel they need to make changes. Other than that, players are going to have to step up, coaches are going to have to step up, and we've just got to find a way -- that's the bottom line -- we've got to find a way to turn it around and deal with what we've got."

Right guard Randy Thomas was lost for the season with a torn triceps last month, and left tackle Samuels was gone early against the Panthers with a stinger and will miss at least one game. That prompted the Redskins into a lineup with Mike Williams -- a career tackle -- playing right guard and D'Anthony Batiste -- who always has been a guard -- playing left tackle. Tight end Chris Cooley failed to catch a pass for the first time since 2004 because he was needed to help block.

Next week, the Redskins anticipate moving struggling right tackle Stephon Heyer to left tackle and Williams to right tackle. Right guard? Yet to be determined.

For his part, Zorn did what he had to do Monday -- he took his share of the blame. He uttered some form of the phrase "It's my responsibility" several times. He said he's in constant self-introspection mode.

"I ask myself questions. 'What are we doing?' 'Are we doing it right?' 'Do we have the elements we need to be a successful offense?' 'Has the scheme taken advantage of our opportunities?' I'm asking all those questions, and I ask them every week," Zorn said. "But the overall picture, we've just got to keep pushing. I don't have a lot of time devoted to worrying about my job status."

But some of the players are thinking about it.

"Guys have been kind on eggshells walking around here for the last couple of weeks," kick returner Rock Cartwright said. "But we don't make any decisions. Mr. Snyder and Vinny, those guys make the decisions. We leave it up to them guys, but we're still behind coach Zorn. We're still going to fight for him."

Notes: The Redskins cut P Glenn Pakulak and re-signed DE Renaldo Wynn, reversing the move they made Saturday. Pakulak was needed to punt against the Panthers because Hunter Smith was out with a groin injury. ... DE Phillip Daniels tore his right biceps against the Panthers but will postpone surgery until after the season so he can continue playing. ... Zorn said Sherman Lewis, hired last week by the front office to be an offensive consultant, has yet to make much of an impact. "It's still early, but I am working on some assignments for him," Zorn said. "He's very willing. He's trying to get up to speed."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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