- The Washington Times
Friday, September 11, 2009

Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn, when asked how close his relationship is with quarterback Jason Campbell, joked: “You have to qualify close relationship. It’s not like I have with my bride of 30 years or my children. But it is an excellent professional relationship.”

That’s all well and good, but it would seem that the personal fortunes of Jim Zorn, his wife, his children and everyone else on his friends and family call list are very much tied to Jason Campbell.

As they enter the season facing the New York Giants on Sunday, all eyes are on Zorn and Campbell. They were the focus of the cover story in the Redskins’ preview section Thursday in The Washington Times, and even with the $100 million man on the roster, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the spotlight is on the coach and his quarterback.

If Campbell does well, Zorn does well and the Redskins do well, they may not have to say goodbye to each other at the end of this season.

Campbell spent the offseason watching his team desperately pursuing first Jay Cutler and then a chance to draft Mark Sanchez. When the Redskins could get neither one, they settled for the guy who was here. They won’t settle again.

The previous winter, the team desperately pursued a coach to replace Joe Gibbs. When the Redskins couldn’t get the candidates they wanted, they settled for the guy who was here - Zorn, who had just been hired to be the offensive coordinator.

With Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren available, they won’t settle again.

So how confident is Zorn in his “professional” relationship with Campbell?

According to the coach, it is a matter of trust.

“I have more of a comfort level this year,” Zorn said on “The Jim Zorn Show,” which airs on “The Sports Fix” on ESPN 980. “I feel really good about it.”

Last year Zorn didn’t feel quite as good about it.

“It has to do with trust,” Zorn said. “A coach, especially a play caller, as the play caller puts his quarterback out there, you want to be able to call a play trusting that he sees it the way you see it and he’s running it the way you imagined it to be run. The thing that happened last year several times… even the first play last year, I called a zone play that they covered, and he was going to hit it anyway because he thought this is what Coach Zorn wants. Well, it wasn’t. I wanted him to read it out and throw to a different guy than the one he was trying to throw to. He got sacked on the play.

“Now what do I do? Do I trust him with the next call?

“That has probably been the biggest change that has been made,” Zorn said. “He’s learned the plays in a much better way that I can trust that when I call it, the right situations are going to happen. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a successful play, but he has to read it and work it in such a way that it gives us a chance.”

Zorn, though, qualified that by saying his relationship with Campbell - where they become so close, they finish each other’s sentences when it comes to football, at least - isn’t quite there yet.

“I would say we grew a lot in that trust factor, in working hard to change some of those tapes that were playing in his head that he had to do,” Zorn said. “I think we worked this offseason and training camp and preseason to eliminate and to enhance some of the things he does well. I think we are on our way there. But I think it is going to take this football season again to recognize it and to keep it going.”

That trust will get a tough test Sunday at Giants Stadium, where Osi Umenyiora, coming back from a knee injury last year, Justin Tuck and the rest of the Giants’ defense could wind up being trustbusters.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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