Rookie coach starts in style

SportsFootballWashington RedskinsNFL PreseasonJoe GibbsBaltimore ColtsTodd Wade

Well, that was a promising start. Rookie coach Jim Zorn's quarterbacks went 19-for-22 in his sideline debut with the Washington Redskins. His team committed just four penalties and sustained only two injuries, both apparently minor.

Apparently, he never got the memo that exhibition games were supposed to be plodding and sloppy.

"I hope everybody would realize that I don't think that we can just take the week off, and that, 'Gosh, we got it made now, everybody!' " Zorn said with a wink while flashing a satirical "thumbs-up" sign during his Monday news conference. "That was a start. It's going to get tougher and tougher down the road."

Even so, Sunday night's 30-16 win over Indianapolis in the Hall of Fame game was about as good as anyone could expect from a franchise launching a new era. Zorn appeared polished and composed on the sidelines. The only unexpected duty, Zorn said, was all the paperwork concerning team captains, helmet transmitters and such that a coach has to turn in to officials before kickoff.

By the time Zorn arrived for his midday news conference — promptly, a change from the Joe Gibbs days — he had watched the tape of the offense twice and the defense once, though the team had arrived in Washington from Canton, Ohio, well after midnight.

Zorn's specialty is the quarterback position, and numbers left little room for criticism. Jason Campbell went 5-for-5 with a touchdown. Todd Collins was 5-for-6. Rookie Colt Brennan went 9-for-10 with two TDs.

But, thanks to the rewind, pause and slow-motion buttons, Zorn found plenty that wasn't perfect.

"The majority of it was what we wanted," he said. "I thought the efforts were good."

Brennan had the flashiest plays, but Zorn said the rookie from Hawaii made "risky throws" and is still coming to grips with the demanding tempo of the West Coast offense.

"I thought Colt Brennan was the least of the quarterbacks who got the tempo up," Zorn said. "He would come up a little bit too slow for me. I thought Todd did a wonderful job, pressing the tempo. I thought Jason was steady. I want him to go even faster."

The last rookie coach to have such an auspicious start with Washington was Steve Spurrier, who won his first preseason game 38-7 in Japan in 2002. The Redskins finished 7-9.

Other comments by Zorn:

• On letting rookie Durant Brooks handle all the punting duties: "We wanted to see if he could handle a whole game. I thought he did really well. There were no shanks."

Brooks, challenging incumbent Derrick Frost, punted four times for a 46-yard average and a 34-yard net.

• Zorn said special-teams coach Danny Smith anticipated the Colts' opening onside kickoff because Indianapolis tried the same ploy against a rookie coach a few years ago. The Redskins recovered and needed only three plays to score.

• Unlike Gibbs, Zorn isn't rewarding players with parking spaces for the entire season for just one good performance. Gibbs would bestow the honor to anyone chosen as the offensive, defensive or special-teams player after a victory.

• Two backup tackles were injured. Zorn said Stephon Heyer's sprained knee is "very minor." The coach was awaiting word on the severity of Todd Wade's sprained ankle.

NOTESRookie receiver Malcolm Kelly had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is expected to be sidelined for two more weeks. He injured his right hamstring during practice July 25 and had since been complaining of soreness in both knees. ... The Redskins cut safety Stuart Schweigert and linebacker Danny Verdun-Wheeler and signed safety Patrick Ghee and tight end Pete Schmitt.

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