After their feeble offensive performance against the Baltimore Ravens it is put up or shut up time already for the Burgundy and Gold when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit FedEx Field Saturday night. Four quarters into the NFL’s preseason is by no means a reason to throw in the towel. However, if Jim Zorn and his first team can’t score or better yet move the ball with any consistency then the countdown may begin to send him and his offense back to the west coast.
Zorn said in the final press conference at the end of last year that he wouldn’t give up play calling duties because he likes them. However, there are times where the great coaches have to relent in order for the team to get better. With the second year head coach still calling plays against Baltimore the offense looked as bad as it did at the end of last season.
The offensive juggernaut that is the Ravens out gained them by 304 yards and they never once drove into the red zone. Washington’s three quarterbacks completed only 15 of 29 passes for 140 yards with an interception while the run game finished with a paltry 54 yards. Factor in three sacks, an interception, and two fumbles the performance was an abject disaster…period!
This is supposed to be the year where the D.C. version of the west coast offense makes its greatest improvement. Last year the excuses were a rookie coach, receivers who didn’t run proper routes, and a quarterback was learning the system. But after the off season of organized team activities, three mini camps, and training camp where star players dictate how and when they work, the offense is not a terminal patient – but – is on life support.
The NFL is known as a “copy cat” league where imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Zorn should have followed the lead of John Harbaugh in Charm City by surrounding himself with an offensive staff that would make him a better coach. When he was hired he had never been an offensive coordinator or called plays. Neither was Harbaugh but he was smart enough to hire Cam Cameron, an O.C. with head coaching experience to teach rookie quarterback Joe Flacco his offense and call plays. The Ravens made the AFC Championship and the Burgundy and Gold was a bystander during the playoffs.
Zorn is an intelligent, likeable fellow who finds himself at the helm of a rudderless ship. His front office did nothing to improve the offensive line during the off season and in order for the Ashburn program to work he needs to stop being a player’s coach. He – and the organization – play to the diva tendencies of Clinton Portis and the underachievement of high draft picks such as Justin Tryon. Jason Campbell needs a shot of alpha male testosterone to demand more from his teammates in the huddle if they are to turn the corner as well.
With three weeks left in preseason the Burgundy & Gold’s offensive ship is taking on water. Let’s hope Zorn’s offense doesn’t cast him in the role of Leonardo DiCaprio on the Titanic.