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Nations: Redskins miss out on worst of turmoil

By Jeff Nations - jnations@nvdaily.com

Gotta hand it to Daniel Snyder -- that Jim Zorn hiring is looking better and better every day.

You remember Zorn? The newly-hired-quarterbacks-coach-suddenly-elevated-to-inept-head-coach of the Washington Redskins? That guy? Does bingo jog your memory? It should -- seven games into that fateful 2009 season, retired NFL assistant Sherman Lewis -- at the time spending his days calling bingo games at a senior center -- was brought on by Snyder as a consultant charged with offensive play-calling duties.

Zorn didn't last much longer in Washington, even after somehow coaxing the Redskins into an 8-8 record his first season. Despite the best efforts of Lewis, the Redskins dropped to 4-12 by season No. 2, and long before then Zorn knew there wouldn't be a third season in Washington.

Not exactly a home-run hire, that Zorn.

Then again, Snyder can do a little self-congratulating this week -- after all, at least he didn't hire Gregg Williams for the job.

Williams, then Washington's defensive coordinator under previous head coach Joe Gibbs, lobbied long and hard for the head coaching job after Gibbs' second retirement. After a seemingly endless round of interview after interview with the Redskins' top brass, Williams didn't get the job -- he got a pink slip, instead.

Williams, who generally fielded solid defensive units in Washington, didn't take long to land back on his feet. He was leading the Jacksonville Jaguars' defense the next season, then moved on to New Orleans to help Sean Payton make the Saints a Super Bowl champion in 2010. This year, he was set to try and do the same thing as the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator.

That St. Louis debut could be delayed for quite some time, however, after news broke last week of a Williams-approved bounty system in operation during his time in New Orleans. Injury-causing hits were not only sanctioned, but given a cash incentive for players aiming to knock out specific offensive players -- namely, quarterbacks, including Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. In effect, Williams admits to providing under-the-table payments to his players for injury-causing hits during games.

NFL officials were interviewing Williams on Monday, and a harsh penalty is expected for his actions which are a direct violation of NFL rules against undisclosed cash payments to players for performance. Williams' little "bounty system" also runs counter to the NFL's increased emphasis on player safety and moves in recent years to protect, specifically, quarterbacks from just the sort of borderline hits Williams was egging on in his role as defensive coordinator.

Inevitably, this mess is going to come back to the Redskins, along with the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and Jaguars, other places Williams has coached in his NFL career. It was on Williams' watch, after all, that Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Peyton Manning may have suffered the initial neck injury -- which eventually caused him to miss all this past season and has threatened to permanently end his playing career. Former Colts coach Tony Dungy suspects that hit, during the 2006 season, may have been the start of Manning's neck issues.

All that will be investigated by the NFL, and soon. Already, reports have surfaced that Williams' pay-to-maim scheme was in place during his time as the Bills' head coach and during his tenure in Washington (2004-2007).

Whether that will have any direct repercussions for the Redskins is doubtful; most of the players and coaches associated with Williams' tenure in Washington are long gone now.

As for not elevating Williams to the Redskins' head coaching job and instead enduring two solid years of grief for the Zorn debacle, history may soon take a much kinder view of Snyder's decision -- the not hiring Williams part, that is.

At the very least, did the Redskins potentially dodge a serious blow likely coming from the league?


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