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How to Win

When Coaches Fail

In hiring Mike Shanahan as their new head coach, the Washington Redskins believe they have the right man.

Trouble, is, two years ago they thought they had the right man, too.

But now they have fired Jim Zorn after only two seasons, and Shanahan becomes the seventh head coach under owner Dan Snyder, who bought the team in 1999.

“My hope is to hold the traditions and the fight that the Redskins have always had in high regard,” Zorn said upon his hiring in Fburaty of 2008. “And I’m going to try in my best effort to continue that tradition.”

It didn’t turn out that way. Washington won only four games this season, and one of the losses came to a wretched Detroit Lions team.

Many coaches wind up like Zorn, not being able to produce the results they wish. What explains the difference between intention and results?

In Zorn’s case, lack of experience may have contributed to the failure. He had never even been a coordinator until the Redskins called. Other possibilities include the talent level and the lack of continuity in the organization.

But the fact is, success in coaching often eludes definition. Head coaches make thousands of decisions every day, and these decisions add up to results. Decisions include: Do I criticize a player now, or show more patience? Do we change what we’re doing, or simply adjust it? How hard do we work? What do we work on? How much will details matter?

For whatever reason, Zorn didn’t produce results.

And now the Redskins have the right man. Again.


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