OWINGS MILLS — In a move intended to bolster arguably the most important position on the field, the Baltimore Ravens hired former Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn on Saturday as their new quarterbacks coach.
A former NFL quarterback with the Seattle Seahawks, Zorn replaces Hue Jackson four days after he left the Ravens to become the Oakland Raiders’ new offensive coordinator.
The Ravens chose Zorn over offensive consultant Al Saunders, agreeing to terms following his Friday interview.
Zorn’s primary assignment will be to boost the development of quarterback Joe Flacco as he prepares for his third NFL season. Zorn is regarded as a quarterback-friendly mentor who helped oversee the development of Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Batch.
"Jim played successfully in the NFL for a long time," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. "He knows what quarterbacks go through in this league. He has been a quarterbacks coach and a head coach, and he is familiar with our offense. That’s a great résumé.
"I’ve gotten to know Jim for the last couple of years, and I have been impressed with him as a person. He’s a good, decent man, and he will be an excellent addition to the Ravens. This is an exciting addition to our staff."
Zorn, 56, has coached quarterbacks for 11 years after playing in the NFL from 1976 to 1987.
Fired by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder after going 12-20 in two seasons in Washington, Zorn told Ravens24x7.com at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., that he was very interested in the Ravens’ job because of the strength of the organization and Flacco’s upside.
"I am excited to hear about the addition of coach Zorn to our staff," Flacco said in a statement provided to 24×7 by his representatives. "The Ravens did a tremendous job selecting this great individual and coach. The amount of success that coach Zorn has achieved on the field both as a player and coach is going to be a huge asset to me personally, and us as an organization."
After talking with the Ravens, Zorn quickly emerged as the consensus choice to fill the vacancy as the team was searching for someone who would mesh well with Flacco and the coaching staff.
Zorn’s background with Hasselbeck, Batch and Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell were all major pluses that helped him land the job. Zorn’s competition for the position, Al Saunders, hadn’t coached quarterbacks previously during his stints as an offensive coordinator around the league.
With the Detroit Lions, Zorn oversaw Batch when he achieved an 88.3 passer rating during his rookie season.
Zorn also played quarterback at a high level, passing for 20,122 yards, 107 touchdowns and 133 career interceptions.
Between 1978 to 1980, Zorn passed for 3,000 yards each season to set a Seahawks record eventually broken by Hasselbeck.
"I’m very excited about having a job, No. 1, and then having a job with another excellent organization," Zorn told the Washington Post. "The Ravens were in the playoffs this year, and they’re not losing too many guys, so I think it’s just a really good situation to be in.
"Joe Flacco is a really good, young QB, so I’m definitely excited about working with him. Whether it’s a perfect fit, well, that’ll be a good question to answer as I go along here. I hope it is. I believe it’s going to be a great situation."
Seven years ago, Hasselbeck passed for 3,841 yards to establish a franchise record.
He eventually topped that mark with 3,966 passing yards and 28 touchdowns while being named to his third Pro Bowl.
This past season in Washington, Campbell’s numbers were solid even while the team struggled.
He passed for 3,618 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with an 86.4 passer rating last season. In 2008, Campbell passed for 3,245 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions for an 84.5 passer rating.
Besides his time in the NFL, Zorn had collegiate coaching stops at Boise State, Utah State and the University of Minnesota.
Zorn remained under contract with the Redskins for this year at roughly $2.4 million.
Under the terms of his deal, the Redskins will be paying the majority of his salary minus what he’ll be paid by the Ravens.
While Zorn appears to be a strong hire, the Ravens still need to acquire some big-play wide receivers to work in tandem with Flacco.
Flacco has been extremely successful in his first two NFL seasons since being drafted in the first round out of the University of Delaware, winning three playoff games.
"But I’m not going to presume that I’m going to come in and all of a sudden Joe Flacco is just going to fall all over himself and say, ‘Oh, this is great,’ " Zorn said. "I’ve got to earn the right to speak into his life, to speak into his game, after I just see what’s there."
NOTE: Ravens backup quarterback Troy Smith said he would like to play for his hometown team: the Cleveland Browns.
It’s the latest message from the Smith camp after his agent went public late in the regular season with a trade request for the former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State.
"There is no doubt about it," Smith told the ESPN radio affiliate in Cleveland. "It has always been a childhood dream of mine. It’s funny how we always talk about Cleveland. That’s the first thing that comes to mind with anything I do whether I get a chance to come home and be a part of that organization or not.
"You know, I would love to get that chance if that opportunity comes up, but the political and right thing to say in this situation is that I would love to be anywhere that would give me a chance. But, without a doubt, there would be no second guessing in my mind if I could come back home and be a part of something that I love."
Smith’s good friend and former Ohio State teammate, Buffalo Bills safety Donte Whitner, recently lobbied on his Twitter account for the Bills to acquire Smith.
Where will Smith play in 2010? Barring some unforeseen development, he’ll be backing up Flacco in Baltimore.
It’s believed that Smith doesn’t have much, if any, trade value. And the Ravens are inclined to hold onto him.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.