A transfer from Cerritos, Jim Zorn played at Cal Poly-Ponoma, where he set multiple passing records for the school from 1973 to 1974 as a dual threat quarterback. He was not selected in the 1975 NFL Amateur Draft, but he signed a free agent contract with the Cowboys. Jim did not make the squad, but made enough of an impression that he was brought in by the brand new Seattle Seahawks franchise the following year (1976) to compete in camp.
Jim ended up winning the starting quarterback job outright, and was named rookie of the year in 1976, leading the league with 439 attempts- and interceptions with 27, while rushing for 4 TDs. In 1977 he started 10 games, but posted a gaudy league leading 16.2 yards per completion on 104 passes. By 1978 it was obvious that Zorn to Largent was becoming a household name, as the franchise posted back to back 9-7 records under his leadership. Jim’s penchant for scrambling was in full effect, as he carried the ball 59 times for 290 yards and 6 TDs. He’d have all career single season passing highs in the latter year (1979) throwing for 3661 yards (285/505) and 20 TDs to 18 interceptions. It seemed that Jim’s best games where when he was on the run and improvising. As his rushing stats decreased over the following seasons, so did his passing stats, and win/ loss record. In 1983 he’d be benched in favor of Dave Krieg. At that time, Jim, had been the only quarterback pretty much in the history of the franchise, and owned virtually all the franchise passing records.
Jim signed with the Green Bay Packers in 1985. He posted a 3-2 record for the team, passing for 794 yards and 4 TDs. In 1986, Jim traveled to Winnipeg where he backed up John Hufnagel and Tom Clements, on the Blue Bombers. After his lone season in the CFL, Zorn returned to the NFL in 1987 where he played one final swan song for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, beating the Minnesota Vikings 20-10, before retiring.
Jim has an extensive coaching resume. He started shortly after retiring from football in college, taking stops in as an assistant coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterbacks coach at Boise State (1988-1991), Utah State (1992-1994) and 1995-1996 at Minnesota. He quickly joined the NFL as an assistant with his former team- the Seahawks in 1997. Afterwards it was off to the Lions from 1998-2000, where he began to really develop a reputation as a great quarterback whisperer. He then returned to the Seahawks in 2001. He remained QB coach for the franchise until 2007, where he made the jump to head coach with the Washington Redskins.
Jim Zorn’s Washington Redskins tenure was shortlived. Embarrassing moments were not in short supply unfortunately. First the Redskins broke the hapless Lions 0-16 streak dating back through 2008. Then, during a game in 2009 against the Giants, Jim called a ‘swinging gate’ formation (which is reliant on the element of surprise to make mismatches)- so the Giants wisely called a timeout. The Redskins not only stuck to the play- it resulted in an interception, and caused the team to get booed off the field at half time. He lasted two seasons, as the Redskins failed to compete- posting a 12-20 record.
After coaching for the Redskins, Jim served one season as QB coach of the Ravens in 2010, and then as QB coach for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011 and 2012. He joined the XFL as head coach of the Seattle Dragons, and as his offensive coordinator Mike Riley took a leave of absence from the team, Jim had to take a more hands on approach. He was able to navigate the team through a quarterback controversy and a win before the league was terminated after the 5th game of the season, due to COVID.
I was surprised that Jim was not a part of the XFL 2020 set released by Topps. Nonetheless I wanted to get his autograph on this Upper Deck 1997 Legends card I had of his. I love this card. The detail is stunning, even down to the cheerleaders and band in the background.
He signed this card in 6 days flat and inscribed it with an interesting passage:
Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.