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.
Cards: Upper Deck 1991 Browns Checklist, GameDay 1993, University of Texas Upper Deck 2011 All-Time Alumni, ProSet 1992, SkyBox Premium 1993-1994, Upper Deck College Legends 2011 Acquired: TTM 2020, C/o Home Sent: 1/6 Received: 1/14 (8 days) See Also: Eric Metcalf, Eric Metcalf (2)
Eric Metcalf is one of my favorite players during the heyday of my childhood, so I was happy to make him my first success of 2020. With so many cards signed by him at this point, you’d think that I’d written him more than once (successfully) previously- but no- the last time he signed for me was way back in 2014. How time flies!
Eric had some stellar cards over the years, and with me still needing him on his All-Time Alumni card, and his College Legends card, I figured I could shoot out a stack to him and take a shot.
Eric is one of the few pros that actually follows me on Twitter- which is very humbling. I’ve always felt that YFS guys do not get the love from the HoF that they should, and although he has been nominated on a few occasions, Eric has not gotten in.
Eric’s cards from this lot no doubt are again, epic looking. They always seem to catch him slashing out of the backfield into the open field. I loved his Upper Deck Legends entry from 2011. In fact I am surprised that they didn’t use this as his main shot on his UT cards.
The Skybox Premium came out at a time when dropping a color across a background was novel. Unfortunately these cards commanded too high a sticker price for me as I was exiting the market. I have slowly picked up one or two here or there over the years.
ProSet was done in my mind after a few packs at Cowboys training camp in ’92. I did not like how they changed the card design midway through the set and found it confusing and disorganized. I liked this version of the set and how they moved the ProSet logo down by the player name, allowing the canvas to be more free to showcase the player.
Upper Deck was a late entry into the football card market. I didn’t really think too much of their initial NFL set, however I loved their artistic subsets- especially their checklists which focused on team MVPs. The design of this card is just superb, and in a sense very timeless. I love the circle behind Eric. What possessed this artist to put that back there? It blends nicely into his helmet, and then the horizontal lines across it lower on the canvas- It’s just so delicate and well thought out.
An offensive mastermind, Mike Martz has had a career in coaching that has lasted nearly 50 years, in stops through college and the pros. He’d make his mark after joining the Los Angeles Rams in 1992 as a quarterbacks coach, and after the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995, he moved to coach the wide receivers. After a brief stay with the Redskins in 97 and 98, Martz returned to the Rams, as the franchise’s offensive coordinator in 1999 as they won Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans- with ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’.
“He was by far the smartest football mind I’ve ever been around. The things he was teaching was so far ahead of what others were teaching.”
– Rams QB Marc Bulger
In 2000, Mike would replace retiring Dick Vermeil as head coach, but the Rams failed to return to the Super Bowl, losing in the wild card to the Saints. Martz’s Rams rebounded in a big way in 2001, posting a 14-2 record and returning to the Super Bowl, but ultimately losing to the New England Patriots on a last second field goal. Mike coached with the Rams through 2005 and finished with a 53-32 record. His teams made the playoffs 4 times and finished in either first or second place every season.
Mike since then has coached with the Lions, 49ers, and Bears, as an offensive coordinator. He semi-retired from the sport in 2012, working as an analyst and occasional NFLPA Collegiate Bowl coach, before deciding to give it another shot in 2018.
“It didn’t make any difference whether I was in high school. That’s what you do. You walk onto the practice field, and that’s who you are, that’s what you are. I can’t stop and go. That’s just where it is. To be any different would cheat these players. I love this game. I wouldn’t disrespect it by not being intense.”
Mike led the Fleet to a 3-5 record, dogged by quarterback issues. Still there were shades of the mad genius coming through with the Fleet as they finished second in total yards (2,649 yards), passing yards (1,798), and 4th in rushing (851 yards).
As previously discussed, AAF certified autographs from coaches are severely overpriced. Thankfully with all the XFL hoopla this autographed card snuck under the EBay radar set with a low bid. Typically Martz’s certifieds have floated around anywhere between 30-75 dollars. I think I sniped this one out under 10. It was doubly happy to nab this one, as Mike is not a great signer through the mail.
Mike was within two feet in the visitors’ endzone coaching his quarterbacks before the Fleet’s opener, but feeling his intensity, I chickened out on chatting it up with him or asking for his autograph. Charlie Ebersol came up to Mike and chatted with him about the league before they shuffled off to another drill.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.