While the Jason Taylor trade created its fair share of buzz this weekend at Redskins camp, head coach Jim Zorn's genius was a close second.
Zorn is known for his eclectic hobbies. Whether it be mountain biking, kayaking or examining the musical value of Death Cab for Cutie, he has no shortage of ways to keep busy in his spare time. But as the Redskins opened training camp in nearly triple-digit temperatures, he added one more: inventing.
"I got the patent pending on the Z-Shade," he said after the Skins' morning practice, referring to the make-shift portable shades Washington was using on their practice fields. "I didn't know if it was going to work or not."
Like most great inventions, the Z-Shade is based on a simple concept and design. Light-weight pipes and a white-tarp roofing make it easy to transport (each shade was carried onto the field by just two staff members) and effective. Zorn said that the idea actually came to him as a quarterback coach in Seattle, but the prior design was much less efficient.
"We did this in Seattle in a couple of games where it was overbearingly hot," he said. "We had guys hold them."
The Washington, D.C. press corps, skeptical as to whether Zorn actually invented the contraption, asked him several times if he was serious. He answered yes, with a straight face, every time.
It's this type of quirky genius that has endeared Zorn to coaches, players and the media. That and the fact that he was clearly having fun on his first day. Before his turn on the podium, Zorn stood amongst the media gaggle surrounding quarterback Jason Campbell and, in his best nervous reporter impression, asked his franchise signal caller how his arm was holding up.
"I might have thrown too much," Campbell responded with a smile.
Zorn had a reputation as a player's guy while the QB coach in Seattle and, despite qualms over whether he was ready to take charge of an NFL team, seems to have adapted well to the role. In fact, when asked if Zorn showed any signs of being nervous as a first-year head coach, running back Clinton Portis said no.
"He got an opportunity that he's been waiting to get and now that he's got that opportunity he's having fun with it," he said. "When you got a coach that's having fun, a coach that's willing to explore matchups, it gets players excited."
And what did Portis think of the Z-Shades?
"I told him a genius had to come up with that idea," he said. "Now if only that genius can think about getting some mist fans to blow underneath that, it'd be perfect out here."
Asked if he considered Portis' idea, Zorn laughed and said, "That's the next model."