Jim Zorn lost Washington locker room after banning Hennessy shots

BYAri Gilberg
Jim Zorn lasted just two seasons as Washington’s head coach.

You don't mess with a man's Hennessy -- Jim Zorn learned this lesson the hard way.

The former Washington coach, who was tasked with replacing Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs and lead a Washington team in the wake of Sean Taylor's death, lost the locker room after he banned a ritual of players taking a shot of Hennessey before games in memory of Taylor, former Washington stars Clinton Portis and Santana Moss told NBC Washington.

Portis said Zorn's insensitive leadership style infringed on the team's grieving process.

"All the s--t with Zorn ruined that," Portis said of the team's recovery process. "He ruined that moment. He ruined that recovery trail."

Portis said he, Moss and Taylor would frequently take a shot of Hennessy before games as a sort of pre-game ritual. Portis explained he and Moss decided to continue the tradition following Taylor's death as a way of honoring him.

"Me, Santana and Sean, we did this for a year-and-a-half before anyone knew," Portis said. "It was never two, three, four shots. It was, 'You know what? Here we go. Let's go ball.' From that point, we did it every game.

Jim Zorn lasted just two seasons as Washington’s head coach.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

"All of a sudden Coach Zorn comes in, and [says] 'Oh, yeah, guys are taking sips for Sean.' What?"

Zorn was hired in 2008, replacing Gibbs who retired earlier that year.

Zorn lasted just two seasons in Washington, compiling a 12-20 record, before being fired.

Moss added he and Portis never told the media of their ritual because they didn't want it to become a big deal.

"It was something that we just did," Moss said. "We didn't want it to be magnified. We didn't want it to be about us."

Clinton Portis said Jim Zorn lost the locker room before his firing.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Portis said once it became known among the team that Zorn banned the tradition, he lost the respect of Washington's veteran players.

"He lost the locker room," Portis said.

Moss added he viewed Zorn's meddling as not only disrespectful to him and Portis, but disrespectful to Taylor as well.

"He just kind of lost a lot of us, you know. He said that and that kind of lost us together," Moss said. "When it came time, man, he spoke of the name wrong. That's kind of a low blow. Don't bring his name up in that way, that's wrong."

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