Behind Enemy Lines: Who is Bill Lazor?

With the announcement of Bill Lazor as Seattle's new quarterbacks coach, Doug Farrar breaks down the numbers and gets some expert help in analyzing Lazor's tenure with the Washington Redskins, and what his hire means to Matt Hasselbeck and the future of Seattle's offense.

Jim Zorn had been Seattle's quarterbacks coach since 2001, which was Matt Hasselbeck's first year in Seattle, and the first NFL season in which the Boston College grad saw any real professional time behind center. Zorn's ascent as a position coach mirrored Hasselbeck's as a future Pro Bowler; while Hasselbeck was learning Mike Holmgren's complex offense and the intricacies of his position, Zorn was also acquiring a post-graduate degree in coaching by passing muster under the watchful eye of perhaps the most knowledgeable quarterback expert in the NFL in Holmgren.

Quarterback coach Jim Zorn (R) of the Seattle Seahawks gives instructions on a play during training camp at Eastern Washington University on August 3, 2005 in Cheney, Washington. (Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

And when Holmgren entrusts you more and more with your quarterbacks, that speaks volumes about you. It was no surprise that Zorn was recently promoted to the position of offensive coordinator -- the surprise was that the team that promoted him was the Washington Redskins, not the Seahawks. But with a great deal of coaching turnover to happen in Seattle over the next year, the team could not promise Zorn a future beyond Holmgren's final season.

In the interim and beyond, the Seahawks have made change after the 'Skins dropped a dime with their Zorn-napping by hiring ex-Washington quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor. It will be Lazor's job to not only help Hasselbeck maintain his high performance, but to ostensibly groom and prepare Hasselbeck's eventual successor, whoever that may be. Hasselbeck will be 33 on September 25, and while there's an outside shot that he could extend the height of his career to Favre-esque lengths, the road is far more littered with signal-callers who have declined when they hit 35 or before, especially if those signal-callers have indifferent offensive lines and very little in the way of a running game.

We have an advantage when we analyze Lazor in that in 2007, we were able to see him mentor a young quarterback in Jason Campbell, and work with a veteran in Todd Collins when Campbell was lost for the season in an early December win over the Chicago Bears. The Redskins were able to win because backup Todd Collins, a 13-year veteran with an undistinguished past, threw two touchdown passes in that game. This started quite the stretch for Collins; he threw 67 completions in 105attempts for 888 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the final month of the regular season, and the Redskins won their final four games.

How much was Lazor responsible for Campbell's progression and Collins' unlikely performance? Will Allensworth, who blogs most capably for the Hogs Haven website, gave us the inside take about Lazor's two-year stint as quarterbacks coach in Washington.

"The sample size is pretty small on Bill as I knew extremely little of him prior to '06 (when he became QB coach) and can't comment on his influence on the team prior to that. What I would note to his credit was the improvement in Mark Brunell as a quarterback (in some areas) between 2005 and 2006. The stat I am personally the most obsessed with is completion percentage, as I think random noise interferes substantially on touchdowns and interceptions, especially the latter since it's so frequently caused by receiver error and on any given year there really isn't that much data on which to draw conclusions, but Brunell was 8:4 on Touchdowns:Interceptions; solid, but went from an ~58% passer to an ~63% passer. I like that, and Lazor should be credited for improving that percentage. His Yards Per Attempt also increased from '05 to '06, albeit by a slim margin.

I can't take anything away from Todd Collins for playing over his head at the regular season, but Bill should get credit where credit is due on that as well. Cold Collins comes in and throw over 60%, 5 touchdowns, zero picks, 8.5 YPA, etc. A lot of that might have been the Al Saunders system having an opportunity to work, as Todd understands it as well as anyone besides Saunders. That said, no one was more surprised by Collins' play than I was, and any quarterbacks coach would be proud of that production with a guy who started the season third string with a decade separating him from his last start.

The real measure of Lazor has to be Jason Campbell, as coaching up a young quarterback is very different from coaching up veterans Mark Brunell and Todd Collins. And I believe that Jason Campbell has come along just fine under Bill's tenure. He hasn't shown much regression except in the amount of TDs he's throwing. Beyond that he became a 60% passer under Bill Lazor and improved at protecting the ball (the interception percentage went down, marginally). YPA are on their way up as well. All of this coincided with a non-trivial increase in sack percentages (and increased sack rate, per FO) which tells me he was facing more adversity from opposing offensive lines than he had his first season starting. In any event, I'm willing to conclude on record that Campbell has developed at an acceptable rate and look forward to him improving more, though perhaps that will be difficult without Bill and, more importantly, with a new offensive playbook.

The truth is that Bill Lazor coached quietly so I don't have as much to say on him as I would about a Gregg Williams, for instance, but the results speak for themselves. You draft a qb to take the reigns on the team and he plays as Jason has, you've succeeded. JC hasn't been the greatest quarterback in the NFL but he's looked at various times like a stud quarterback (though admittedly other times he has not). Perhaps the biggest measure of Bill's importance will be this next year; if Jason Campbell takes a step back we'll know it was in part because of a missing piece on the coaching staff.

What we know about Zorn is that he developed some unconventional methods to teach his players -- his quarterback drills have consisted of dodgeball (footwork and agility), Slip-and-Slides (quarterback slides), and having his players throw footballs into small nets yards away (accuracy, competitiveness). But everything has a purpose, and as I told Will in our correspondence, Zorn is a guy who will pore over all the film it is possible to watch in order to make Campbell the best quarterback he can be.

In a "Coach's Corner" installment for Redskins.com in January of this year, Lazor outlined some of his methods. He was reflective, as his comments came after the wild card playoff loss to Seattle and Joe Gibbs' subsequent retirement.

"Right now, I am taking a lot of time going back through last year's film," Lazor said. "Sometimes it is easier after the fact to go back and watch all of the film with a different eye than you do when you are preparing for a game.

"We will look at every play that Jason played, just like we did last year. We will go through every mechanic and every technique. There will be a whole long list of things and we will prioritize those and we will have some fun chipping away at it.

"As you watch the video, there are things that we stressed, that he took real serious and took ownership in improving, showing up on the video. I would expect that the goals that we work out with him are the things that he will work real hard at. The kind of person he is. I think he will make great strides."

Now charged with the tack of continuing the Seahawks' excellent quarterback production and looking to the future at the position for the team, there's no doubt that Lazor's plate will be full. He's got a big job, but by all accounts, he'll be more than able to handle it.

Stay tuned for more analysis as the future of Seattle's coaching staff continues to unfold.


Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, a contributing author to Pro Football Prospectus 2007, and he writes NFL previews for the New York Sun.


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