A happy first-face-of-the-franchise birthday to Jim Zorn

Posted May 10, 2014

Saturday is the 61st birthday of Jim Zorn, the forever-young lefthander who quarterbacked the Seahawks through their infancy.

The expansion Seahawks had selected two quarterbacks in the 1976 veteran allocation draft, but their performances only proved that the first-year franchise needed a quarterback.

And then, along came Jim Zorn.

“We had an expansion team with a bunch of expansion players,” former owner John Nordstrom said of a list that included quarterbacks Neil Graff and Gary Keithley. “We play our first preseason game and, I’m not a football guy, but I can tell that these guys cannot play.

“So we trade for Steve Largent and (director of player personnel) Dick Mansperger somehow finds Jim Zorn.”

Passing yards

Player Yards
Matt Hasselbeck (2001-10) 29,434
Dave Krieg (1980-91) 26,132
Jim Zorn (1976-84) 20,122

Player Comp.
Matt Hasselbeck (2001-10) 2,559
Dave Krieg (1980-91) 2,096
Jim Zorn (1976-84) 1,593
TD Passes
Player No.
Dave Krieg (1980-91) 195
Matt Hasselbeck (2001-10) 174
Jim Zorn (1976-84) 107

Nordstrom then mimicked Zorn passing to Largent as he added, “We bring those guys in and it’s bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing. It was like night and day.”

Largent would go on to become the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches by the time he retired after the 1989 season and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. But in those early days, Nordstrom said, “Jim Zorn was the face of the franchise.”

That face turns 61 on Saturday, but you’d never know it by looking at the forever-young passer who led the Seahawks through their first 7½ seasons.

Zorn entered the NFL in 1975 as a rookie free agent with the Dallas Cowboys, but was released when the Cowboys claimed running back Preston Pearson off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s when the Seahawks “found” Zorn.

“Zorn was only a rookie, but the difference was dramatic,” Nordstrom said. “He made us competitive.”

The Seahawks won only two games that first season, when Zorn was named NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year, and five the next season. But in 1978 and 1979, the Seahawks went 9-7.

It’s been 29 years since Zorn last played for the Seahawks, but he remains third on the franchise’s all-time lists in completions, passing yards and touchdown passes behind Matt Hasselbeck and Dave Krieg. And Zorn will remain No. 3 for a while. At his current pace, it will take Russell Wilson four-plus seasons to surpass Zorn in completions and passing yards and two more seasons to top him in TD passes.

Zorn also is one of five former Seahawks who returned to coach for the team, joining the late Dave Brown, Paul Moyer, Sherman Smith and Kris Richard. Zorn was the Seahawks’ QB coach from 2001-07.

In 1991, Zorn became the second player to be inducted into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor, joining Largent (1989). He still lives on Mercer Island, just across Lake Washington from the Seahawks’ headquarters in Renton.

So we send happy first-face-of-the-franchise birthday wishes to Jim Zorn on his special day.