Leonard Shapiro, Sports Columnist

Casserly Keeping His Options Open

By Leonard Shapiro
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, December 19, 2006; 10:56 AM

If Joe Gibbs is truly serious about bringing in a general manager to help straighten out the Redskins next year, he need look no further than Northwest Washington to find a viable and eminently qualified candidate with years of GM experience, many of them at Redskins Park old and new.

Charley Casserly, who served as the Redskins General Manager from 1989 to '92 during the Gibbs I Era, moved back to Georgetown over the summer after spending the last four years launching the Houston Texans as the expansion team's first general manager. He resigned in May with a year remaining on his contract following a 2-14 season, ostensibly to pursue a job as the NFL's director of football operations.

At the time of his departure, there was widespread speculation that he'd been fired by Houston owner Robert McNair, though Casserly and McNair have vehemently denied that was the case. Still, there's no question Casserly was on the hotseat after the Texans' dismal season.

For one, his choice of recycled Dom Capers as the team's head coach never seemed to be a good fit. He also was under fire because several of his high draft choices on his watch did not pan out. And McNair's ill-advised decision to bring in former Denver and Atlanta head coach Dan Reeves as an advisor on football matters was a move that clearly undercut Casserly's authority and helped grease the skids for his exit.

But the Texans' loss quickly has become a win-win situation for CBS Sports, which signed Casserly this past summer to become its on-air NFL information specialist on the network's revamped pre-game show that also includes another long-time Washingtonian, former Fox studio host James Brown.

Casserly ultimately did not get the NFL post he wanted, a job that went to former Atlanta Falcons executive Ray Anderson. But his new gig with CBS allows him to keep his finger on the pulse of the league and the game, and also has been a positive plus for viewers now getting reliable insider information from a man with 29 years worth of NFL contacts to draw upon for his weekly four- to five-minute segments every Sunday.

Would Casserly chuck the high profile position in order to work as a general manager again, in Washington or anywhere else?

In an interview last week, he said he preferred not to talk about the Redskins specifically, other than to say that no one from the team has ever contacted him about returning in any capacity. But he also admitted he was keeping all his options open and certainly did not rule out a return to the NFL, something his bosses at CBS also knew when they signed him for the studio this year.

"If someone makes a run at him and he wants to go back to football, we certainly wouldn't stop him," said Eric Mann, who produces the pre-game show for CBS. "But we're thrilled to have him and really hope he stays. He takes this very seriously. He's not only an insider. When he gives you his opinion, you know there's a lot behind it."

I've known Casserly for almost 30 years, meeting him for the first time at a Redskins training camp in Carlisle, Pa. in 1977 when he showed up as an unpaid intern working for George Allen. A former high school teacher and coach in Massachusetts, he went from occasionally fetching milkshakes at midnight for the eccentric coach to breaking down film for the coaches and eventually working as a team scout, assistant general manager and then general manager when Bobby Beathard left in 1989. Casserly made many of the right moves that led to the team's last Super Bowl title, bled burgundy and gold and even found his wife Bev within the organization, where she worked in the accounting department at Redskins Park.

Still, despite all those past ties to the team, in my humble opinion, I'd have a hard time believing Casserly would ever go to work for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who made one of the first of many blunders in his seven-year reign of error when he fired Casserly not long after buying the franchise in 1999.

Snyder himself admitted publicly several years later that he had even told Casserly he "fired the wrong guy" when he decided to retain Norv Turner as his coach and let Casserly go. But a triumvirate of Gibbs-Snyder-Casserly would never work, if only because team president Gibbs only came out of retirement with the promise of total control of the football operation.

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