By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2008
The Washington Redskins completed the first stage of the interview process for selecting a head coach by meeting yesterday with Indianapolis assistant Ron Meeks, league sources said, and owner Daniel Snyder spent part of the day meeting with Seattle assistant Jim Mora as well.
Meeks, who oversees the Colts' defense, was the fifth candidate to discuss the job and his interview also fulfills the NFL's Rooney Rule, which stipulates that a team meet with at least one minority candidate for a head coaching vacancy. Mora and Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach-defense, are the only candidates to have prior head coaching experience and NFL sources said yesterday that Snyder was impressed by Mora's showing.
Snyder flew to Seattle to get Mora, according to league sources, and the men chatted on the flight back to Washington. Mora, who was fired by Atlanta after the 2006 season after three years as head coach, spent the night at Snyder's home. Mora also has strong ties to Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato from their time together in the San Francisco organization; Cerrato and Snyder are conducting the interviews and are in essence the general managers of the team.
Many NFL agents and executives have believed Williams is the firm front-runner for the job, and Snyder emphasized the need for stability and continuity during his only public remarks following Joe Gibbs's retirement as coach earlier this month. However, Snyder's history of making surprising coaching decisions and reputation for chasing bigger names from outside the organization is well established.
Promoting Williams or an in-house candidate is the only way to maintain continuity on the staff and roster. Snyder and Williams met four times about the position, league sources said, with the owner wanting to get a feel for compatibility and chemistry between the men. Former coach and team president Gibbs, who resigned Jan. 8, has supported Williams strongly behind closed doors, according to sources.
The players and coaching staff are behind Williams as well, but the decision is ultimately Snyder's. Mora, whose father was a successful NFL head coach, posted a 26-22 record with the Falcons and took them to the NFL championship game in 2005, but was fired after stumbling through the 2006 season with quarterback Michael Vick faltering. Mora also voiced his desire to land a coaching job at the University of Washington during a radio interview while still under contract to the Falcons, remarks that contributed to his demise.
"Mora will give you a great interview," said one NFL executive who previously took part in a head coaching interview with him. "He's bright and engaging and he's incredibly prepared. I could definitely see him charming Snyder, there's no doubt in my mind about that. But he's also a little bit out there, with what he says and does sometimes. I'm not sure how you can sit there as an owner and talk about stability, stability, stability and then hire Jim Mora, but I can see why Snyder would be attracted to him."
Snyder has not had contact with most members of his existing coaching staff since a meeting Tuesday, and the coaches are on hiatus until a decision is made. Snyder has told the candidates he would like to move swiftly on this matter, and some within the organization believe a news conference is likely by the middle of next week.
Several veterans contacted yesterday said they anticipated a mass exodus of defensive coaches should Williams not get the job. Any outside candidate would likely want to assemble his own staff and players.
Redskins Note: Mike Faulkiner, a 60-year-old Redskins scout, died Tuesday in Russell, Kan., from pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife, Laura. He joined the Redskins in 2005 as an area scout.
"Mike was an important part of the Redskins' organization and we are saddened today to lose a member of our family," Gibbs said in a statement. "He had a heart for the Redskins and we are grateful for the time and commitment he made to the organization and to each of us."
Staff writer Les Carpenter contributed to this report.