Redskins To Extend Search For Coach

By Jason La Canfora and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 25, 2008

Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs called his former assistants yesterday to inform them that the search for his replacement is likely to take several more weeks, team sources said, a day after management's attempts to put together a staff for Jim Fassel, a head coaching candidate, collapsed.

Fassel had anticipated an offer from the Redskins on Wednesday, according to a source close to him, and earlier in the week discussed the framework of a contract with owner Daniel Snyder, something no other candidate has done.

Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, the team's executive vice president for football operations, spent Monday and Tuesday attempting to contact and interview assistant coaches Fassel wanted -- league sources said they included Baltimore's Rex Ryan, Seattle's Jim Zorn and San Diego's John Ramsdell -- but contractual stipulations precluded all but Zorn from interviewing.

Public sentiment about Fassel was decidedly negative once his involvement was disclosed, and, after huddling with Cerrato, Snyder called Fassel on Wednesday night to tell him the team would extend the search until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

Fassel, who was on the cusp of getting this position in 2004 before Gibbs was lured out of retirement, feels manipulated according to a source close to him, though Snyder could offer him the job after talking to other candidates. The same source said Snyder told Fassel he remained a strong candidate during their conversation Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Snyder has not spoken to Williams, leader of his defense the past four seasons, in a week, league sources said, and Williams believes he is no longer a serious candidate.

The decision to wait likely means the Redskins will assess whether they want to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after the Super Bowl, league sources said, when they are next permitted to do so. According to sources who have spoken to Snyder, Spagnuolo's experience within the NFC East makes him attractive. Fassel's knowledge of the division from coaching NFC East rival New York is a large part of that coach's appeal as well, according to a source close to Fassel.

The inability to land his top-choice coordinators significantly weakened Fassel's position, with the Redskins becoming increasingly frustrated by league rules that limit contact with assistants who are under contract with other teams, according to a source who spoke to Cerrato.

Baltimore has the ability to block Ryan, who worked with Fassel for the Ravens from 2004 to '06, from leaving for anything other than a head coaching job, and multiple league sources said Ryan is close to agreeing on a reworked contract to remain Baltimore's defensive coordinator.

San Diego denied Washington's request to interview Ramsdell, their quarterbacks coach, and Ramsdell signed a two-year extension with the Chargers yesterday.

Zorn spent Wednesday at Snyder's home explaining how he would reconfigure the offense and work with young quarterback Jason Campbell, and a multiyear deal was discussed, league sources said. But Zorn flew back to Seattle to meet with team officials without agreeing to a contract, and the Seahawks have a strong interest in retaining his services, league sources said.

Snyder spoke repeatedly of the need for continuity and stability during his remarks after Gibbs's retirement but has not addressed his current coaching staff since a meeting on Jan. 8, with unease, confusion and consternation growing among players and coaches.

Snyder met with Williams, the favorite among the staff and Gibbs's recommendation, four times, but never felt comfortable enough to offer him the job, while the icy relationship between Cerrato, promoted from vice president this week, and Williams was another important factor.

The Redskins have told other parties that Williams remains a possibility as a head coach, but sources with ties to Williams said he might turn down an offer. Jacksonville is interested in Williams for its vacant coordinator position, league sources said, though the Redskins could block that lateral move because Williams has a year remaining on his contract.

Washington's interest in multiple offensive assistants could signal a change in philosophy as well. Snyder and Cerrato have been unhappy with the offense's progress in two years under associate head coach Al Saunders, according to numerous sources who have talked to them the past few months, and several league sources believe a change will be made regardless of who becomes head coach.

Washington's staff has been dismayed by the way this search has unfolded, with many members venting to their peers this week during Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala. Players continue to lobby for Williams, though several said they believe he would have been hired by now if Snyder and Cerrato truly wanted him. Many were shocked by Fassel's emergence.

Gibbs, a special adviser to Snyder who has had little involvement in the coaching search and the operation of the team, is expected to attempt to quell some of that sentiment next week. He reached out to the coaches by telephone yesterday, expressing regret that they have become unsettled and the process has taken longer than some expected.

He is to meet individually with them all next week, beginning Monday, team sources said. All of the coaches, save for running backs coach Earnest Byner and linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti, have another year remaining on their deals; Byner and Olivadotti have contracts that expire next week.

Redskins Note: Long snapper Ethan Albright has been named to the Pro Bowl, the Redskins announced yesterday. It is the first Pro Bowl for Albright, who will join tackle Chris Samuels and tight end Chris Cooley in the Feb. 10 game.

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