Fassel Said to Remain at or Near Top of the Redskins' List

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 3, 2008

Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel remains hopeful and enthusiastic about his chances of becoming the next head coach of the Washington Redskins as the search nears an end, according to league sources. Fassel was nearly offered the job 10 days ago, the sources said, and remains the top candidate to replace Joe Gibbs.

Owner Daniel Snyder and Executive Vice President Vinny Cerrato had planned to meet with former NFL coach Steve Mariucci during Super Bowl week in Arizona and two league sources said they were told the session took place Wednesday. The Redskins are not commenting on any candidates, although Snyder has said he will not make a decision until after the Super Bowl.

New York defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is likely to be interviewed early this week, while sources who have spoken to Snyder said they believe the team will decide by Thursday. Snyder and Cerrato also interviewed Indianapolis defensive coordinator Ron Meeks for a second time this week.

"We drew up a list of candidates and some of them happened to be coaches who made it to the Super Bowl," Snyder said in Phoenix. "We're finishing up with our interviews. We feel like we've done a very thorough job, and we'll finish up very soon."

Despite not hiring Fassel, and extending the search past the Super Bowl, Snyder has informed Fassel he is a prime candidate, sources said. Fassel's previous success in the NFC East, his trip to the Super Bowl with the Giants and his experience mentoring young quarterbacks make him attractive to the Redskins. Fassel was nearly hired in 2004 before Snyder lured Gibbs out of retirement and has had two formal interviews for the job.

In the interim the Redskins hired two coordinators -- Jim Zorn and Greg Blache -- that league sources said were highly recommended by Fassel. It's unusual for a club to hire a staff before a head coach -- another sign that several personnel executives believe indicates the Redskins will hire someone they have already spoken to at length. League sources said Fassel has been very comfortable with the developments of the past two weeks.

Blache has strong ties to Redskins players and coaches; Spagnuolo and Meeks have no prior NFL head coaching experience -- Spagnuolo has only been a coordinator for one year. Fassel favored Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to replace Gregg Williams, but was fine with the choice of Blache.

"I think we're going to have continuity with the coaching staff in the end," Gibbs said yesterday in a conference call. "And I also think that in the end, and Dan has worked extremely hard throughout the whole process, that we're going to have the right chemistry."

Spagnuolo has previously coached for Philadelphia and has become a hot name as the Giants marched to the Super Bowl. But Snyder has chosen experienced coaches since taking over the Redskins in 1999. Should the Giants upset the Patriots, Spagnuolo could become a more attractive candidate, according to sources who have talked to Snyder.

"Everyone wishes it could be faster," Snyder said. "But that's not the way it happened."

Gibbs, who resigned Jan. 8, spoke yesterday about his role in the hiring process. "I've been purposefully kind of standing back because I didn't think I should be talking while the process is taking place. But I also think that some people have taken that the wrong way, that I had a problem with the process, and that's not the case at all."

Staff writers Jason Reid in Washington, and Les Carpenter and Mark Maske in Phoenix, contributed to this report.

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