Fassel and Redskins Have Met Two Times
Former Giants Coach Is a Top Candidate
Wednesday, January 23, 2008; Page E01
Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel has interviewed twice for the Washington Redskins' vacant head coaching position, according to league sources, and has become a leading candidate to get the position. Fassel completed his last interview Monday and flew back to his home in Arizona, sources said, and he and Gregg Williams, the Redskins' assistant head coach-defense, are the only people to meet with owner Daniel Snyder more than once.
Fassel, who was on the verge of getting the Redskins' job in 2004 before Snyder hired Joe Gibbs, was impressive in his interviews both at that time and during this round of talks, leading some league sources to expect he could be named coach as soon as today. Williams, who has been strongly endorsed by coaches and players, was seen by agents and executives around the league as the front-runner for the position, but there has been some pause by ownership since he last was interviewed a week ago. In the interim, Fassel has gotten a second interview.
Fassel, 58, an offensive coach with experience mentoring young quarterbacks, is not interviewing for an offensive position with Washington, according to NFL sources, but solely the head coaching job (although it remains possible the team could approach Fassel or other candidates to bolster the staff should Snyder still opt to give Williams, 49, the job). Several NFL sources said they believed former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who worked with Fassel with the Ravens and has ties to newly promoted Redskins executive Vinny Cerrato, would be a prime candidate to replace Williams should Washington end up overhauling its staff. The Redskins have offered the head coaching position to no one at this point, according to the sources, but Snyder has told several candidates that he intends to be as swift and diligent as possible, with a decision possible this week.
Snyder promoted Cerrato to executive vice president/football operations yesterday -- he was formerly vice president of football operations -- in a move the team said largely was an extension of Cerrato's current duties. Cerrato has been by Snyder's side since he purchased the team in 1999, with the exception of the 2001 season, when he was fired. He returned the following year. For the past four seasons, Cerrato, Snyder and Gibbs, who also served as team president, assessed and acquired players. Snyder has said he has no plans to alter that structure, with Snyder and Cerrato working with the next head coach in a similar manner.
"The appointment formalizes the structure the team has operated under in recent years, and is recognition of the valuable role Vinny has played this season," Snyder said in a statement issued by the team, which noted the key role Cerrato is playing in this hiring process as well. The release also stated that Cerrato would "assume responsibility for all aspects of the team's football organization," including the roster, which is almost universally the domain of the coaches. A team official said last night that contrary to the wording of the release, the next head coach will indeed have roster authority. Cerrato declined to comment on the promotion last night, citing a need to be in meetings with Snyder.
Fassel's previous interview with Snyder took place Jan. 11, sources said. He was the previously unidentified candidate, with Williams, Tennessee Titans assistant Jim Schwartz, Indianapolis Colts assistant Ron Meeks and Seattle Seahawks assistant Jim Mora also meeting with Snyder (Mora withdrew his candidacy last week). Snyder and the team are not commenting on the coaching process, though Snyder spoke publicly of the need for continuity and stability in the organization following Gibbs's retirement. Fassel denied meeting with Snyder when reached on his cellphone 10 days ago, and has not returned messages since then. His representatives are not returning calls, either.
Fassel coached the Giants from 1997 to 2003, compiling a 58-53-1 record and leading the team to the Super Bowl in the 2000 season. The Giants reached the playoffs three times under his guidance, but he was let go following a 4-12 finish in 2003. Fassel spent this season broadcasting games for Westwood One Radio, but has fulfilled the stipulations of that contract, according to an industry source, and it has an escape clause that would allow him to pursue a head coaching job.
Fassel worked with star quarterbacks John Elway and Phil Simms earlier in his career -- the development of 2005 first-round pick Jason Campbell is of paramount importance -- and was an offensive assistant with Baltimore from 2004 until October 2006, when he was fired after the Ravens' long-suffering offense remained near the bottom of the league. Fassel was unable to help struggling quarterback Kyle Boller in Baltimore and interviewed for the offensive coordinator job with the Kansas City Chiefs recently, but did not get that position.
Snyder has hired experienced coaches throughout his tenure as owner, often going for bigger names such as Gibbs, Steve Spurrier or Marty Schottenheimer. Williams has previous head coaching experience as well, going 17-31 in three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, and has led Washington to a top 10 defense in three of his four seasons here. Gibbs has endorsed Williams privately, sources said, but is not a major part of this process with Snyder and Cerrato handling the sessions.
Williams does not have a close relationship with Cerrato, seen as some around the league as a potential factor, and Snyder met with Williams on four occasions, gauging their ability to coexist as well as going over football issues. Most of Washington's coaches currently are scouting at the Senior Bowl in Alabama -- Williams and assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel are among those not in Mobile -- and coaches have not been briefed about the hiring search since Gibbs announced his retirement at a staff meeting two weeks ago. According to team sources, that is a cause of growing consternation for coaches, many of whom know their job security is tied to Williams being promoted. Cerrato originally was scheduled to be among the contingent at the Senior Bowl but pulled out at the last minute when a second interview with Fassel was arranged, sources said.