The Washington Redskins' new owners intend to restructure the front office and revise the job description of General Manager Charley Casserly, according to sources familiar with the thinking of incoming lead owner Daniel Snyder and his partners. The owners plan to leave it to Casserly to decide whether he wants to remain the team's general manager with those changes, the sources said yesterday.
Members of the Snyder group reiterated yesterday that the owners do not plan to fire Casserly once they officially complete their $800 million purchase of the team and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium from the Cooke estate.
"Charley Casserly is the general manager," said Karl Swanson, a spokesman for Snyder. "We can't put it any more plainly than that."
Snyder was not available to comment yesterday. Casserly, whose contract runs through the 2001 season, declined to comment.
Members of the Snyder group declined to comment on their plans for reorganizing the front office. Sources said those plans aren't complete and the Snyder group has made no requests to interview people under contract to other NFL teams. But the Snyder group does plan to make additions and revise responsibilities among those responsible for making football decisions.
Any people added to the front office on the football side would report to the general manager, sources said. There were indications yesterday that those additions could include members of the scouting department, one of whom perhaps could be given the title of personnel director, and an executive who would be in charge of contract negotiations. Members of the Snyder group say they've talked to dozens of front-office people with other NFL teams, as much to get a feel for how an organization should be run as to search for job candidates.
Snyder, the 34-year-old Bethesda marketing executive who is about to become the NFL's youngest owner, has said that he intends to be involved in the team's operations as well.
It's unclear whether Casserly would agree to remain in his job if his power is reduced greatly, and the owners seem prepared to permit Casserly to walk away if he objects to the changes. Those who know Casserly say that he won't resign if that would mean forfeiting the remaining money guaranteed to him in his contract. But if the sides can't agree on a working arrangement, they perhaps could negotiate a financial settlement that would allow Casserly to pursue other jobs in the league.
The Snyder group agreed to its record-setting deal with the trustees for the Cooke estate in April and received NFL approval for the purchase in May. Participants in the deliberations between the Snyder group, the trustees and the NFL aimed at applying the official finishing touches to the transaction say they hope to close the deal by Friday but concede that Monday may be a more realistic target.
The Snyder group also needs to name a team president, and Redskins employees say they know that other changes probably will be made at Redskin Park as well.
Snyder announced when he and his partners completed their deal with the estate that he planned to retain Casserly and Coach Norv Turner. The working relationship between the two has not always been smooth, and it is possible that Turner could be given more control over player-related decisions, sources said.
Still, those in the Snyder camp say they don't want anyone in the organization, including Casserly and Turner, to feel too comfortable at a time when the Redskins haven't been to the playoffs in six seasons.
Meanwhile, Redskins officials have had preliminary discussions with the representative for running back Lawrence Phillips and yesterday were waiting to hear back from agent Mitch Frankel. Phillips apparently intends to pare his list of interested teams before making a few visits and then signing with a club before training camps open late this month.
Redskins officials say they're wary of Phillips's legal troubles but nevertheless have had conversations about the possibility of signing the former University of Nebraska star, who has had failed NFL stints with the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins.
The Buffalo Bills also may be interested in Phillips. Frankel did not return telephone messages and was not available to comment yesterday. Redskins officials said they received little or no negative reaction from fans yesterday to the news that they're interested in Phillips.
Redskins officials also are negotiating with veteran defensive end Charles Haley and seem hopeful that they'll sign their first-round draft pick, cornerback Champ Bailey, before training camp opens on July 25 in Frostburg, Md.
CAPTION: Daniel Snyder, right, and owners group could change Charley Casserly's role so that Coach Norv Turner gets more control over player-related decisions.