So now we know what "reduced authority" means.

It means yesterday you were the general manager, and today you are a "consultant."

This is the sound of the other shoe dropping on Charley Casserly.

What has been hinted at for many months now -- from all the way back to when Howard Milstein thought he had purchased the Washington Redskins, up through the time Danny Snyder's face was smiled upon by the other NFL owners -- has come true: Casserly has been downsized.

He is now part of that most common species in Washington, the consultant.

In his case, it's a title without meaning.

"Honestly, I'm happy about this," Casserly said yesterday.

I guess what he means is, it could have been worse. He could have been fastened to Albert Belle.

I wonder where Casserly will do this consulting. My guess is it won't be at Redskin Park, considering that 1) he and Norv Turner can't stay in the same room together, and 2) Vinny Cerrato has been named director of player personnel and will take over Casserly's duties.

You remember Cerrato, don't you? He's the guy who Milstein wanted to set up in an office at Redskin Park during what Milstein anticipated would be the transition from John Kent Cooke to him. Except Cooke wouldn't let Cerrato set foot on the property. He correctly saw Cerrato as a wolf at the door.

So Cerrato ended up in a motel working on a laptop. This is a guy for whom a hot meal and a shower would have seemed like heaven. This is a guy who was treated like dirt by the old regime -- and the symbol of that old regime, with Cooke sailing carefree in Bermuda, is Casserly. Now that Cerrato is in power, surely it's pay back time.

Don't cry for Casserly. He's got a parachute. Through the end of the 2000 season he'll be paid GM money, when the closest thing he'll be doing to GM work is maybe driving a Chevrolet. Actually, Casserly may be able to move up from GM to Rick Hunt Ford-Lincoln-Mercury-Dodge in Warrenton, which seems to be a landing area of choice for recent Redskin emigres. John Konoza lasted all of three days as public relations director before returning to his first love, the car dealership. Johnny, we hardly knew ye. (You don't think there might be a bit more to that story, do you?)

But if you're looking to mark your scorecard with who won and who lost, Casserly lost.

Norv Turner apparently won. But the clock is ticking on him too.

Casserly was the GM when the Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1991 with a veteran team that was assembled by him and Bobby Beathard. Casserly had success with "Plan B" free agents, but that is the Mesozoic Era compared with now. Casserly's first group of free agents under the new rules -- Carl Banks, Rick Graf, Tim McGee, Al Noga and Jim Riggs in 1993 -- was a disaster. His first high draft pick, Desmond Howard, was incapable of playing receiver in the NFL. His next No. 1 pick, Tom Carter, was nondescript.

Since Turner's arrival in 1994, the Redskins have made some very good free agent signings, such as Henry Ellard, Ken Harvey, Terry Allen, Marvcus Patton and Matt Turk. But there have been many turkeys as well, such as Ethan Horton, Leonard Marshall, Alvin Harper, Rod Stephens and Chris Mims. If a vote was taken based on last season, Dana Stubblefield would be the Titanic. And who can forget what a bag of beans trading for Sean Gilbert turned out to be?

Even worse have been the first-round draft picks, most notably Heath Shuler, whose tenure here was ghastly from the very beginning, when he held out, until the end, when he was booed while jogging on to the field to relieve a dinged-up Gus Frerotte for one play. Andre Johnson, the offensive lineman who never played a single down, was a hideous pick. Michael Westbrook, who has missed more than half the team's offensive snaps in his four seasons here because of injuries and suspensions, still has time to salvage his career -- but will it be here? The good news is that the Redskins have three No. 1 picks in 2000. What Snyder apparently didn't want to contemplate is what Casserly would do with them.

The one thing we don't know is whose signature is on those free agents and draft picks. Is it Casserly's or Turner's? John Lennon in a lengthy interview in the late '70s, and then Paul McCartney in an autobiography in 1997, discussed in detail who wrote which songs, and which Beatles songs were written together. But we don't have that kind of detail yet from Casserly and Turner. And until we do both their names are on this team. And this team hasn't been very good for five full seasons.

Consider this: Turner was brought here because of his overwhelming success developing Troy Aikman into a star quarterback. And now we are approaching the sixth season of what Turner and Casserly have built here, and the Redskins are on their fifth starting quarterback. So even though Norv won this round, if he put his ear to the ground he could probably hear the posse coming.

The true significance of what happened to Casserly, though, is who's holding the big stick now. I'd say Snyder is.

He has owned the team for about 40 minutes. In that time he installed a new field, painted the offices in suitably aggressive colors, and then aggressively swept through those offices firing everyone, including a few innocents. Now he has relieved Casserly of command and made him a "consultant." (We're offering a home version of the game to anyone who can guess what Snyder will consult Casserly about.) Snyder has made a quick point of marking his territory.

The way the Redskins have languished lately, the thing they need most is a good shaking up. Snyder is coming on like a Mixmaster. For $800 million this kid's not going off sailing in the middle of the afternoon. He's going to be at Redskin Park carrying that big stick. The fat linemen and the prima donnas have been forewarned. This may not be pretty, but it will be loud.