- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2000

The Washington Redskins are now considering whether to hire a general manager as well as a coach.

NFL and team sources said Tuesday the Redskins have contacted former Buffalo Bills GM John Butler about joining the team in a similar post. However, Butler reportedly is ready to join the San Diego Chargers and didn't talk extensively with the Redskins.

Still, the Redskins seem ready to supplement or replace player personnel director Vinny Cerrato, who has been looking for possible NFL and college openings in recent months, according to team and league sources. Cerrato has apparently tired of the round-the-clock demands by owner Dan Snyder, and the two aren't nearly as close as when Snyder hired Cerrato in July 1999.

Meanwhile, the Redskins are seeking a final answer from Florida coach Steve Spurrier by today. The Gators' coach has been among the Redskins' top candidates after recent rejections by former Washington coach Joe Gibbs and former St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil. Spurrier's contract allows him to leave Jan. 2 when Florida meets Miami in the Sugar Bowl. Spurrier repeatedly has said he wasn't interested in the Redskins' position but was willing to listen to an offer.

If Spurrier spurns the Redskins, they'll look next to New York Jets president Bill Parcells and San Francisco 49ers assistant GM Terry Donahue. Parcells' contract expires Jan. 31, but he reportedly has said he expects to return to the Jets. Donahue has said he isn't interested in coaching again but has talked with Redskins officials. Donahue is expected to succeed 49ers GM Bill Walsh, who reportedly will retire after the NFL Draft on April 21-22.

Washington also will consider Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer and South Carolina coach Lou Holtz. Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham is another possible candidate, but a source close to Willingham said he hasn't been contacted and wouldn't be interested.

The Redskins are retooling their front office after a disappointing 8-8 season despite a record $100 million payroll. Snyder is looking to increase traditional football decision-makers in an organization that was streamlined after the firing of GM Charley Casserly in July 1999.

NFL and team sources said Snyder has reconsidered the need for a strong GM who can help the team through a tight salary cap problem in the offseason. The Redskins need to cut at least $5 million off the cap by March 2, when free agency begins.

The Redskins wouldn't mind the bonus of a coach with personnel experience, which makes Parcells and Donahue more attractive. Washington isn't expected to repeat last year's lavish spending when Snyder signed name free agents like defensive end Bruce Smith, cornerback Deion Sanders and quarterback Jeff George. Instead, the Redskins will concentrate on signing a free agent kick returner and a receiver and drafting a receiver with their 15th overall selection.

Washington is targeting Carolina Panthers returner Michael Bates, who averaged 22.4 yards on 42 returns this season and scored on a 92-yard return against the Redskins in their season opener Sept. 3. Washington kick returner James Thrash averaged 22.2 yards on 45 kickoffs but could leave as an unrestricted free agent.

The Redskins also will consider 49ers receiver Jerry Rice, who has long been on Snyder's list. Rice caught 75 passes for 805 yards and seven touchdowns. Those numbers easily would have led Redskins receivers this season, though fullback Larry Centers caught 80.

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