- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2000

Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes yesterday said he hasn't made a decision whether he will return next season.

"Nobody knows about next year," Rhodes said. "It would be inappropriate for me to say what I'm going to do at this point. I wish I had a crystal ball and could tell you. I can't predict whether the situation remains the same here or changes are made.

"If Terry [Robiskie] gets the job and it's a positive to stay here, [that's] good, but you don't know what the conditions [are] going to be. It's not up to me to make up my mind. Let's see how the staff clears. You don't know who's going to survive. I'm taking a low-key approach and just try to find a way to win games."

However, team and NFL sources said Rhodes plans to leave if Robiskie isn't retained. Robiskie was named the interim coach after coach Norv Turner was fired Dec. 4. Rhodes isn't trying to strong-arm owner Dan Snyder into keeping Robiskie. In fact, Robiskie convinced Rhodes to stay should the interim coach receive a long-term contract.

Robiskie's chances of being offered a contract are uncertain, especially after a disastrous 32-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The Redskins (7-7) are virtually eliminated from the playoffs as they prepare for Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If Robiskie had led Washington to the postseason he certainly would have earned the job. Now it's a judgment call by Snyder, who said he wouldn't decide Robiskie's fate solely on the Dallas defeat.

Possible coaching candidates are backing away. Snyder's early list of New York Jets president Bill Parcells, University of Florida coach Steve Spurrier, retired St. Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil and University of Miami coach Butch Davis all said they weren't interested. Former UCLA coach Terry Donahue, after he talked to Redskins "search committee chairman" Pepper Rodgers, said he expected to remain San Francisco's assistant general manager. Team sources said Snyder is focusing more on college coaches.

Rhodes declined Snyder's offer to succeed Turner because he didn't want to be the coach. After he was fired by Philadelphia and Green Bay the past two years, respectively, Rhodes joined Washington in January on the condition he wouldn't replace Turner, whose departure was expected.

Rhodes said he prefers to remain in the background, but it's difficult not to notice the Redskins improved from 30th last year to fourth this season defensively. Washington has allowed only 242 points. Dallas was the only opponent to score more than 30 points, and Washington has permitted 20 or less in 10 games.

Rhodes' future isn't certain if the Redskins choose a new coach. Snyder would urge the incoming coach to retain the defensive staff, but Rhodes acknowledged the traditional right for a newcomer to pick his assistants. If Robiskie isn't retained by Snyder, chances are he would depart with one year remaining on his contract rather than be demoted.

NFL rules permit Snyder to block either coach from working elsewhere during the final year of their deals. However, team sources said it is improbable Rhodes would be forced to stay.

The fallout of Rhodes' departure could be staggering. Team sources said officials worry several older players might retire or leave should Rhodes not return. Cornerback Deion Sanders, who repeatedly cited Rhodes as one of his primary reasons for signing with the Redskins, said recently he would return in 2001. Should Sanders retire, his salary cap hit would exceed $6.86 million next season.

"I think [the defense] did pretty well overall," Sanders said. "It's been very fortunate the defense played like it did this year, or else it would have been a lot worse than it is now. It's fortunate Ray came."

Said cornerback Darrell Green: "I thought [Rhodes] was a really solid impact. I thought Ray was capable of getting his point across. It was a big upgrade for us."

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