- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

New Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier might be eyeing an up-and-coming candidate for general manager while owner Dan Snyder seeks a proven big name.

Spurrier yesterday left open the possibility of working with a rising figure to lead the Redskins' personnel department. That person might be Tampa Bay personnel director Tim Ruskell, a longtime Spurrier associate who would be, according to several NFL executives, a perfect fit for the job.

If Spurrier could pick any GM, it would be Ruskell, one NFL source said. But it is unclear whether Redskins owner Dan Snyder would be willing to give the position to someone who already is so close to Spurrier. Snyder, frustrated by having given full power to former coach Marty Schottenheimer, fired Schottenheimer this week after just one season.

Snyder has been eyeing experienced candidates like former Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard and former Green Bay GM Ron Wolf and in fact almost completed a deal in recent days for Beathard to rejoin the organization. Snyder would need convincing to hire Ruskell, sources said.

Ruskell has worked for the Bucs since 1987 after two years with the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits, whom Spurrier coached. He has been mentioned in connection with a lower post in the Redskins organization, but NFL sources said it is unlikely the Bucs would grant permission for Ruskell to interview for a lateral move.

Spurrier spent the day after his introductory news conference being hustled from place to place, at one point taking a helicopter ride to FedEx Field. During a brief meeting with reporters, he clearly placed emphasis on the prospective general manager's knowledge of personnel, rather than experience.

"I think it's really important to get a general manager who really knows personnel around the NFL, who understands it, who's been in the league 10-15 years, and [is] a guy who I'm really comfortable with, as well as Mr. Snyder's comfortable with," Spurrier said. "How much experience? A young guy on the way up? Who knows which is the best way to go?"

But Spurrier made clear that he will defer to Snyder's judgment, saying, "I can really work with anybody. Mr. Snyder will make that call."

Spurrier also said he is looking for a defensive coordinator with NFL experience, adding that he has asked permission to speak to at least one candidate who is working for another team. On offense, Spurrier will be coordinator and his staff essentially is in place; hires will be announced officially today.

In line for positions are Noah Brindise (quarterbacks), Lawson Holland (running backs), Kim Helton (offensive line), Steve Spurrier Jr. (wide receivers), Jim Collins (linebackers) and Ricky Hunley (defensive line). Holdovers Mike Stock (special teams) and Hue Jackson (running backs) are expected to remain.

Spurrier hopes the general manager will be in place within a week. The Redskins are eager to return to the traditional owner-GM-coach power structure; at Tuesday's news conference, there were repeated references to the format former owner Jack Kent Cooke used to win three Super Bowls.

Beathard no longer knows whether he wants to come out of retirement, he said from his home in San Diego. When talks broke off he re-evaluated the situation and wasn't sure whether he was interested anymore. The sides have not been in contact since.

"To be candid, I'm really in between [being interested and not being interested]," Beathard said. "I had a good time with Dan Snyder. I was comfortable with him. He was different than what I had read. But I'm not sure how I feel right now. I've become a Redskins fan again. I'm thrilled they got Steve. I'm not sure if I want to get back in now. If I feel I could make the commitment, I would. I'll probably talk with them again, but I just don't know right now."

Wolf said he doesn't consider himself a candidate because his demands are too high. For Wolf to come out of retirement, he said, he would need to receive a percentage stake in an organization, something he believes no team is prepared to offer.

One top candidate appears to be Kansas City personnel director Bill Kuharich, the former New Orleans general manager. Kuharich said he is interested in the position and wants to find out more about it. He had no knowledge of the Redskins contacting the Chiefs for permission, something that isn't required (because he would be seeking a higher position than he currently holds) but is a matter of courtesy.

Buffalo director of football operations Tom Modrak also did not know of the Redskins attempting to make contact with him. Modrak interviewed with Schottenheimer last winter but pulled out of the personnel director search because he wanted a general manager's post.

Meanwhile, Redskins wide receiver Michael Westbrook said he will listen to any offers from the club before March 1, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. It was assumed Westbrook would leave if Schottenheimer remained coach, because the former first-round pick was used so infrequently in Jimmy Raye's offense. But Spurrier's hiring appears to boost the chance of Westbrook staying.

"I want to be a Redskin," Westbrook said.

Schottenheimer is scheduled to interview tomorrow with San Diego, NFL sources said. It appears to be his best chance for landing a job this season. Schottenheimer enjoyed his return to the game this year and said he wants to begin working for another club immediately.

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