- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2002

Tampa Bay Buccaneers personnel director Tim Ruskell appears to be the Washington Redskins' top candidate for general manager following a lengthy interview yesterday at Redskin Park.

Ruskell, a longtime associate of coach Steve Spurrier, spent about seven hours meeting with owner Dan Snyder and Spurrier. The meeting went very well, according to sources, and Spurrier indicated that his longtime associate is close to getting the job.

"Hopefully, we can get him hired," Spurrier said.

The coach wouldn't say outright that Ruskell is the top candidate, and he reiterated that Snyder will make the final call. But Ruskell is Spurrier's choice, NFL sources have said. The hurdle is convincing Snyder that Spurrier would not wield too much power because the coach is so close to Ruskell.

The other attractive factor about Ruskell is price. Snyder apparently offered former Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard $500,000 a year to rejoin the club one-tenth of what Spurrier is making. Negotiations broke down, and Beathard now is not certain he wants the job.

Ruskell could be signed for a salary in the $500,000 range, sources said, whereas proven general managers like Beathard, Ron Wolf and Rich McKay all of whom have surfaced as candidates would command far more. McKay, the Tampa Bay general manager, was denied permission to speak to the Redskins by the Buccaneers but appears to be headed to Atlanta anyway, sources said.

Spurrier and Ruskell worked together in two of Spurrier's three seasons as coach of the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits. The two remained close during Ruskell's 15 years with the Buccaneers and Spurrier's stints as coach of Duke and Florida.

If Ruskell does not take the job, the top candidates appear to be Kansas City Chiefs personnel director Bill Kuharich, Buffalo Bills director of football operations Tom Modrak and former Packers vice president of personnel Ken Herock.

Spurrier is scheduled to be out of town for the next few weeks. He will spend time at Senior Bowl practices next week and then coach in the Hula Bowl on Feb. 2 with former Florida assistant Bob Stoops, now Oklahoma's coach.

Spurrier indicated that he will interview one defensive coordinator candidate before leaving town, and there were surprising indications last night that the meeting is for this morning with former coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer, who was fired Monday.

The new coach apparently does not mind working with the brother of former coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was fired Sunday. Kurt Schottenheimer led the Redskins to the No. 10 defensive ranking in 2001, his first and only season with the club.

Spurrier said other candidates are still coaching playoff teams and won't be available until at least next week. His pool so far is limited to those currently with NFL clubs meaning an interview could be blocked, unless the coach's contract is expiring who also have experience as an NFL coordinator.

"I think we're going to try to get a coordinator who's done it, done it well, recently," Spurrier said. "That's our plan."

Tennessee Titans linebackers coach Gunther Cunningham is interested in the job but knew of no attempt at contact by the Redskins. Cunningham, the Chiefs' defensive coordinator from 1995 to 1998, joined the Titans last season after being fired as Chiefs coach.

"To be honest, I'm trying to get in touch with [Spurrier]," Cunningham said. "I turned down some [coordinator] jobs last year that I probably should have taken. I turned them down for personal reasons, family reasons. I'll tell you what: I'm probably as anxious [to be a coordinator again] as I've ever been in my life."

Spurrier hopes to have his defensive coordinator in place within the next week or two. The coordinator, who also could get the title of assistant head coach, will help Spurrier fill the final two assistant coaching positions: linebackers and secondary.

Otherwise Spurrier's staff is in place.

The team announced the hires of Hue Jackson (running backs), Lawson Holland (tight ends), Kim Helton (offensive line), John Hunt (assistant offensive line), Steve Spurrier Jr. (wide receivers), Noah Brindise (assistant quarterbacks), Mike Stock (special teams), Jim Collins (assistant special teams), Ricky Hunley (defensive line) and DeChon Burns (assistant defensive line/quality control).

Spurrier Sr. is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Nine of the 11 assistants have Florida ties to Spurrier, excepting only Jackson and Stock, who are holdovers from Marty Schottenheimer's staff.

Schottenheimer was expected to interview last night for San Diego's coaching job.

Spurrier, introduced at a news conference Tuesday, has not begun to look at tape of his players. But he has seen the Redskins' statistics from 2001, and he is confident that he should have no problem exceeding Schottenheimer's ranking in total offense.

"[Number] 28?" Spurrier said. "I'll do better than that next year. I can guarantee you that without guaranteeing too much."

The Redskins' scouting staff, which was not fired with personnel director John Schneider this week, is preparing a five-man list of players who will be available for the expansion draft. That list is due next week.

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