- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 19, 2002

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's sudden insistence on hiring two people to do the general manager's job is costing new coach Steve Spurrier his top candidate.

Tampa Bay personnel director Tim Ruskell interviewed for the general manager's post Thursday, but Snyder pulled an unexpected switch and tried to hire Ruskell as personnel director, NFL sources said. Under league rules, the Bucs can prevent Ruskell from making a lateral move and did so, according to sources.

Spurrier tried to sell Snyder on giving Ruskell the general manager's post, sources said, but Snyder is exploring the possibility of scrapping a GM and bringing in a personnel director and chief negotiator.

Ruskell won't come to Washington to join Spurrier, his longtime associate, unless he receives a general manager's title and pay, sources said. Ruskell is expected to remain in Tampa Bay, where he has spent the past 15 years.

Splitting the general manager's duties into two positions would lessen the power of the incoming executives and heighten Snyder's influence on football matters. Snyder fired coach Marty Schottenheimer on Sunday, frustrated with having surrendered control of all personnel matters.

Snyder is likely to encounter more difficulties if he offers the personnel director job to his other top candidates: Kansas City pro personnel director Bill Kuharich, Buffalo director of football operations Tom Modrak and former Green Bay vice president of personnel Ken Herock. It is possible Snyder could give the job to former Redskins personnel director Vinny Cerrato, who currently is being considered for a scouting job, sources said.

Interviewing yesterday for the chief negotiator position, which includes oversight of the Redskins' salary cap, was Joe Mendes, the last person to hold that position for the club. Mendes, who met for much of the day with Snyder at Redskin Park, resigned just before the 2000 season after seven years with the team.

Ruskell has not had the opportunity to negotiate contracts but those close to him say there is little doubt he could handle the dual role. Plus, the Redskins already have a contract negotiator/cap specialist in Mark Levin. Sources said Ruskell enjoys working for the Bucs and isn't inclined to leave, just as the Bucs won't let him go for a lateral move. Tampa Bay could not stand in the way if Washington offered the GM post.

Meanwhile, former Redskins defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer appears to be a top candidate to fill the vacancy created by his dismissal earlier this week.

Marty Schottenheimer's brother conducted a brief interview yesterday morning with Spurrier, and there appeared to be strong interest. Spurrier plans to speak soon again with Schottenheimer, who was dismissed Monday.

Schottenheimer apparently wants to find out whether his brother will get another head coaching position, specifically the one in San Diego, where he appears to be the leading candidate. Schottenheimer isn't committed to joining his brother, though.

Washington's defense ranked 10th last season, Schottenheimer's first, an impressive feat because the Redskins' offense was so stagnant.

"His defense was active, played hard, [was] well-coached," Spurrier said. "I heard he's a good person, a good coach."

Spurrier plans to meet with other candidates next week at the Senior Bowl. The coach spoke to reporters before leaving town for several weeks; while he is gone he also will help coach the Feb. 2 Hula Bowl. He said he was able to watch tape of his new players for the first time.

With regard to Ruskell, the Redskins skirted NFL rules by interviewing him ostensibly for the general manager's post. The Bucs would have denied permission for a meeting if Washington had said it was seeking a personnel director, sources said.

Whether the Redskins actually were considering Ruskell for the GM post is unclear, but in any case the Bucs appear unlikely to file a tampering charge. Tampa Bay did deny Washington permission to interview general manager Rich McKay for the GM job.

Ruskell, who worked for the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits while Spurrier was coach, met with Snyder and Spurrier for about seven hours. Sources said the meeting went very well. Ruskell emerged as a top candidate after talks broke down with former Redskins GM Bobby Beathard.

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