- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003

Washington Redskins officials sat on their hands yesterday as the NFL coaching carousel spit out several qualified candidates to be the club’s next defensive coordinator.

Buffalo’s Gregg Williams, Arizona’s Dave McGinnis and Chicago’s Dick Jauron — three head coaches with backgrounds as successful defensive coordinators — all were fired by their respective clubs. But the Redskins made no moves to contact them or signal interest, leaving the potential search to coach Steve Spurrier.

Spurrier, for his part, got out of town and began the process of taking a break from the Redskins. In about a week, he is expected to announce whether he will return as coach for 2004, and if so what changes he’ll implement.

The Redskins are operating on the premise Spurrier will be back and he will take charge of any changes that need to be made. Thus management is not formalizing a list of potential replacements in case Spurrier bolts, and it is not starting the search for a new defensive coordinator.

Current defensive coordinator George Edwards is the most likely assistant to be fired by Spurrier, who seemed resigned to changes on his staff during his news conference following Saturday’s 31-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Washington’s defense slumped to 25th this season under Edwards after finishing fifth under Marvin Lewis in 2002. Edwards was hampered by suspect personnel on the defensive line, but by season’s end the unit was almost incapable of getting opposing offenses off the field.

The Redskins ran a 35-minute deficit in time of possession over the final three games, a gap that could have been greater if the Eagles didn’t have such firm control in Saturday’s second half. Minus a Dec.14 win over the hapless New York Giants, Washington didn’t hold an opponent below 300 yards since early October.

Edwards, who didn’t return a phone message yesterday, was promoted by Spurrier from linebackers coach following Lewis’ departure in January. Spurrier conducted no interviews before he handed the post over to his former player at Duke.

Spurrier also did virtually no interviewing for the position before Lewis was hired in 2002, simply rubber-stamping owner Dan Snyder’s decision to hire Lewis to the league’s richest contract for an NFL assistant.

It is Spurrier’s track record of not participating in the staffing process that concerns a number of Redskins officials as the team awaits his decision on his future. Even if Spurrier stays, they fear, he might not act with enough decisiveness to hire the best coordinator.

There should be a fair amount of competition for Williams, McGinnis and Jauron, not to mention other well-regarded possibilities who would merit consideration. The latter group includes Dick LeBeau, Williams’ assistant head coach in Buffalo; Ted Cottrell, the New York Jets’ coordinator who is considered to be in trouble; Wade Phillips, Atlanta’s outgoing coordinator and interim head coach; and Greg Blache, Jauron’s coordinator in Chicago.

Williams appears to be the jewel. The last time he was a coordinator, in 2000, he guided Tennessee to the NFL’s top ranking — higher than the Super Bowl-winning Baltimore defense, regarded as one of the best in history. And Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse, a pending free agent, said he would strongly consider playing for Williams next season.

The Redskins are in search of a top pass-rusher after a year in which only five clubs recorded fewer sacks. Kearse, who posted 91/2 sacks for the playoff-bound Titans this season, is set to be the premier sack specialist on the market.

But the other potential coordinator options have merit, too. Of the group, Jauron is being mentioned for head-coaching openings and might not be interested in a coordinator’s post.

Some Redskins officials feel strongly Spurrier must select his own coordinator and not take the choice of management. Already the club is coming off a year in which there was growing friction in its upper levels. Some officials believe the last thing Spurrier needs is a defensive boss whose loyalties are divided.

Of course, Spurrier first must decide whether he is returning. If he decided to go, a major hurdle would be money. He is owed $15million over the final three years of his contract, and Snyder is determined not to pay a significant buyout. Sources close to Spurrier believe it is unlikely he would resign without any settlement.

Notes — The NFL confirmed the Redskins will have the No.5 overall pick in April’s draft. … Defensive tackle Darrell Russell said he wasn’t surprised by the club’s decision not to re-sign him, citing his lack of playing time in the season’s stretch run. He added he doesn’t regret signing with Washington.

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