- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2004

Showing typical offseason aggressiveness, Washington Redskins officials yesterday opened a projected two-day interview for their vacant coaching position with former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel.

Owner Dan Snyder and vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato conducted the meeting, at least part of which took place in a San Francisco-area hotel, after taking Snyder’s private plane across the country Wednesday night.

The sides planned to reconvene today before Fassel travels either this evening or tomorrow morning to the Phoenix area to meet with Arizona Cardinals officials.

Washington’s immediate huddle with Fassel, two days after former coach Steve Spurrier resigned, fueled speculation that the highly sought coach tops the team’s three-man A-list of potential replacements.

“Obviously Dan felt Jim was high on his list,” said Steve Rosner, Fassel’s agent. “I’m not saying he’s their guy, but there’s significant interest.”

Washington also has scheduled an interview with former Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green this weekend in San Francisco and plans to meet with Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes on Monday if Seattle loses its first-round playoff game Sunday at Green Bay.

If the Redskins settle on Fassel, they are expected to compete with at least three other clubs. Fassel is scheduled to interview in Arizona tomorrow and with the Chicago Bears on Monday or Tuesday, and he remains the odds-on choice by some league executives to land the Buffalo Bills’ vacancy.

One executive with another NFL club, in fact, believed Bills president Tom Donahoe was being deliberately slow and quiet in his pursuit of Fassel. Rosner said Buffalo had not contacted Fassel directly but had signaled its interest.

Rosner indicated Fassel planned to meet with all interested teams, saying, “Jim’s going to respect the process.”

Despite the Redskins’ interest in Fassel, a number of officials with other NFL clubs believe Rhodes is most likely to end up Washington’s coach, given Fassel’s myriad options and Green’s history of control over personnel.

The Redskins are expected to maintain the current personnel structure, with Snyder heavily involved and Cerrato his personnel chief. While Green had total power for 10 years in Minnesota, friends of Rhodes say he wouldn’t fight for final say over players. Plus, Rhodes apparently remains close with Cerrato after working with him in San Francisco in 1991 and 1994 and serving as Washington’s defensive coordinator in 2000.

Still, Washington’s advantage in a battle for Fassel could be two-fold. First, club officials already have demonstrated their fervor by flying to meet Fassel rather than waiting for him to visit them. Second, the team essentially has $5million annually in its budget for its new coach, with Spurrier having resigned as the NFL’s highest-paid coach.

Rosner, asked about Fassel’s priorities in his search for a new job, listed “talent level, commitment from the organization, upside [and] the history of the organization.”

He added: “Financial considerations are certainly something that will be important but not the most important thing. This is not Jim’s first go-round. He has been a head coach before.”

Asked about the issue of personnel power, Rosner replied: “It is Jim’s intention to find out what role the head coach will play in each of these teams.”

In any case, the Redskins cannot come to an immediate agreement with Fassel. NFL diversity guidelines mandate at least one interview with a minority candidate, and the Redskins must meet with either Green or Rhodes to satisfy the requirement.

Washington officials have made it a priority to respect the NFL’s guidelines and have plotted a fairly lengthy timeline for hiring a coach. They expect to meet with Fassel, Green and Rhodes, then invite one or two top candidates back to Redskin Park for second interviews, possibly next week.

Meanwhile, there was no immediate corroboration of a SI.com report that Washington might look at Oakland Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen for an executive position, likely team president.

Allen, 2002’s NFL executive of the year following the Raiders’ Super Bowl berth, is the son of the late Redskins coach George Allen (1971-77), who led the organization out of decades of mediocre play to its first Super Bowl appearance.

Allen, who could not be reached yesterday, spoke with Washington in January 2002 after Spurrier had been hired when Snyder was searching for a general manager. It was unclear how far the talks advanced before Snyder eventually settled on Joe Mendes and Cerrato. Mendes departed the club via mutual decision last summer.

A Redskins official claimed no knowledge of any intention to hire Allen. The team has not had a president since Steve Baldacci departed more than a year ago. However, Baldacci did not have any football-related responsibilities. Allen, in all likelihood, would work closely with Snyder on salary cap and contract issues.

Allen, who works without a contract in Oakland, reportedly might be considered for an executive position in Tampa Bay, where he would be reunited with coach Jon Gruden.

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