- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

Green Bay Packers cornerback Al Harris jumped a passing route in overtime yesterday and kept the Washington Redskins’ search for a new coach on schedule.

Harris’ 52-yard return of an interception for a touchdown beat the Seattle Seahawks in a wild-card playoff game and freed up Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes to become the third, and perhaps final, candidate to interview for the post Steve Spurrier quit Tuesday.

A meeting with Rhodes is expected to come today or tomorrow, probably in San Francisco. Redskins owner Dan Snyder and vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato have been in San Francisco since Wednesday night, conducting a pair of two-day sessions with former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel and former Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green.

The Redskins’ quick trip west fueled speculation Fassel was their top candidate, and there are growing indications Fassel is very interested in Washington, too. However, a number of officials for other NFL teams believe Rhodes, Washington’s defensive coordinator in 2000, is most likely to end up Redskins coach.

If Seattle had won, it was unclear whether Rhodes would have agreed to meet during a week of game preparation or whether Washington would have waited for him had he not. Green Bay’s dramatic victory made such conjecture unnecessary and allowed the Redskins to fulfill their stated commitment to meet with Rhodes.

The planned schedule of Redskins officials has been to interview Fassel, Green and hopefully Rhodes on the West Coast, then invite the top one or two candidates back to Redskin Park for second meetings this week.

The current setup of Washington’s front office is what makes some officials for other NFL clubs say Rhodes is the best fit for the Redskins.

In Washington, Snyder is heavily involved in personnel and holds the final say on cuts and acquisitions. Cerrato is Snyder’s personnel chief. During Spurrier’s tenure, Cerrato held equal power to Spurrier and Snyder settled arguments.

It remains unclear whether Fassel, who interviewed Saturday with the Arizona Cardinals and is scheduled to meet with Buffalo Bills officials in coming days, would want such a setup. Agent Steve Rosner said Friday, “At the moment, I don’t think [control of personnel] is an issue.”

Green, who interviewed in Arizona and reportedly will meet with the Oakland Raiders today, is expected to accept no less than the final say over cuts. In Minnesota for a decade, he had total authority over personnel.

Associates of Rhodes say he wouldn’t hold Washington to such a high standard. Plus, his background with Cerrato — the two spent 1991 and 1994 together in the San Francisco 49ers organization, as well as 2000 in Washington — makes some colleagues believe the two could mesh well in picking players.

However, one source close to Rhodes said the Seahawks assistant is “reluctant” to return to the organization after observing day-to-day operations in 2000, and that he is “a little skeptical” about becoming a head coach again. However, it is said Rhodes wouldn’t resist the payday of a third head-coaching stint.

Rhodes went 37-42-1 in five seasons as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles (1995-98) and Packers (1999). He made the playoffs his first two years but slumped from there. He was considered a players’ coach who would field a tough team that would compete, but discipline and organization were viewed as his weaknesses.

In Rhodes’ season with the Redskins, he elevated a unit that finished 30th in the league in 1999 to fourth. He refused to take the interim job when Norv Turner was fired at 7-6 (it ended up going to passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie), and departed the club after an argument with 2001 coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Snyder is said to have kept Rhodes in high regard the past few years, and Cerrato’s relationship with Rhodes apparently remains strong.

Fassel and Green both enjoyed more success at head coaches than Rhodes. Fassel was 58-53-1 in seven years as Giants coach, winning two NFC East titles and advancing to the Super Bowl following the 2000 season. Green went 97-62 in 10 years with the Vikings, reaching the playoffs eight times and winning the defunct NFC Central four times.

Regarding Fassel, the Chicago Bears cancelled plans to meet with the highly sought coach, Rosner said. While one report out of Chicago indicated the Bears believed Fassel already might have a deal in line with Buffalo, there were indications Chicago’s meeting was tentative and the Bears simply have other candidates higher on their list.

Rosner, queried yesterday on a potential deal in the works, replied: “No. The only teams we’ve been in contact with are Arizona, Washington and Buffalo. Jim’s obviously met two of them, and he’s going to see Buffalo next. As of right now, we have no offers.”

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