Inside The Search: Updated 2/7/2008

John Keim keeps Redskins fans updated on the search for the next head coach of the Redskins in this blog.

February 7, 2008

...Steve Spagnuolo pulled out because he wanted to stay in New York, feeling it was a better situation to be in than in Washington. The Redskins cap issues and the ownership situation played a factor in his thinking, as did the fact that a staff was already in place. He's confident enough to believe he'll get another shot next year.

...The Redskins did not make an offer to him, but a league source said he thinks this really is who they wanted. The Redskins waited a long time to talk to Spags so it makes sense. Some of that stemmed from the fact that they simply wanted to talk to as many people as possible.

...There was no mutual agreement that Spagnuolo was not ready to be a head coach. We do know that Spags had told people in New York for a while that he wasn't sure he was ready to be a head coach after one year. Couple weeks ago, some in New York didn't think he would be interested for that reason.

...Those around the league remain convinced Jim Fassel will get the job now. Some of those people saying that talk to Vinny Cerrato. But who really knows. We've been told they like Ron Meeks and there also have been a couple others they've talked to who did not want their names out. That could mean a college coach or it could mean another person who has interviewed for jobs in the past but not gotten them. Would look bad if they got turned down again. Others benefited from the publicity – Jim Mora, Spags both got hefty raises.

...Steve Mariucci is a distant third.

...The report about the plane headed to Arizona was very inaccurate, according to a team source. We have no reason to doubt them.

...It could be that something happens this weekend, but no press conference will be held until Monday.

...One player worried that if Fassel gets the job, he will not have much command over the players. He feared that they would view him as less powerful, wondering if he was a stopgap coach. He'd have no power and they would know it. Makes a difference.

...The Redskins haven't looked good in this process, but do not blame the effort. They have been much more thorough than in the past, a lesson learned from the Marty, Spurrier days.

February 4, 2008

...Steve Spagnuolo will interview either late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. The NFL Network reported that Spagnuolo wanted to attend the Giants' Super Bowl parade.

...Spagnuolo, according to an NFL source who knows him well, likely wouldn't have a problem with having a coaching staff already in place. We're not certain it won't make a difference; most of it depends on how desperate Spagnuolo is to become a head coach. What is also certain is that if the Giants have another season anywhere close to this one, he could have his choice of jobs next season.

... People who know Spags – yes, we're calling him that; easier to type; we're lazy – say his energy is infectious. Makes a difference with the players he coaches. Did you notice them dumping Gatorade on him after one of the earlier playoff wins? How many times does that happen to a D-coordinator? Ever see Gregg Williams have that happen to him? Spags will interview well; he's well-prepared for this situation.

...It's funny how Jim Fassel was anointed as the major front-runner last week. We heard differently last Wednesday, that he had fallen behind Steve Mariucci. By the end of the week Fassel was back in the lead. That was funny because if they really wanted Fassel – and weren't just settling for him – they would have hired him already. If there was a strong conviction about him, the Redskins would not have worried about fan reaction. He might still be hired, but it's clear he's the fallback guy.

...The Redskins really do like Ron Meeks. They're not paying lip service to his interviews. He was unbelievably prepared and knew what he would do with each player on the roster. But a former Redskins coach who was on the staff when Meeks was in 2000 said he loved Meeks but couldn't see him as a head coach. And especially not with Dan Snyder.

...At least one Redskins coach who knows Spags wonders if he's ready to handle someone like Snyder.

January 28, 2008

...All of the assistant coaches now are expected to return (unless they get another job, but they won't be forced out). Even Don Breaux will have a place for at least another year, though it could be in the scouting department. A week ago, even the assistants figured they were all out the door. But the bad publicity at the end of last week helped them to return.

...Steve Mariucci? Heard mixed reports. One team source said no way; also heard the folks at NFL Network, where Mooch works, are saying yes. Maybe that's what Mooch is telling people simply to insert himself into the race. Right now, it sounds like a lukewarm rumor. But with the way things have gone, who really knows. As one person inside the building said, ‘'I don't even think they know who it will be.''

...Larry Brooks is interviewing for the D-line job, a coach confirmed tonight.

...Ron Meeks will interview Tuesday. It's hard to know if he's just a Rooney Rule candidate or a serious one, but heard he was highly prepared during his interview (more so than normal).

...The fact that so many assistants are likely to return has lifted the spirits of more than a few players. On Saturday, talked to one who was very, very down – before the news of Blache's hiring.

...Still trying to figure out if Steve Spagnuolo will be interested even though he can't pick almost none of his assistants. It's not exactly a welcome situation for a first-time coach.

January 24, 2008

Handicapping the field

A day after word spread a coach was about to be hired, another day passed without the Redskins naming a coach. The longer this goes on, the more it is clear: the Redskins were absolutely caught flat-footed by Joe Gibbs' retirement and had no Plan B. Considering how much speculation there was about Gibbs' future during the season, it would have made sense to have a ready list of coaching candidates – just in case.

Regardless, here's our take on the field:

1. Gregg Williams. He's clearly dropped from the lead, though, in reality, he never was in the lead. And the longer this goes on the less likely it becomes that he has a chance to win the job. The players are livid that he's likely not going to get the job. The problem remains the friction between he and Vinny Cerrato. Also, a team source said Williams' inability to massage the ego of owner Dan Snyder is another factor. Joe Gibbs knew how to do this; Williams is not as skilled at people management. It very well could be that Gibbs will be the only coach who really could keep Snyder at arm's length.

2. Jim Fassel. Never seen a fan base more livid than it's been since it was learned Fassel was a strong candidate, and possibly the next coach. We were told it was never that close, though Fassel believed he would get the job after his interview. Snyder raved about his interview to others, but one person told him, ‘'Do you want a good interview or a good coach?'' We're not sure if the negative reaction played a role in Fassel not getting the job (yet), but one Redskins source said, ‘'It would have to, don't you think?'' Fassel could still get the job, but trust me on this: the rest of the NFC East will be happy if he does.

3. Ron Meeks. Next. OK, we'll say a couple words about him. Apparently he's still a legit candidate, having interviewed twice. His name is still in the mix, but how serious are they about him? Hard to say because other names are mentioned more prominently.

4. Steve Spagnuolo. The Redskins will now wait until after the Super Bowl so they can interview the Giants' D coordinator. People I talk to about him say it's a matter of when, not if, that he'll become a head coach. And discount the talk about him thinking he's not ready to be a coach. He wasn't ready to be the coach of the Falcons, so they moved on. But trust us on this: his people will tell him the Redskins gig is different; it's a storied franchise.

5. Josh McDaniels. The Patriots' O coordinator could get a look, but at 31 he's not ready. He's told other teams that he didn't want to interview for their jobs because he didn't feel as if he was ready to be a head coach. We don't expect that to change.

January 23, 2008

...Jim Fassel is the leading candidate, though it's uncertain as to when he'll be named. At this point, it would be a stunner if he's not the winner.

...Other reports have said that Jim Zorn and Rex Ryan would become the offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively. But we're not sold on the Ryan coming to Washington angle just yet. Talked to him today and he said he hadn't been contacted. The Post said he was. We'll soon find out if he lied; it wouldn't be the first time someone in this search had done something like that. Fassel had been telling reporters for the past week that he hadn't interviewed. Not the best way to start your tenure.

As for Ryan, he also said he'd be comfortable returning to Baltimore. Ryan did work with Fassel in Baltimore, but that's not necessarily a good thing. Fassel's rep took a major hit there because of how he approached the job and there was friction between the offensive and defensive staffs. After Fassel was fired there, players talked about how there was much more detail in the offense under Brian Billick.

...Ryan is under contract with Baltimore, which wants him back. There's a chance they could ask for compensation to release him. But they don't have to let him go.

...The Redskins like to announce all their coaches together, which could be the hold up in this process.

...Zorn has some interesting way to run drills. Apparently, he likes to sometimes even use slip and slides as a way to work on the QB slides.

...Players are absolutely up in arms over this developing story. Talked to a couple today and one was near distraught, stunned and shocked.

... Players do feel like Joe Gibbs let them down. You won't hear them say that publicly because it's Joe Gibbs and this is Washington. But you'd better believe this is how some feel.

...There is no press conference scheduled for Thursday. Yet.

...Boomer Esiason loved playing for Fassel in Arizona.

January 22, 2008

...Jim Fassel is the unnamed ‘'mystery'' candidate and he interviewed again Monday. Whether or not he's the leading candidate is all speculation. Remember, some of the people now saying he is were saying Gregg Williams was the No. 1 guy last week. And that was never the case.

...The fact that Vinny Cerrato is now the executive vice president of football operations indicates there will be a definite power structure in the new regime. And Cerrato will be above the coach. For Redskins fans, that should not be good news. He's been with the team for nine seasons; in that time I've talked to one person around the league who had the hint of anything good to say about him – and the Redskins players themselves lack any confidence whatsoever in him.

...If the choice is between Williams and Fassel, the tiebreaker could come down to Fassel's work with young quarterbacks. Owner Dan Snyder was complaining about Al Saunders last year – and early at that -- and again this year. Clearly he lacks confidence in him and what he can do for Jason Campbell. Fassel has tutored young QBs such as John Elway and Phil Simms. Boomer Esiason swears by him, having worked with him in Arizona. Said going from Rich Kotite in New York to Fassel in Arizona was like going from kindergarten to a PHd program.

...Williams and Cerrato don't get along. But you knew that by now.

...Fassel had the reputation of running a fairly loose ship in New York, with different rules for different players. One New York source said ‘'99 out of 100'' players loved playing for him. However, two sources said Fassel is someone who is as concerned about his image as anything. Another said Fassel got caught up in being the head coach of a team in New York.

...The Redskins liked Fassel when they interviewed him in 2004 before hiring Joe Gibbs.

...If Fassel is hired, there likely would be massive turnover on the coaching staff. With Cerrato gaining more control, the past four years could end up to be a major aberration in Snyder's regime and not a time when the ship was righted.

January 17, 2008

...They've interviewed four known, and one unknown, candidates. They talked to Ron Meeks today and Jim Mora yesterday. They would like the search wrapped up relatively soon.

...They've talked to, or interviewed, Gregg Williams on four different occasions.

...Every player we've talked to wants Williams to be the head coach.

...There is no friction between Williams and Al Saunders; talked to too many people who said otherwise. However, that does not mean there's not a philosophical difference, though that has not come up in multiple conversations.

Here's what I think:

...There's something amiss with Williams. I've talked to a handful of people who agree with that and others who say it's no big deal. One team source said owner Dan Snyder is simply being cautious after getting burned in the past.

...If they really liked Williams so much, why contact Mora AFTER they had talked with Williams a couple times.

...If there's a rift to watch, it's between Williams and Vinny Cerrato. We had heard there was friction in the past. Maybe all the interviews are designed to see how they get along, or if they can.

...Mora and Saunders share the same agent. So even if Mora comes, that doesn't mean there would be changes offensively.

...It's wise not to make a decision based solely on continuity. Snyder has to make the decision based on who he thinks is right for the job – in the short-term and long-term. Talked to too many people who agree with that statement. The problem is, the people picking the coach are the ones with the most stability, and the worst track record.

January 14, 2008

...The Redskins will interview Colts assistants Ron Meeks and Jim Caldwell, with the latter a more serious candidate. Both would satisfy the Rooney Rule.

...Gregg Williams had his second interview today; have not heard exactly how it went. There's a report on about people in league circles saying that Williams is concerned about the ability to get it done in Washington, given the setup. I am not surprised one iota by that. There's a definite rift between he and Vinny Cerrato, the guy Dan Snyder can't get rid of but who is holding this franchise back. All this talk about Williams and Al Saunders is missing the real point. The real stumbling block is Cerrato and Williams. My real hunch: Williams can get the job done in the right setting, but in Washington it would end poorly. Just don't see him being able to co-exist with this front office, at least not for the long-term.

...The assistant coaches have the week off, so it's pretty quiet at Redskins Park. Earnest Byner was one of the few I saw around this morning, out jogging.

...Speaking of Saunders/Williams, the overwhelming consensus is that they get along based on talking to players, league sources and others in the building. However, that doesn't mean there isn't something that might happen; just means have to keep asking about the relationship. It might be that Williams would be concerned about Saunders' offense and Jason Campbell's ability to run it. I don't think any move would be based on a personality conflict. If there was a real rift, it would have come out by now based on some of the people I've talked to. But we shall see.

January 12, 2008

...I don't get a chance to see Gregg Williams much these days, but when I have seen him, he appears very relaxed. Either he's confident of something or at peace with whatever might happen. Either way, he'll be employed and make a lot of money.

...Williams did have a meeting with Dan Snyder earlier this week, for about an hour. Just an informal session. My understanding is that he wanted to officially interview late in the process, sort of like batting last for the home team.

...If Williams stays, I'd be surprised if he does not want Al Saunders to remain as well. I've never heard that there's a rift between the two. Ever. Williams is aggressive; Saunders likes to be aggressive.

...Still not sure how serious the Redskins are about Jim Schwartz and Russ Grimm. One league source told me today that he really thinks they're going to hire an ex-head coach. Jim Mora's name came up, but I know that he has not been contacted nor has his agent, from what I understand.

...It's a pain in the butt to wait out a coach search. Spend most of the day at Redskins Park; watch the TV folks interview people like Byron Westbrook – what the heck can he add to the situation? Really, there's nothing any player would know. They want to know what we know. But the worst thing for a reporter is a coaching search, especially coming off the season we just covered. It was grueling and the hardest season any of us ever had to cover because of the tragedy and the flurry of night games at the end and then a cross-country trip to Seattle. It's been a draining ride.

...Reporters are taking the opportunity to talk one-on-one -- off the record and just to say goodbye -- with Joe Gibbs before he leaves. It's a very odd situation. Some might have grumbled about certain things with Gibbs, but most realized that this is a Hall of Fame coach who doesn't come around very often. I'll do the same with him next week. What I'll miss most is the post-practice media sessions on Wednesday. More often than not Gibbs would stick around to talk with reporters about anything; grandkids, movies, other coaches, the beach. Gibbs was very real and it's easy to see how he related to others. The reason he did not do better in his second stint had nothing to do with his age. The players genuinely liked him. One player during his first year talked about how he didn't think the team necessarily wanted to win for him. By this past year, he was saying how much the team liked him and wanted to win for him.

...The Redskins will continue to do everything off-site with the job search. That does not mean Morton's in Reston either. Maybe on occasion. But they have a plane and they want to use it. Worked in 2004 when they landed Gibbs.

...Talked to Jon Jansen tonight. He's at peace with his situation, knowing what a coaching change might mean for his future. But his cap number, around $8.8 million, will be large whether or not they cut him. He has a small salary, but a large bonus that's already guaranteed. If Joe Bugel stays, then Jansen should be fine. If not, he could be elsewhere and he knows that. By the way, he should be fully recovered for mini camp.

...It should be a little concerning that the Ravens have no interest in Jim Schwartz, who once worked for them. From what I understand, it's partly because Schwartz was an underling there long ago and many people he was under still remain. Would be a bit awkward. Also heard he wasn't well-liked there, but heard from people in Tennessee who call him a great guy.

...Still no Bill Cowher. Sticking to his desire to stay out two years.

...If Dan and Vinny are running the show, I'd be quite nervous about where this is headed. We'll really see if they learned anything from Joe Gibbs.

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