Originally created 01/14/02

Redskins fire Schottenheimer, reach agreement with Spurrier



WASHINGTON -- A power struggle between owner and coach left Marty Schottenheimer without a job and put the Washington Redskins in position to win the Steve Spurrier sweepstakes.

Schottenheimer was fired Sunday night after he refused to renegotiate a clause in his contract that gave him ultimate authority on player moves. That clause was touted by owner Dan Snyder when he gave Schottenheimer the title of director of football operations, but 12 months of debatable decisions made Snyder think he'd swung too far from hands-on to hands-off.

Spurrier has said he doesn't want to be anything more than a coach. After spurning Snyder's overtures a year ago, the former Florida boss reached an "agreement in principle" on a five-year contract worth about $25 million, a source with knowledge of the Redskins' negotiations said on condition of anonymity.

The Redskins also will hire a general manager or someone with a similar title.

Schottenheimer will receive the $7.5 million remaining on the four-year, $10 million contract he signed a year ago. The Redskins went 8-8 in his only season, becoming the first NFL team to go from 0-5 to 5-5.

Spurrier suddenly quit Florida on Jan. 4, and declared himself ready to take on the NFL. A colorful sideline presence and a mastermind at offensive game-planning, Spurrier won six Southeastern Conference titles and the 1996 national championship, going 122-27-1 in 12 seasons with the Gators.

On Saturday, Spurrier denied he met with Snyder, but the source said the contact was primarily with Spurrier's representatives. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Spurrier on Sunday night were not successful.

His hiring would represent the type of high-profile signing preferred by Snyder, whose players have included Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith and Jeff George.

Spurrier's offense would offer a stark contrast from the conservative approach used by Schottenheimer.

While Snyder felt Schottenheimer's job as coach was acceptable, the owner was perplexed by Schottenheimer's decision to release fullback Larry Centers, who was signed by Buffalo and had a Pro Bowl year. Schottenheimer also stuck with George - with no experienced backup - through training camp even though it was apparent the quarterback didn't fit Schottenheimer's system.

Snyder and Schottenheimer met several times over the past week, including twice on Sunday, as Snyder tried to convince Schottenheimer of the need to hire a general manager and change the wording of the contract. Schottenheimer refused.

Possible GM candidates include former Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard, ex-Packers GM Ron Wolf, and Bruce Allen, son of former Washington coach George Allen and now a special assistant with the Raiders.

Snyder could also bring back former director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato, who was fired by Schottenheimer.

After unsuccessfully pursuing Spurrier a year ago, Snyder hired Schottenheimer, who called the owner "Dan" or "Daniel" - a change from former coach Norv Turner's use of "Mr. Snyder."

Snyder and Schottenheimer became almost chummy as they vacationed in Europe together and even wore matching straw hats at training camp. But the relationship began to sour during the Redskins' slow start. By the end of the season, Schottenheimer was calling the owner "Mr. Snyder."

A tough training camp regimen and early losses also left some players near revolt, but Schottenheimer called a team meeting and things turned around. The Redskins won eight of their last 11 games, mirroring the 8-8 finish after an 0-5 start in Joe Gibbs' first season in 1981. Gibbs went on to win three Super Bowls in Washington.

Schottenheimer alienated some fans with his conservative offense and his treatment of longtime favorite Darrell Green, who said the coach was one of the reasons he announced his retirement effective at the end of the season. Green later changed his mind and will return for a 20th season.

"This is one of the tougher years for a player, particularly for myself," Green said.

"If it's Steve Spurrier, you're talking about an individual who's going to come in here with some real energy, an offensive mindset. Offense is what puts people in the seats."

The Redskins haven't had a losing season since Snyder bought the team for $800 million in 1999, but Spurrier would be his fourth coach. Turner was 10-6 in 1999, and Turner and interim Terry Robiskie combined for an 8-8 record in 2000.

Spurrier won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as Florida's quarterback and came back to his alma mater as coach in 1990, turning the Gators into big winners for the first time.



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