Schottenheimer fired, Redskins reach agreement with Spurrier

Monday, January 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Twelve months ago, owner Dan Snyder declared that the Washington Redskins were ``Marty Schottenheimer's organization from the standpoint of the final word.''

Snyder later decided that he'd given the coach too much power, and last week asked for some of it back. Schottenheimer refused and was fired Sunday night, setting the stage for Snyder to hire his preferred choice all along: Steve Spurrier.

Spurrier, who rejected Snyder's overtures before Schottenheimer was hired a year ago, has reached an ``agreement in principle'' with the owner for a five-year contract worth about $25 million, a source with knowledge of the Redskins' negotiations said on condition of anonymity.

Snyder met several times during the last week with Schottenheimer, including twice Sunday, in an attempt to get the coach to renegotiate a clause in his contract that gave him the ultimate authority over player-related matters. That clause was highly touted by Snyder when he gave Schottenheimer the title of director of football operations, but debatable personnel moves made the owner decide that he'd swung too far from hands-on to hands-off.

``Coach Schottenheimer gave 100 percent of his efforts to the Redskins and made positive contributions to the team,'' Snyder said. ``Our decision was a difficult one and was based on philosophical and management issues, not on coaching ability.''

Spurrier, on the other hand, has said he doesn't want to be anything more than a coach. The Redskins will now hire a general manager or someone with a similar title, with Bobby Beathard, Ron Wolf, Bruce Allen and Vinny Cerrato among the possible candidates.

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 became the country's most-wanted coach after he 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 one national championship and went 122-27-1 in his 12 seasons with the Gators.

On Saturday, Spurrier denied he had met with Snyder, but the source said the contact has been 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.

``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,'' cornerback Darrell Green said. ``Offense is what puts people in the seats and excites the team. That's something we need desperately.''

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 West Coast system.

Those decisions, and the early losing streak, soured a Snyder-Schottenheimer relationship that started out so well. The two vacationed in Europe together, the coach called the owner ``Dan'' in public, and the they even wore matching straw hats at training camp.

By the end of the season, the two were speaking less often, and Schottenheimer was calling the owner ``Mr. Snyder.''

A tough training camp regimen and the early losses also nearly caused a player revolt, but an air-it-out team meeting helped turn the season 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.

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, a Heisman Trophy winner when he played quarterback for Florida in 1966, came back to his alma mater as coach in 1990, and turned the Gators into big-time winners for the first time.