After a roller-coaster season and a tumultuous week of negotiations, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder fired coach Marty Schottenheimer last night, amid reports that former Florida coach Steve Spurrier, the man Snyder wanted to hire last season instead of Schottenheimer, is prepared to come aboard as the replacement.
Published reports indicate that Spurrier, who guided the Gators to an Orange Bowl victory over Maryland, then resigned two days later to pursue an NFL head coaching job, is close to signing a five-year, $25 million deal with the Redskins.
Spurrier apparently would not receive player personnel authority, the sticking point in the relationship between Snyder and Schottenheimer, who was both coach and director of football operations, with the final say over roster moves.
Spurrier, who has been reportedly courted by the Carolina Panthers for their coaching vacancy, denied reports that he had met with either Snyder or Pepper Rodgers, the Redskins' vice president of football operations, and a longtime Snyder adviser. But Spurrier told the Associated Press that he had been talking to teams and expected something to happen this week.
Snyder made a run at Spurrier after the 2000 season, but the coach declined and the owner turned to Schottenheimer, who had spent the previous two years as an ESPN analyst.
Right off the bat, Schottenheimer, who vacationed with Snyder in Europe in the off-season, shook up the Redskins.
Washington floundered early, losing its first five games, and Schottenheimer nearly lost the team in a mutiny, which was quelled by a team meeting, during which players appeared to be placated. The Redskins finished 8-8, becoming the only team in league history to win five straight after losing its first five.
However, Snyder was skeptical of Schottenheimer's ability to both evaluate personnel and coach, based, in part, on Schottenheimer's decision to let fullback Larry Centers and wide receiver James Thrash go, while keeping quarterback Jeff George, whose deep-passing tendencies seemed to clash with Schottenheimer's conservative style.
In a statement issued by the team, Snyder indicated that he was prepared to stay with Schottenheimer, provided the coach could allow him to hire a general manager who would have the last word on personnel moves.
When Schottenheimer refused, after a week of negotiations following the Redskins' 20-17 win over Arizona in the regular-season finale, Snyder fired him, saying he had "concluded it is in the best interests of the team to hire an experienced professional to oversee non-coaching player personnel matters," according to the release.
"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."
Snyder will pay Schottenheimer the $7.5 million on the three years still on the contract, but the firing may cost the team more than $10 million, as Schottenheimer's assistants, including his brother, Kurt, the defensive coordinator, and his son, Brian, the quarterback coach, have guaranteed contracts.
Schottenheimer, who said after the Arizona game that he wanted to continue coaching, may become a candidate for vacancies in Indianapolis and San Diego.
Meanwhile, CNN/SI reported last night that talks between Snyder and former Washington general manager Bobby Beathard, the architect of the Redskins' three Super Bowl wins in the 1980s and '90s, broke down Saturday over money.
NOTE: In other coaching news, ESPN.com reported that the Buccaneers were expected to fire Tony Dungy within the next 48 hours. The team is expected to announce the hiring of Bill Parcells in the next five to seven days.