Redskins insiders not denying coach rumors

While they declined Saturday to acknowledge it for attribution, Washington Redskins officials told ESPN.com privately that the status of Steve Spurrier for 2004 is uncertain, and did not disagree with a report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the head coach is considering resigning after only two seasons in the league.

But the biggest questions team officials have, should Spurrier opt to resign, are these: How will he devise an exit strategy that allows him to save face, and is Spurrier ready to simply walk away, unconditionally, from the $15 million he still is owed for the final three seasons of his five-year contract?

"He still has to figure out a way to explain why he's leaving," said one source. "For a guy (with his ego), it won't be easy to just concede things didn't work, so he's going to have to invent a scapegoat or something like that."

There is no denying that the soap opera surrounding one of the league's true hallmark franchises has been ramped up this week -- perhaps intentionally by Spurrier, who has suggested there are issues he and owner Daniel Snyder must resolve in the offseason. Among those issues are his coaching staff, one of the least experienced and arguably most disorganized groups in the league, and Spurrier's role in personnel decisions.

Without citing him by name, it appears Spurrier privately is at odds with vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato, and would prefer to have a personnel director who is more answerable to the coach. Some high-ranking members of the organization feel that Spurrier will use Cerrato, who probably will sign a contract extension after the season, as a convenient excuse for exiting the franchise.

Spurrier likewise could balk at Snyder's suggestions that he make staffing changes, since the head coach has the contractual authority to hire and fire his assistants.

A few weeks ago, Cerrato presented Spurrier with a list of coaching staffs he felt would be fired after the season, the inference being that there might be some assistants available who would upgrade the Washington staff. There was a point, not long ago, when Spurrier told team insiders he was considering wholesale alterations. In recent days, though, he has been adamant that he will resist changes.

In a related matter, the Redskins deactivated three players -- defensive tackle Darrell Russell, tight end Zeron Flemister and linebacker Antonio Pierce -- for their Saturday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles. All three players breached team rules this week, with Flemister and Russell late for Thursday's practice. Those indiscretions, contend some of his critics, are typical of the lack of discipline and control Spurrier has demonstrated this season.

In addition, some in the organization are not happy that Spurrier will depart Sunday for a two-week vacation in Florida, leaving Washington without first having the kind of year-end evaluation of players and staff most teams typically convene. If Spurrier does opt to dump some staffers, they likely will find out long-distance from a man who doesn't enjoy face-to-face confrontations, as he has apprised his assistants to keep their cell phones on while he is gone.