Redskins dismiss Williams, Saunders; promote Blache to lead defense

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Redskins seem to have a whole
lot of their coaching staff in place for next season -- except for
the head coach.

And that head coach won't be Gregg Williams. Or Al Saunders.

As for the rest of the candidates, they'll have to wait until
the Super Bowl is done.

On a busy Saturday at Redskins Park, the team fired assistants
Williams and Saunders, promoted Greg Blache to lead the team's
defense and formally announced the hiring of Jim Zorn to head the

There was more. A person familiar with the coaching selection
process told The Associated Press that linebackers coach Kirk
Olivadotti has agreed to a new contract. Running backs coach
Earnest Byner, the only other assistant whose deal was about to
expire, has been in talks with Tampa Bay about a job but would be
welcome to return as well.

The person said Al Saunders' son, offensive assistant Bob
Saunders, will not return next season. Less certain was the future
of quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor. After initially deciding that
Lazor will not be back next season, the Redskins instead will leave
his fate to the new head coach.

The person also said that most of the rest of the coaching staff
was expected to remain with the team, which would lend credence to
owner Dan Snyder's stated desire to maintain a degree of continuity
following the resignation of head coach Joe Gibbs on Jan. 8.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not
authorized to speak publicly on the subject.

As for the search for a head coach, the next interviews aren't
expected to take place until Feb. 4, the day after the New York Giants
and New England Patriots play for the NFL championship, so
that Snyder can talk to assistants from the two teams involved.

"The process of selecting a new head coach continues, although
no hire is planned until after the Super Bowl so as not to distract
from the championship game as well as to keep open all our
options," Snyder said in a statement, his first public comments on
a coaching search that began more than two weeks ago.

Williams' dismissal removes one of the early favorites to
succeed Gibbs. Williams had been in charge of the Redskins defense
for all four seasons under Gibbs and was popular among fans and
many players, but his confrontational style and poor track record
at his previous head coaching stint with the Buffalo Bills did
little to help his chances for the top job.

Williams often said that he had learned under Gibbs how better
to deal with people, but his short fuse remained on full display
for players and reporters all four years in Washington. He
committed a major breach of protocol -- and created an embarrassing
moment for Gibbs -- when he failed to tell the head coach that he
was going to send only 10 men onto the field on the first play of
the first game following the death of Sean Taylor in November.

Williams met four times with Snyder to discuss the head coaching
job, but it quickly became clear that the owner was more focused on
other candidates, including former Giants head coach Jim Fassel,
current Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Patriots
offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Snyder also has interviewed
Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks and Tennessee
Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

The Redskins will conduct a second interview with Meeks on Tuesday in Indianapolis.

The person familiar with the selection process said the Redskins
have granted the St. Louis Rams permission to interview both
Williams and Saunders for coordinator positions. The person said
the Rams had to seek permission because, even though Williams and
Saunders were told they were being dismissed, the team hasn't
formally terminated their contracts.

The person also said Saunders, who ran the offense the past two
seasons, was never a candidate for the head coaching position and
was told several days ago that he was not in the team's plans.
Saunders, like Williams, was considered a possible heir-apparent to
Gibbs when he arrived in Washington, but he was never able to
generate the type of consistent, high-yardage attack he had during
his long stint as an offensive coordinator in Kansas City.

Saunders' fate was sealed when Zorn, the Seattle Seahawks
quarterback coach since 2001, agreed to a three-year deal Friday.
Zorn also is expected to coach the quarterbacks, which would seem
to make Lazor's job redundant.

Snyder lived up to his goal of keeping staff turnover as a
reasonable level by promoting Blache, who has coached the defensive
line and has held the title of defensive coordinator -- in name
only, because the job was actually Williams' -- since 2004. Blache
was previously the defensive coordinator for five seasons for the
Chicago Bears.

The moves mean that the new head coach -- whoever he is -- will
find his staff essentially in place when he takes over. In his
statement, Snyder expressed confidence in making the moves now
because Zorn, Blache and the other Redskins assistants were highly
regarded by the candidates he has interviewed.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.