WASHINGTON Jim Fassel has become a top candidate for the Washington Redskins coaching job after a third interview with owner Dan Snyder.
The former University of Utah and New York Giants coach met with Snyder on Monday, according to a person familiar with the selection process. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Redskins haven't publicly stated the names of any candidates.
The person said Fassel is also the previously unidentified candidate who interviewed with the owner on Jan. 11 and 12.
Fassel was also a strong contender for the Redskins job in 2004, but all candidates were eclipsed when Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs decided to come out of retirement.
Gibbs resigned two weeks ago, and Snyder has interviewed five potential successors: Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, Seattle Seahawks defensive backs coach Jim Mora, Redskins assistant Gregg Williams and Fassel.
Mora withdrew his name from consideration last week. Williams has met with Snyder four times and offered the best scenario of continuity for a team coming off a playoff season, but the fiery assistant was unsuccessful during his only stint as a head coach with the Buffalo Bills from 2001-03.
While the coaching search continued, the Redskins solidified their front office structure Tuesday by adding the word "executive" to Vinny Cerrato's title, making him the executive vice president of football operations. The team said Cerrato will assume responsibility for all aspects of the team's football organization, including the roster, scouting and salary cap management.
The move appears to offer a hint the next coach will have a less influential role than Gibbs, who also served as team president and often consulted with Snyder and Cerrato on equal footing. The Redskins have functioned without a general manager since Snyder bought the team in 1999.
Fassel, 58, took the Giants to the Super Bowl following the 2000 season and went 60-56-1, including 2-3 in the playoffs, during seven seasons in New York. He was the AP's NFL coach of the year in 1997, when he led the Giants to an 11-5-1 record as a rookie head coach.
Fassel was fired following a 4-12 season in 2003 and became a senior consultant to the Baltimore Ravens staff in 2004. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2005 but was fired in October 2006 in a midseason shake-up by coach Brian Billick when the Ravens were struggling offensively.
Although he has frequently been mentioned as a coaching candidate for several teams and has had multiple interviews, Fassel spent this season away from the sideline, working as an analyst for CBS Radio Sports/Westwood One.
GRUDEN GETS 3-YEAR EXTENSION: At Tampa, Fla., coach Jon Gruden was rewarded Tuesday for Tampa Bay's worst-to-first turnaround in the NFC South with a three-year contract extension that runs through the 2011 season.
Gruden, who had one year left on a contract that was extended after the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl five seasons ago, earned about $4.3 million in 2007.
General manager Bruce Allen also was given a three-year extension, keeping him under contract for another four seasons.
BRADY SHEDS BOOT ON RIGHT FOOT: Tom Brady walked in New York without the protective boot that he had worn on his right foot, increasing the likelihood that his injury was not serious.
The Web site, TMZ.com, posted a video Tuesday showing the Patriots star walking without the boot and without a noticeable limp through a group of photographers in New York and getting in a cab. The video, lasting 1 minute, 11 seconds, then briefly showed his girlfriend, Gisele Bundchen, leaving a residence.
Several Web sites had photos Monday credited to infphoto.com that showed Brady wearing a walking boot on his right foot. A video of Brady walking with a slight limp from an SUV to Bundchen's home was also available on TMZ.com.
Later Monday, other pictures showed him wearing black shoes and no boot when he showed up at a New York hotspot.
Brady, this season's NFL MVP, and the Patriots are headed to the Feb. 3 Super Bowl against the New York Giants.
Brady has a high ankle sprain that is "mild," according to the Boston Herald. The Boston Globe characterized it as a "minor" high ankle sprain.
T.O. WILL BE BACK WITH COWBOYS: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones plans to pay Terrell Owens' $3 million roster bonus, which means the All-Pro wide receiver will be back for the final season of his three-year, $25 million contract.
"Yes, we are going to have Terrell back," Jones said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Jones added that a contract extension for Owens is something he would consider "down the line."
Owens finished with 81 catches for 1,355 yards and a team-record 15 touchdown receptions.
The future of wide receiver Terry Glenn appears uncertain, Jones said. Glenn missed 15 games after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He'll need microfracture surgery on the knee, a procedure that typically requires a year to recover from.