By Don Banks
January 11, 2008

You can hold off on the notion that Redskins assistant Gregg Williams is a slam dunk to replace the re-retired Joe Gibbs in Washington, in light of the news that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder started his coaching search Thursday by interviewing Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

And this was no cursory three-hour, keep-your-name-on-file interview either. Snyder and Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato met for about nine hours with Schwartz at Sndyer's mansion overlooking the Potomac River.

Sources say Snyder came away very impressed with Schwartz's intelligence, coaching philosophy and communication skills. That Schwartz, 41, is close to Snyder in age (the owner is 42), and knows the D.C. market from having grown up in Baltimore and attended Georgetown further boosts his candidacy. That common ground lent itself to a long and surprisingly detailed and wide-ranging conversation that stretched from morning until early evening.

And there's another factor that could work in Schwartz's favor: He's suddenly in demand, at least in terms of head coaching interviews. Schwartz was scheduled to be in Atlanta on Friday to interview for the Falcons' coaching vacancy, and the Dolphins received permission to meet with him about their opening on Monday. Knowing he may have competition for Schwartz can't possibly do anything but deepen Snyder's interest in him, since Snyder seldom shies away from a bidding war.

Conventional wisdom was that Sndyer would follow his familiar pattern of seeking a head coaching candidate who has headline name potential -- see Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier and Gibbs -- but there are indications that he's unconcerned with such factors this time around. While it is believed that the Redskins have ex-Steelers head coach Bill Cowher on their radar screen, the NFL analyst for CBS has again put the word out that he intends to remain out of coaching in 2008.

Sndyer is said to be focused on how to seamlessly build on the success that the Redskins had this season, when they rallied to a 9-7 finish and made the NFC playoffs as a wild card entry. Interestingly, that desire seemed to strongly favor Williams, the team's assistant head coach-defense under Gibbs. Several Redskins players have come out strongly in favor of Williams being elevated to replace Gibbs, and his three years of head coaching experience in Buffalo (2001-03) was seen as another plus.

But in Schwartz the Redskins would be hiring someone who runs a very similar style of attacking and aggressive defense to the one Williams has installed in Washington. In part that's because Schwartz served two years as a defensive assistant under Williams in Tennessee (1999-2000), when Williams was the Titans' defensive coordinator.

The Titans were ranked fifth defensively this season, and Tennessee made the AFC playoffs for the first time since 2003. Schwartz' only previous head coaching interview took place in San Francisco in 2005, before the 49ers hired Mike Nolan.

• Don't laugh off the possibility that Baltimore would try to offer the Bengals draft picks in exchange for hiring head coach Marvin Lewis away from its division rival. First off, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome remains extremely high on Lewis, dating from Lewis' six-year stint as the team's defensive coordinator (1996-2001). Newsome is the biggest proponent in the Baltimore organization for going after Lewis, and his advice on the coaching front to team owner SteveBisciotti rightfully carries more weight than anyone else's -- team president DickCass' included.

Secondly, after five years, Lewis and Bengals owner Mike Brown aren't quite in the same lock-step they were earlier in his coaching tenure. Lewis has missed the playoffs two consecutive seasons, and Cincinnati this year endured its first losing record since 2002, the year before Lewis was hired. Besides the Bengals many off-field controversies on the player-conduct front in 2006, Lewis has also lost some support from Brown in areas that raise questions about his leadership skills.

Lewis reportedly has three years left on his contract in Cincinnati, and would covet the chance to come "home'' to coach the Ravens. Besides Newsome, the biggest factor that Lewis has in his favor is his good relationship with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who is said to have Bisciotti's ear on all things.

• Can't quite fathom what Falcons owner Arthur Blank is thinking with his interest in Southern Cal head coach Pete Carroll? If there's a list of current college coaches who might start pining for their days on campus the minute they an NFL job, Carroll's name would at least have to be high on that list.

So the logical question is, did the Bobby Petrino fiasco teach Blank and the Falcons anything? Or is this just the expected move from a franchise that's desperate for credibility and seems to be lacking in a coherent plan for the hiring of a new general manager and head coach?

Eagles general manager Tom Heckert is reportedly the front-runner for the same job in Atlanta, but in this case he'd have final say over personnel, which belongs to coach Andy Reid in Philly. Blank could do a lot worse than hiring Heckert and letting him bring in the head coach of his choosing. Giants first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is thought to be Heckert's likely top choice, which would further the recent NFL trend of coordinators getting head coaching jobs despite having very little experience at coordinator.

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