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WP: Bills' assistants in limbo.

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Bills' Assistants in Limbo

By Nunyo Demasio

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, January 13, 2004; Page D02

The Washington-based NFL Coaches Association has sent a letter to Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue asking the club to immediately make a decision on the fate of the coaching staff of fired head coach Gregg Williams.

The letter's intent is for the Bills to either release the remaining staff members from their contracts or guarantee the coaches will be retained for next season.

The matter greatly affects the makeup of Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs's new staff.

Williams, whom Gibbs named defensive coordinator shortly after his hiring by the Redskins, wants to hire most of his former staff. But they are in limbo because of the NFL rule that allows teams to block the movements of assistants under contract. Even if a head coach has been fired, the assistants he hired aren't necessarily free to leave.

Until 2002, assistants were allowed to depart for promotions. But the contingency was extinguished largely because phony titles were used to circumvent the rule.

Buffalo has denied teams permission to contact most of its assistants so that the new head coach can make a decision on whether to retain them. The three finalists to replace Williams are Dick Jauron, Mike Mularkey and Charlie Weis. The Bills reportedly are likely to make a decision this week.

The Bills have allowed the Redskins to negotiate with special teams coach Danny Smith and safeties/third-down coach Steve Jackson. Both are expected to be hired this week, according to an NFL source.

Buffalo's benefit in allowing assistants to interview is that, if they are hired elsewhere, it saves money if the next head coach desires to bring in his own assistants. (All coaching contracts are guaranteed.) Williams had six defensive coaches during his Bills tenure.

Williams also wants to hire defensive line coach Tim Krumrie and linebackers coach Don Blackmon, according to a source. But it remains unclear whether the Bills have granted the Redskins permission to talk to the two. Williams is also interested in defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. But Gray is so highly regarded by Buffalo that he was one of seven candidates to interview for the head-coaching job.

Redskins Note: Wide receiver Laveranues Coles will make his first Pro Bowl appearance as a replacement for Minnesota's Randy Moss, who will miss the game with a heel injury. Coles, originally named as an NFC alternate, finished with 82 catches, 1,204 yards and 6 touchdowns.

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