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Casserly: Ability To Lead Trumps Scheme

Posted Jan 6, 2014

Whether the Washington Redskins pluck their head coach from former coaches, coordinators or college, former GM Charley Casserly says the coach must be able to lead.

As the Washington Redskins interview candidates to become the 29th head coach in franchise history,’s Stephen Czarda caught up with former general manager Charley Casserly to get an insider’s take on what front offices look for in a coach beyond X’s and O’s.

In Part 1 of an exclusive multi-part series, Casserly explains why personality is the first grading criteria.

To get to the zenith of the football coaching profession, individuals must exude leadership, first and foremost.

Anyone can translate schemes and packages, but the ability to inspire and unite 53 men and a coaching staff behind a single vision is a quality that few possess.

Leadership was Charley Casserly’s foremost concern in a head coach, followed by the ability to communicate and be an exemplary role model. 

“First of all, what you should look for in a head coach is leadership, No. 1,” Casserly said. “Then the ability to communicate is No. 2 and [then] high character.

“You’re not looking for an offensive guy or defensive guy or college [coach]. Those are the characteristics that you want him to have.”

The last four head coaches in Washington have come from vastly different backgrounds.

Mike Shanahan was a big-name that brought 138 victories and a pair of Super Bowl victories with him from his time in Denver.

Jim Zorn was a former player, considered a quarterback guru, and was a hot commodity during his run with the Seattle Seahawks.

Joe Gibbs returned to Washington after a dozen years away from the game and Steve Spurrier was a highly sought-after college head coach at Florida.

Regardless of position, Casserly said the first step of compiling a list of viable candidates is to talk to other franchises that have recently conducted coaching searches.

“The way I would go about acquiring a list—and you always have a list—is I would interview everybody who hired a coach the year before to find out what they thought about the people that they interviewed,” he elucidated. “The people that they liked that weren’t hired—those guys would be on my list.

“Then I would look into college at any coach that was a successful head coach that had pro experience; Jim Harbaugh and Tom Coughlin as example models. Any successful head coach who was unemployed—Lovie Smith as example—he would be on my list.

“Then I would review coordinators throughout the league that are being recommended by clubs or clubs that play against them and like him. They would also be on my list of interesting candidates. You could have 10 to 15 people on that list or more.”

The final step is exploring each candidate’s ability  to lead a team to its goals. That review process should take place each year, regardless of having a vacancy.  

“You then begin to research them and whittle it down,” Casslery said. “It’s an ongoing process even if you have a head coach—you always want to have a list ready.”




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