Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs concluded a four-day analysis of the team with his staff yesterday and announced the club's first offseason move -- the hiring of former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave as the Redskins' new quarterbacks coach.
The Redskins averaged just 15 points per game this season -- second-worst in the NFL -- and Gibbs has said he plans to alter his play-calling and adopt a more aggressive game plan next year.
"I think it is good from time to time to bring in somebody that gives you different ideas and comes from a different view point," Gibbs said during an impromptu meeting with reporters. "He [Musgrave] came down through a completely different thought process on offense, which is good. He has been in some pressure situations, calling plays and things."
Gibbs's offense last year, which was the third-worst passing unit in the NFL, was a stark contrast to what Musgrave ran in Jacksonville -- a West Coast-style, pass-oriented system with a penchant for throwing the ball on first downs.
"We always want to be aggressive," Gibbs said. "We want to run the ball and if we run the ball, it means people are going to be closer to the line of scrimmage and we can take shots down the field."
Musgrave, 37, stands out on the Redskins' coaching staff, with Gibbs and most of his offensive assistants in their sixties. But Gibbs played down the generational aspect regarding the hire or the uncertainty surrounding Redskins quarterbacks Patrick Ramsey, who has been named the 2005 starter, and former Jaguars signal-caller Mark Brunell, who lost his starting job midway through the season.
Musgrave replaces Jack Burns as quarterbacks coach. Burns will become an offensive consultant. Musgrave was fired on Monday after the Jaguars finished 9-7, one game out of the last AFC wild-card spot. Their offense performed only marginally better than Washington's, setting a franchise-low average of 16.5 points per game.
According to sources familiar with Musgrave's contract, Gibbs's new assistant will become the highest-paid quarterbacks coach in the NFL, earning $500,000 annually.
The player evaluation, which started Tuesday and involved intensive discussion and film sessions, was designed to guide the Redskins' front office in its offseason personnel decisions. Gibbs said the team's front-office structure will remain the same and that there are no plans to hire a general manager. Vinny Cerrato, the vice president of football operations, will essentially keep his role as the person who oversees talent evaluation, with Gibbs, who is also team president, having final say on roster matters. Team owner Daniel Snyder is involved with money issues and plays a critical role in free agency.
"There's not going to be any change there," Gibbs said of the front-office setup. "You all [the media] prompted the GM talk. You guys wanted a GM. We didn't."
Gibbs declined to specify any impending personnel changes yesterday, noting that doing so might diminish a player's trade value or cause dissension within the locker room should moves fall through.
The wide receiving corps is expected to face the most changes of any unit, with Rod Gardner and Darnerien McCants strong possibilities for being traded or released. The Redskins also are expected to try landing another starting center.
The Redskins are financially positioned to retain most of their 20 free agents. This week, linebacker Antonio Pierce, an unrestricted free agent, and left tackle Chris Samuels, who is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2005 season, moved into the forefront of the team's contract discussions. Washington intends to give Samuels, who the coaches believe had a strong season, a contract extension that would free more space under the league-mandated salary cap.
The return of cornerback Fred Smoot appears unlikely, however, unless he accepts a signing bonus of no more than $11 million. According to sources, the club has a backup plan to promote defensive back Walt Harris -- who started 15 games in 2003 for the Indianapolis Colts -- if Smoot departs.
"If Fred's here or not here, that's a decision Fred made, not people here," said defensive coordinator Greg Blache. "We'd love to have Fred back, but if he's not back we're going to line up a defense and we're going to compete."
Redskins Notes: According to a source familiar with the situation, Gregg Williams -- assistant head coach-defense -- has instructed his agent, Marvin Demoff, to decline any interest that might come from the San Francisco 49ers for their head coaching vacancy. Blache is expected to be contacted by the 49ers. . . .
The father of assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel, Joseph Bugel Sr., died of natural causes on Sunday at the age of 97 in his home town of Pittsburgh. The Redskins' assistant still coached in the team's regular season finale that day, a 21-18 victory against the Vikings. Bugel flew to Pittsburgh on Monday to attend family matters before returning to Redskins Park on Thursday to rejoin Gibbs's staff. "He wouldn't have it any other way," Bugel said of his decision to coach Sunday. . . .
Safety Sean Taylor finished fourth in voting for defensive rookie of the year, which was won by his former college teammate, linebacker Jonathan Vilma of the New York Jets. . . . .
Samuels underwent successful ankle surgery, and should be mended well before March 21, when the team is due back for offseason workouts. . . .
The Redskins this week signed four players to the active roster: wide receiver Nathan Black, tight end Jabari Holloway, linebacker Maurice Jones and center Josh Warner.