By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Two days after a season-ending loss to the New York Giants and one day after the players cleaned out their lockers, Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said this year's 5-11 season was the most difficult of his 15-year coaching career.
In his final news conference of the season, Gibbs covered a range of topics, but said he would be noncommittal on nearly all of them until he and his coaches meet over the next three weeks.
Gibbs said the team would work hard to keep its coaching staff intact, and that he and owner Daniel Snyder will continue to discuss their options, including hiring a general manager.
With coaching vacancies in Atlanta and Arizona, associate head coach-offense Al Saunders could be a candidate. Cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray also is a potential candidate to join his alma mater, the University of Texas, as a defensive coordinator.
"I don't think there's anything in there that we didn't talk about and see if there's a better way we can do it," Gibbs said of his talks with Snyder.
In terms of players, Gibbs said he did not expect major changes. The team has the sixth overall pick in the April 28-29 NFL draft, along with picks in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.
Gibbs said he considered wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who played 15 games, and caught just 23 passes without a touchdown, an important part of the offense and hoped that free agent safety Adam Archuleta's "tough beginning would have a good ending."
But in general, Gibbs said that going from a season in which the Redskins made the playoffs to one in which the team won consecutive games only once was hardest of all.
"You could say that," Gibbs said. "I think for me it was the toughest five months in terms of coaching."
He said he was encouraged by the special teams play but was confounded by the inability to start fast.
"As I reflect, we got off to an awful start, which got us headed in the wrong direction," Gibbs said. "That took me by surprise. We were inconsistent, highlighted by some emotional wins."
Gibbs maintained that for all the preseason expectations, he did not buy into the rhetoric that the Redskins were a Super Bowl team. The season, he said, started poorly and the team never got untracked.
"I don't think I've ever been arrogant or prideful in football," Gibbs said, "because I know a knuckle sandwich is coming."
This season, the Redskins took a knockout punch. Gibbs did not flinch at the final stats, saying that the numbers did not lie. The Redskins finished 31st in total defense and last in total yards allowed per play. The Redskins were last in passes allowed of 20 yards or more and 31st in allowing pass plays of 40 yards or more. They were 27th against the run and 23rd overall against the pass, but last in yards allowed per pass. The team set a record for fewest take-aways in a 16-game season with 12. The Redskins had six interceptions and six fumble recoveries.
The Redskins were 20th in points scored and 27th in points allowed. Gibbs was pleased the Redskins were fourth in rushing yards but concerned they finished below the league average in time of possession.
But Gibbs was clear that he believes the Redskins have a solid nucleus.
"Defensively and offensively, certainly there were things we weren't pleased with," he said. "We have to look at it and ask, 'Which way are we trending?' "