With Gibbs Gone, Coaches and Players 'On Pins and Needles'

Looking back at Joe Gibbs's two stints as coach of the Washington Redskins, from 1981 to 1992 and 2004 to 2007.
By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 9, 2008; 2:26 PM

The day after Joe Gibbs walked away from the Washington Redskins for the second -- and presumably final -- time, work continued at Redskins Park as assistant coaches returned to their offices amid uncertainty and reflected on Gibbs's last four seasons as coach and team president.

With owner Daniel Snyder's coaching search underway, some assistants spent the day reviewing game tapes of the season, preparing to make recommendations to Gibbs's successor. Few players were present at the complex, and the large contingent of local and national media members present for Gibbs's retirement announcement Tuesday dwindled to only a handful of reporters and television cameramen yesterday.

The Redskins are awaiting word on what comes next, hoping the process of hiring the next coach is completed quickly.

"This is like my second or third time going through something like this," secondary-cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray said. "What you do is, you got to make sure that you keep yourself busy. You got to have yourself ready to go, because when they do bring another guy in, if you're not prepared to go, then you're going to be behind. You don't want to be trying to play catch-up."

Snyder sidestepped questions about the search process during Tuesday's news conference, but most in the NFL believe he will pursue Bill Cowher, who led the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowls, winning one. Currently a CBS analyst, Cowher has said he is not interested in coaching next season.

Other possibilities, according to sources, include University of Southern California Coach Pete Carroll -- though the last college coach Snyder hired, Steve Spurrier, struggled with the Redskins -- and former Washington lineman Russ Grimm, a longtime NFL assistant with ties to Gibbs. The NFL mandates that all teams interview a minority candidate for head coaching vacancies, and assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams is considered the top in-house candidate (Williams and associate head coach-offense Al Saunders declined interview requests).

Players were unified in their support for Williams, which would bode well for the current staff "if the players would make that decision," Gray said, sarcastically. "But I don't think they're going to be making that decision.

"The powers that be are going to make that decision. If they make a coaching change from inside, I think it's good. If they make a change from the outside, you got to adjust and you got to go on."

After traveling to Charlotte to discuss his future with his family, Gibbs returned to the complex Monday afternoon. Gibbs was evasive about returning next season during his weekly news conference that evening, stirring questions about his future.

Gibbs and Snyder had a lengthy meeting that ended Tuesday at about 2:30 a.m., and Gibbs informed his coaches of his second retirement in a 9 a.m. meeting. The death of safety Sean Taylor in November, an inordinate number of season-ending injuries to key players and a four-game losing streak took a toll on Gibbs.

The Redskins played well down the stretch, however, and their season-ending four-game winning streak enabled them to clinch their third playoff berth in the last 15 seasons. Washington's season ended Saturday with a 35-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC first-round playoff game, and there were signs throughout the season pointing to the decision Gibbs announced in an afternoon news conference Tuesday, coaches said.

"Guys [were] talking about it, talking about the indicators that they all saw," running backs coach Earnest Byner said. "Some things that happened in different games that kind of said that this might be coming down the pike."

Like most players, defensive end Andre Carter acknowledged he was surprised that Gibbs resigned after the team's strong finish. Carter went through several rocky coaching changes while with the San Francisco 49ers, and he hopes the Redskins make a smooth transition to their new coach.

"You're kind of sitting on pins and needles. It's tough," Carter said. "I had three head coaches and three different coordinators [with the 49ers] and it was tough. It's not just scheme changes. . . . Everything you do changes."

The Redskins must focus on their jobs and wait, coaches said.

"For a lot of people it is difficult, [but] things always have a way of working themselves out," Byner said. "They will work out. Everything will be okay. Life will continue. We'll make the best of this situation one way or another, whether it's here or whether people have to move on."

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