By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The Washington Redskins' search for their next head coach remains in its infancy, with retired team president Joe Gibbs spending a good portion of yesterday with owner Daniel Snyder discussing the future of the organization. Snyder's decision will have sweeping ramifications on the roster and remaining staff, with the assistant coaches in limbo and waiting on word from ownership.
Gibbs, who announced his retirement Tuesday, is likely to remain around Redskins Park for at least another week. His office is still occupied, and he continued to meet individually with players and coaches yesterday. He spent several hours with Snyder compiling names and reviewing procedures for contacting candidates, according to a team source. Gibbs is a special consultant to the owner -- they share what the men have called a "lifelong friendship" -- as the franchise stands at a turning point seeking a new leader after compiling a 31-36 record, including two playoff trips, in four years under Gibbs.
Giving the job to a member of the staff -- Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, has strong support among players -- would ensure the greatest stability. Sources close to potentially attractive coaching candidates such as Bill Cowher and Russ Grimm said they had not been contacted by the Redskins as of last night, while a source close to Southern California Coach Pete Carroll said that while he would listen to NFL overtures -- Atlanta is reportedly pursuing him -- he is content with his current job and not looking to leave. Cowher, the head coach for 15 years in Pittsburgh, has told NFL teams that he intends to continue his hiatus from coaching until 2009.
Gibbs's assistant coaches said they have not heard from the front office since Snyder addressed them at a staff meeting Tuesday morning. The organization is in a state of uncertainty awaiting Snyder's next move, realizing that some change is inevitable no matter who replaces Gibbs. Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor -- elevated to a position coach for the first time in his career by Gibbs -- met with injured quarterback Jason Campbell yesterday morning and tried to ease him through that uncertainty.
"Every player on the roster is probably concerned," Lazor said. "I've gone through this one time before in Atlanta when the head coach is gone, and I think everyone gets some concern because really in the end the head coach is a big reason why everyone is in the room. With Jason I've tried really hard -- especially at the end when he got injured -- to talk about and deal with the long term. I think that's important for Jason, and I think that's important for this franchise and for him being here."
For Campbell, 26, who has made just 20 NFL starts and showed promise as potential elite quarterback, continuity is especially vital. He has been in eight offensive systems in nine years dating from high school, finally completing a second straight year in associate head coach Al Saunders's scheme. Learning another new playbook with unfamiliar terminology would not be conducive to hastening his development.
"He talked about that this morning," Lazor said. "He said he's been in a whole bunch of systems in what seems to be a short number of years, but that's not up to me, and it's not up to him, I don't think. It's up to other people, and he'll make the right decisions."
Lazor has been reviewing every play Campbell made this season, culling it for teaching tools and evaluating what he needs to improve in 2008. For now, that's all the assistant coaches can do. They are unsure of their offseason schedule and when, or if, vacations will begin. Normally the next few weeks would be devoted to intense personnel discussions, debating whom to keep and whom to acquire and plotting a course for free agency and the draft.
Now, they can formulate reports on how their particular units performed, but that's about it.
"If I was just to focus on the what ifs and all that it would deflect my attention from what I'm working on," running backs coach Earnest Byner said. "I have to provide reports that might be necessary for an interview process for whoever gets the job. So if I've got to interview here for this job, then I'll be ready for that as well, but also I'll be ready for whoever comes in. But I'm definitely focusing on the job at hand."
Secondary-cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray, who could draw interest as a coordinator in the college and pro ranks, said: "You really don't know what's going to happen. You've just got to play it by ear and to me if you're going to start panicking right now you should have been panicking when we lost those four games in a row. And to me I think because we didn't do that you've got to have some staying power, and if you've got that, and if the owners like what you did then they're going to keep you. And if they don't then they're going to let you go anyway."
Gray, Byner and Lazor were the only coaches to address reporters yesterday. Requests were made of every coach on staff but the rest declined. Williams and Saunders, the two men seen as those with the best chance to get the job within Redskins Park, are keeping a particularly low profile. For now, all are working and waiting, with no set policy as to when interviews will start.
"My experience is, it works differently based on where you are or who's in charge every time," Lazor said. "So I don't have any information of note for you, and if you hear anything just give me a ring."
Redskins Notes: Tailback Clinton Portis and cornerback Shawn Springs have two of the team's higher 2008 salary cap figures -- both are candidates for contract restructuring -- and drew strong votes of support from their position coaches. Portis struggled with injuries but improved in the second half of the season. "Clinton is a back that this team needs and he should be here," Byner said. Gray said, "I think Shawn Springs should be back." . . . Redskins safety Sean Taylor was posthumously named to the all-pro second team.