Joe Gibbs said yesterday he plans to return next year for a fourth season as coach of the Washington Redskins and does not foresee any major changes on his staff.
"I plan on going forward and being the coach here," said Gibbs, a Hall of Famer who stunned the NFL nearly three years ago by ending his retirement and accepting a five-year, $25 million contract with the Redskins. "I've made a commitment. I have a passion for trying to do this. I want to try to fix it. As long as I feel like this is where I'm supposed to be, I'm going to be here."
Owner Dan Snyder fired three coaches in his first 18 months with the franchise. But Snyder has let Gibbs, who also serves as team president, run the organization. The coach's word, therefore, seemingly is the definitive one.
"Nobody expected anything different," Snyder spokesman Karl Swanson said of Gibbs' plan to return.
Gibbs was enshrined in Canton for his three Super Bowl victories and 10 winning seasons in his previous 12-year tenure with the Redskins.
However, Gibbs turned 66 last month and now faces a serious reclamation project with his current team. The Redskins are 4-8, assuring Gibbs of a second season in the past three without a winning record -- as many as he endured in his first tenure with the team. Gibbs posted a 140-65 record, including the playoffs, from 1981 to 1992 but is 21-25 since his return.
"Coach Gibbs isn't the reason we're losing," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "I don't think it's the coaches at all. It's the players. We're the ones who play the game. No matter what they call, we have to execute. The touchdown we got gashed on [Sunday in a 24-14 loss to Atlanta], guys weren't where we were supposed to be. When you don't execute, you get beat."
Gibbs also said he did not plan major changes on his staff or on the roster.
The defense, under assistant head coach Gregg Williams, ranked in the top 10 in the league the past two seasons but has crashed to 28th this season. The offense, under associate head coach Al Saunders, slipped from 11th in the league last season to 18th this year.
Assistants Don Breaux and Joe Bugel, both in their 60s, had not been in football when they rejoined Gibbs with the club in 2004. Coaches Rennie Simmons and Dale Lindsey also are in their 60s.
"I don't see shaking things up," Gibbs said. "You make good decisions based on who you've got. [We have] a lot of players we can build around. We all know the toughest things in life to deal with are real success and real adversity. It tests you. A lot of people may say, 'The next four games -- [who cares]?' That's not the way I look at it. It's real important for us to make a statement. I want to see how we play. The way we handle these last four games will be big for me."
Veteran Redskins players, however, don't expect the status quo on the roster next season.
"Fans want to see some changes," Daniels said. "That's how it always is when you lose. We need guys who'll fight through injuries and fight for the team. Guys have to show that they want to be a part of this for years to come. That will show up the last four weeks, who wants to be a part of this thing and who doesn't. You'll see guys who'll go out and work hard because they're pros and guys who won't. Those [latter] guys, more than likely, won't be here."
Daniels will be 34 in March. Fellow end Renaldo Wynn is 32. They're part of the NFL's oldest team, one going through growing pains with young quarterback Jason Campbell, who has started just three games.
"I'm sure that we're all going to be under the microscope and that guys with a few more years in the league and higher salaries will be looked at," said Wynn, who lost his starting job when the Redskins signed free agent Andre Carter in March. "That's the nature of our game now, but I believe that this team thrives on leadership -- which is the older guys. After we won a playoff game last year, I felt we were ready to make our run and go to the next level.
"This year has been a big letdown. But you can learn from every situation. I don't understand why we're going through this. Maybe a year from now, two years from now, wherever we are, wherever I am, we'll probably see why this happened."