- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

The Washington Redskins and assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams agreed to a three-year contract extension yesterday that takes Williams off the market for the eight NFL teams searching for new coaches.

The agreement is worth a reported $8 million, a record for an assistant coach, and will take effect starting in the 2007 season. Williams signed a three-year contract when he joined the Redskins in January 2004.

“This is an exciting thing for us,” coach Joe Gibbs said last night at Redskin Park. “My goal this offseason is to keep everybody together — coaches and players — and that’s our No. 1 thought.”

Williams would not make himself available to the media but did give interviews to the team’s Web site and Channel 4 (WRC-TV).

On the Web site, Williams said he wants to be a head coach again and “I knew I had those opportunities this offseason. But that’s not the important thing. It’s what am I doing, where is it at and who’s it with? I really like what I’m doing, I really like where I’m at and I really, really, really like who it’s with. I’ve got just about everything I want right now.”

Gibbs said there is nothing written into the contract that prevents Williams from interviewing for head coaching jobs. Williams voluntarily removed himself from consideration for this year’s openings.

The Redskins (10-6) are in the playoffs for the first time in six seasons and will play Saturday at Tampa Bay (11-5).

Gibbs’ contract runs out after the 2008 season, and Williams’ extension naturally brings speculation he will be Gibbs’ successor.

Asked about potentially becoming the Redskins’ coach in the future, Williams said in the Web site interview: “I’m very happy to get a chance to work side by side with Joe Gibbs. When that time comes, that’s a bridge we’ll cross when we get there.”

Williams’ name already was being linked to openings in Kansas City, St. Louis and Minnesota. Williams was believed to be intrigued by the Chiefs and Rams because he is from Missouri and started his coaching career in 1980 at Excelsior Springs (Mo.) High School.

Green Bay, Houston, Detroit, Oakland and New Orleans also are looking for head coaches.

The Redskins’ players were off yesterday, but those contacted were equally surprised and excited Williams would be returning next season. In his two years with the Redskins, the defense finished third and ninth in the NFL in yards allowed.

“It’s a surprise for me,” defensive end Phillip Daniels said. “I definitely thought he would give consideration to leaving. I did think he would probably leave us.

“It’s great news because it would have been tough to lose a guy like that. Last year we talked about how he was tired of moving around. I guess staying here makes him happy, and it definitely makes me happy.”

Said cornerback Walt Harris: “I anticipated [Williams leaving] because of his track record and because a lot of jobs were open.”

Safety Ryan Clark said Williams told him Monday night he was staying.

“One thing you learn about him is that he’s honest and loyal and believes in what we’re building around here,” Clark said. “What better person to have run this defense than the guy who has changed the whole face of the organization along with Coach Gibbs coming back.”

Said linebacker coach Dale Lindsey: “It’s not often you see a guy turn down a chance to be a head coach. But times have changed.”

And so has the money. Williams’ new average salary of about $2.7 million is more than some head coaches in the league make, including the $1.4 million average salary of Chicago’s Lovie Smith. Three years ago, Marvin Lewis, now the Cincinnati Bengals’ coach, became the first $1 million assistant when he joined the Redskins as defensive coordinator.

Williams came to the Redskins following a three-year stint as Buffalo’s coach during which the Bills went 17-31 and failed to reach the playoffs. Soon after Gibbs returned to the Redskins in January 2004, he recruited Williams to run the defense.

In nine seasons as a coordinator or head coach, Williams’ defenses have finished in the top 10 four times.

“It keeps the defense intact and going in the right direction, and with him and hopefully the other coaches staying, we’ll keep this thing going,” Daniels said. “Having him around for an extra year will make this defense only better. It’s a late Christmas present for all of us.”

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