- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dan Snyder used to go through coaches like they were popcorn.

In the 2½ years before he lured Joe Gibbs out of retirement to coach the Washington Redskins again, Snyder fired three coaches and didn’t try to stop another from resigning.

So the four-year Gibbs reign that ended yesterday with his retirement was a model of stability in Snyder’s otherwise tumultuous 8½ years in command of the Redskins.

“I give Joe all the credit for not only putting us in great position for the future,” Snyder said during the press conference in the Redskin Park auditorium. “He’s done a great job of stabilizing a situation that had become unstable before, quite frankly. He has really taught me a lot. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him. It’s been a great four years. I wanted another five.”

Obviously, that’s not going to happen. But Snyder said he has learned a thing or two from Gibbs, who is just as competitive but not nearly as hard charging.

“Incredible patience,” Snyder said when asked what Gibbs taught him.

Patience never has been a word associated with Snyder, who rose from college dropout to billionaire in less than two decades.

“I don’t think things have changed in what I’m looking for. Continuity, absolutely, is very important,” Snyder said. “I like where we are. I’m very, very pleased with the players and coaching staff. We’re in good shape.”

Snyder feels the same way about the often-criticized front office. Team president Gibbs is gone, but Snyder confidante Vinny Cerrato isn’t going anywhere.

“I feel very comfortable that over the last four years it’s been working in terms of the front office,” Snyder said. “I’m a believer in if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’ve done a pretty good job there.”

After failing in both free agency and the draft under the combination of Cerrato and coach Steve Spurrier in 2002 and 2003, the Redskins fared better once Gibbs returned.

On the second day of the 2006 draft, Cerrato and his scouts even landed three players who already have been regulars: defensive tackles Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston and safety Reed Doughty. That marked a vast improvement over the previous five drafts, which yielded just one starter, tight end Robert Royal, drawn from the second-day picks.

The majority of the free agent signings, which include linebackers Marcus Washington and London Fletcher and cornerback Shawn Springs, likewise have been good.

The choice of Gibbs’ replacement will reveal how much Snyder has changed his approach.

If the owner still is the fantasy football fan who signed Deion Sanders, Jeff George and Bruce Smith, he will go against the wishes of his players and coax former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher out of retirement with a $50 million contract.

If Snyder, as he said, truly does value stability and continuity, he likely will promote assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams, who failed as the coach of the Buffalo Bills before coming to Washington but built three top-10 defenses with the Redskins. Williams is the clear choice of the players.

“We have the perfect person to make that decision,” Gibbs said. “That’s not me. That’s Dan. I feel so good about that. It has to be somebody that he’s comfortable with. It’s kind of a marriage. You’ll go through some real tough times. Certainly we did.”

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