- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs yesterday announced a change in his coaching staff and said the green light had been given to negotiate contracts with some of the club’s own players. Otherwise, however, he revealed little after four days of meetings to review the organization.

Despite running one of the NFL’s worst offenses in his first season back, Gibbs indicated the scheme would “continually evolve” in coming months rather than face an overhaul. And he declined comment on positions of need, though it’s no secret his receiving corps and interior offensive line need upgrades.

Gibbs’ staffing change brings former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave aboard to work with the quarterbacks. Former quarterbacks coach Jack Burns shifts to a role geared more toward weekly advance work and game-day issues.

“I’ve been thinking all year about where we were, what are some things we could do to be better organized,” Gibbs said. “When the year was over, I decided it would probably be a better way for us to be organized.”

Gibbs laughingly dismissed the notion that hiring Musgrave, 37, meant he was seeking to inject some youth into his aged staff. But the fact that Musgrave has roots in a different style of offense, the West Coast scheme, was acknowledged as a driving force in his addition.

Gibbs’ scheme is typically characterized as the philosophical opposite of the West Coast. Whereas West Coast coaches move the ball by hitting high-percentage, short passes to receivers in stride, Gibbs historically has used a power running game to draw in defenses and then fired downfield.

This year, as Gibbs struggled to combat modern zone blitzes, the deep game all but disappeared. The addition of Musgrave could help change that.

“It’s good when you bring in somebody from time to time who gives you different ideas and a different viewpoint,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs didn’t get into any specifics on contract negotiations, but it was clear from his comments that Washington, as expected, is moving ahead with an extension for left tackle Chris Samuels.

Otherwise, the Redskins seem eager to start locking up some of their own free agents. Washington’s unrestricted players include cornerback Fred Smoot, middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, defensive tackle Joe Salave’a, offensive lineman Ray Brown and fullback Mike Sellers. The club’s restricted free agents include linebacker Lemar Marshall and defensive end Demetric Evans.

“We’re working real hard on getting all the contractual stuff done that we need to get done — taking care of all our free agents, redoing the deals we think we need to redo,” Gibbs said. “I had conversations this morning with those players, telling them how important it is for us to get that done.”

Gibbs’ characterization of changes to the offensive scheme as part of a larger, gradual process contrasted somewhat with remarks by offensive coordinator Don Breaux on Thursday.

Breaux conceded the Redskins had grown too conservative following a series of costly early season turnovers. But Gibbs yesterday spoke in more general terms, characterizing the idea of being more aggressive as something coaches always seek to do. As for changes to the scheme, he declined to speak with any specificity or vigor.

“I think offenses are continually changing,” Gibbs said. “You continually evolve. You’re always looking for new concepts, new wrinkles. It’s just a work in progress.”

Such ambiguity also permeated his discussion of personnel, the ostensible key element of this week’s meetings. Gibbs wouldn’t even answer a question with regard to getting more speed at wide receiver, a need that is a virtual no-brainer following a season in which Gibbs’ starting wideouts averaged just 11.3 yards a catch.

In fact, Gibbs’ meeting with reporters ended on a somewhat terse note when it was suggested he exited the much anticipated meetings without providing any specifics about what might change on a 6-10 team that scored fewer points than all but one other NFL club.

“I gave you specifics, but you don’t seem to take them,” Gibbs said. “I said specifically that we know our roster, we know where our holes are and what we need and what we’re going after. … I won’t tell you guys, because I think it would hurt a lot of guys on the team.

“Obviously with the [coaching] staff, we’ve done some things there. We’re actively going ahead with all of our contractual things. That’s concrete. We’re working on all the different issues there.”

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