- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2008

Following a chaotic Tuesday in which Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs retired, players were unanimous in their support of promoting Gregg Williams, owner Dan Snyder pledged stability, the front office system was deemed not broken and Gibbs conspicuously declined to anoint Williams as his successor, yesterday was slightly calmer at Redskin Park.

Nothing happened.

There was no sign of an outside coaching candidate visiting for an interview and no word of who is on Snyder’s list or even if a list exists.

The 17-person in-limbo coaching staff continued to break down the completed season and prepare reports that they will present to a new coach.

“This is my second or third time going through this but not with a guy retiring,” cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray said. “What you have to do is make sure to keep yourself busy because if they do bring another guy in, you have to be prepared or you’ll be behind.”



For Gray, that meant looking at every screen pass thrown at the Redskins this season to see what caused any big plays — the defensive call or a player error. For quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor, it included chatting with Jason Campbell. For running backs coach Earnest Byner, it involved preparing suggestions for next season.

The media requested interviews with nearly the entire coaching staff. Only Gray, Lazor and Byner spoke to reporters. Williams, the assistant head coach-defense, and Saunders, the associate head coach-offense, remain in hiding.

The three assistants said they have not been made privy to any developments. But amongst themselves, there is plenty of chatter. The Redskins are one of four teams with openings at the top, and that also entails more than 50 assistant positions.

“There’s been some buzz [around the office], guys talking about it,” Byner said. “I’m sure some guys are on the phone talking to different people and trying to size up the what-ifs. That’s a reality we go through when you have some uncertainty.”

Byner said Gibbs moved up the staff meeting Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. The meeting lasted 15-20 minutes.

“He was really calm,” Byner said. “There was a sense of peace. Joe said a lot of the things he said [at the press conference] about what his thought process was. He said, ‘Hey, this isn’t easy for me fellas. I know it’s going to shake some people up.’ He was concerned about us as well. … I’ll definitely cherish the moments I’ve had with Joe. For me personally, it’s been a really good growing and learning process to watch Joe from a coaching perspective.”

Said Gray: “You look at him, and you know he’s sincere in what he’s doing. Just being around him for a couple years, he puts God first, his family second and his job third. Any man who sticks by that, you go when your family needs you.”

The majority of the assistants are under contract for 2008, so if an outside candidate is hired and torpedoes the staff, most will have a salary for next season.

Regardless, until the new coach is hired, it will be a tense atmosphere. If Williams gets the job, many players will have their same role. If it’s an outside hire, all bets are off.

“Every player on the roster is probably concerned,” Lazor said. “I’ve gone through this one time before, and everybody gets concerned because the head coach is a big reason why everybody — coaches, players, people in the organization — are in the room.”

Most players endorsed Williams because it likely would mean Campbell would not have to learn a third NFL playbook in four years and his ninth system in 10 years, dating back to his senior year of high school.

“It would be real important for me to say he needs the same quarterbacks coach,” Lazor quipped. “He’s been in a whole bunch of systems in a short amount of time. It will have a big impact on him, on me, on everybody.”

The assistants don’t expect to be kept in the loop during the search.

“The powers that be will make the decision, and we have to live by it,” Gray said. “If they make a coaching change from the inside, that’s good; if they make it from the outside, you have to adjust and go on.”

Said Byner: “We’ll make the best of the situation one way or another, whether it’s here or if people have to move on. Changes are going to happen in this league, and the amount of people coming and going out every year [is high]. This happens to be a major [change]. We have to make the best of it either way.”

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