- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

During his season-ending press conference last night, Joe Gibbs would not immediately commit to coaching the Washington Redskins next season, leaving open speculation he is either negotiating an extension or contemplating retirement so Gregg Williams can be promoted before another NFL team hires him.

In a 35-minute session at Redskin Park, Gibbs was vague about his status. For three years, he used the wrap-up press conference to say it was his “intention” to coach the next season. Given the opportunity, he passed on cementing his return in 2008.

Gibbs and owner Dan Snyder left the complex last night at 6:45, the first time the two have discussed Gibbs’ status. They returned at about 8:50 p.m.

“We always sit and talk and go through things,” Gibbs said. “We will be doing that starting this evening and going forward. Everybody’s situation will be taken into context, including mine and my future here.”

Following a team meeting Sunday, Gibbs traveled to North Carolina to visit his wife and family. He returned yesterday at 2:30 p.m.

The coaching staff was off yesterday and is scheduled to meet this morning. A source within the organization said several offensive coaches weren’t aware of Gibbs’ trip.

“You really caught me off guard,” one veteran player said when told of Gibbs’ comments. “From the tone of [Sunday’s] meeting, I thought he was definitely coming back. Every time he’s talked to us about it, he’s always said he’s honoring his contract.”

Said another veteran player: “I hope he’s back. In this business, nothing surprises you. He’s been through a lot, and one of his grandkids has leukemia. Of course, he wants to spend more time with his family.”

After their season-ending meeting Sunday, players were nearly unanimous in their desire to have Gibbs back and their belief he would return.

“You know how I feel — I want him back,” a third veteran said. “But hearing what he said, it makes you think he’s definitely thinking about retiring.”

Gibbs and Snyder talked about personnel and free agency Sunday, but when they sat down last night, they had plenty of issues to address.

• A contract extension for Gibbs: Does Snyder offer him a two-year addition with the assumption Gibbs would serve as team president if he doesn’t coach past 2008? Gibbs said he doesn’t need an extension to coach a fifth year.

“Me and Dan, we always see eye to eye on things like that,” Gibbs said. “There’s a lot else wrapped up in this than that.”

• A plan of succession should Gibbs retire: Does Williams ascend to the top spot, or does Snyder pay Williams $1 million not to be the coach (as stipulated in his contract) and begin a search?

Gibbs said it was his knowledge that neither Atlanta, Baltimore nor Miami has contacted the Redskins to ask permission to speak to Williams.

“I would think we would start getting that,” he said. “We do every year, so that’s something we have to be ready to deal with. When you have good coaches, there are going to be teams who want to talk to them.”

• The status of the coaching staff: Would Williams retain most of the staff, chiefly associate head coach-offense Al Saunders, and what kind of contracts would they get? Additionally, how would longtime Gibbs loyalists Joe Bugel, Don Breaux, Jack Burns and Rennie Simmons be handled?

“I would expect them to return,” Gibbs said of his staff, but that would obviously change if he’s not the coach.

• A job for Gibbs for the final year of his contract and beyond. Does Gibbs stay on for one season as president and cut ties with the franchise, or does he angle Snyder for a piece of the team? Gibbs owned 5 percent of the Atlanta Falcons.

“I don’t have anything else to add — are we going to revisit this 25 times?” Gibbs said while laughing.

The short answer is yes; the issue will be revisited.

Gibbs didn’t reveal a timetable but said “a week” has normally been the time he has needed to make the stay-or-go decision.

“It will take Dan and I a while because there’s a lot wrapped up in what we need to talk about,” Gibbs said. “I think in the past, I’ve said a week or something, but we do it pretty quick.”

Since he signed an extension in January 2006, it has been assumed Williams was Gibbs’ heir apparent. In three of Williams’ four seasons, the Redskins have finished with a top-10 defense.

Williams has declined all interview requests since the team returned from Seattle.

Elevating Williams and keeping Al Saunders as the offensive play-caller present the most seamless transition for the Redskins.

One thing that is certain is that whoever coaches the Redskins will have to make a decision whether to open up the quarterback position.

Todd Collins becomes an unrestricted free agent Feb. 29 and could command some interest after going 3-1 as a starter in relief of Jason Campbell.

“Todd and his play was one of the huge deals that came out of this season,” Gibbs said. “If you know and follow the history of the Redskins when I’ve been coaching is you go through a transition period [with a young quarterback], and it can be rocky. We’re solid at quarterback.”

Gibbs wouldn’t speculate when asked whether Campbell would enter training camp as the no-doubt starter.

“What we know about Jason is we think he has a great future,” Gibbs said. “If it’s competing with somebody, I don’t think he worries about it.”

Staff writer David Elfin contributed to this article.

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