- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Before starting the process of hiring his fourth coach in 10 seasons as owner of the Washington Redskins, Dan Snyder credited the retiring Joe Gibbs yesterday for bringing steadiness to a franchise in dire need of direction four years ago.

Before Gibbs’ return in 2004, the Redskins made the playoffs only once since 1993.

During Gibbs’ four seasons, the Redskins qualified for the postseason twice.

More importantly, the constant turnover in assistant coaches, players and philosophies slowed to a crawl.

“I give him all the credit for putting us in great position for the future,” Snyder said. “He’s done a great job stabilizing a situation that was, quite frankly, unstable before.”

The players now hope Snyder will embrace Gibbs’ example — that continuity counts — and promote assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams. They lauded Williams for his work as an assistant and endorsed him to replace Gibbs. But Gibbs would not publicly endorse Williams despite getting numerous chances, and Snyder gave no insight about the upcoming search.

One defensive veteran said he would consider passing over Williams a colossal blunder by Snyder.

“If Gregg’s not the next head coach, it would be a big step back,” the player said. “I don’t think we should start over. We should build on what we’ve got. Gregg’s been here. He knows the players. He knows everybody here. To bring in somebody else to start from the ground up and somebody who doesn’t know the players and who we are — that would be a bad thing. Dan has said he’s learned a lot from Coach Gibbs, and I think that’s true. He knows he has to keep some kind of chemistry, and that’s what I hope he does.”

Another veteran expects Snyder to take his time making a hire but also hopes he chooses Williams.

“I think he’s going to take it slow and see what the best situation to put the team in is,” the player said. “I hope he’s learned from the past and what decisions to make and what not to make. He got used to having Coach Gibbs around for the long term, and that’s what he should want from the next coach.”

Williams served as Buffalo’s coach for three seasons (2001-03) and went 17-31. In three of his four seasons with the Redskins, the defense ranked in the top 10.

The top available candidate is Bill Cowher, who sat out this year after coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers for 15 seasons. He went 169-107-1 and won Super Bowl XL. Cowher resides in Raleigh, N.C. and works as an NFL analyst for CBS.

Cowher has vowed to sit out a minimum of two seasons, but the lure of becoming the NFL’s first $10 million a year coach could entice him.

A report from Charlotte yesterday afternoon said Cowher was headed to Northern Virginia and was scheduled to meet with Snyder last night in Reston, Va. But Cowher was spotted at his daughter’s high school basketball game in Raleigh.

“What Bill said last weekend on CBS is that he does not plan on coaching in 2008,” said Drew Johnson, who works for Cowher’s agent at Octagon. “He’s really enjoying the TV work and the time with his family. He’s in a good place right now.”

A message left on Cowher’s cell phone was not returned.

Cowher likely would implement the 3-4 defense, which would require different personnel and different roles for the holdover players.

“A lot of guys in this locker room don’t like the 3-4,” a defensive player said. “You would have draft differently. You would have to get rid of guys who are from the 4-3. That would definitely be starting over.”

Even if Snyder wants to end the process quickly, he still has to interview a minority candidate under the league’s “Rooney Rule.”

There is also the issue of hiring a team president. The Redskins are one of the few teams without a general manager.

“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.”

The new coach will inherit a team $20 million over the salary camp. But the front office does rework contracts well and spreads bonus money around to give the team spending flexibility in free agency.

Playing in the NFC’s toughest division, the Redskins went 9-8 this season and lost to Seattle in the NFC wild card round Saturday. The biggest issue for the new coach is at quarterback. Jason Campbell missed the final three regular-season games, and free agent-to-be Todd Collins was the able reliever.

But with the defense’s return to prominence, the development of several young players and the fast finish gave the players the belief they can take the next step in 2008, even more reason not to implement a new system with new assistants.

“I don’t want to go out and try and paint a picture that gets the next coach in trouble, but I definitely think there are things in place here to do what we want to do,” Gibbs said. “It bodes well for a bright future. I have to say we’re in a better position today as opposed to four years ago. Bright things are ahead, and we certainly have a lot of things in place.”

Gibbs will remain a special advisor to Snyder. Both men were vague on what that will entail.

“I want to see this finished,” Gibbs said. “I’ll do anything I can going forward to try and help us achieve the goals we want to achieve. Our fans deserve a winner — our fans deserve championships, and I want to be a part of seeing that to fruition.”

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