Gibbs' deal more lucrative than Spurrier's

Originally Published: January 7, 2004
ESPN.com news services

ASHBURN, Va. -- In a stunning move, Joe Gibbs will return as coach of the Washington Redskins, a team he led to three Super Bowl titles.

Gibbs will sign a five-year contract worth $28.5 million, ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli reports, making him the NFL's highest-paid coach. He also will have the title of president, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Wed, January 7
The Redskins players, owner and organization as a whole just received a blessing with the hiring of Joe Gibbs. Owner Daniel Snyder is ecstatic because of Gibbs' organizational skills, leadership ability and the fact that Snyder can just sit back and own the team. He doesn't have to try to save a sinking ship anymore.

The players should be overjoyed because they are getting a coach who will respect them as long as they respect him and themselves. When I played for him, I used to call the team: characters with character. Coach Gibbs would treat us like men and expected us to act like men, yet he still allowed us to have fun. On Fridays, during the season, we would have barbecues and on Saturdays we'd have volleyball games before our special teams meetings. He put the onus on us to handle our position as football players and we appreciated it.

Coach Gibbs brings a couple of things to the Redskins. One, he gives the organization direction and discipline after it has only made the playoffs once since his departure 11 seasons ago. Second, he has the great ability to lead. But the essence of Joe Gibbs is what he does on Sundays. He's a great game day coach who does a wonderful job preparing his teams and adjusting at halftime. This is a great hire for the Washington Redskins.

"The desire to coach has always been with me, even after being away from the game for 11 years," Gibbs said in an announcement on the Joe Gibbs Racing Web site.

"The Redskins are very dear to me and my family. We're very excited about this opportunity to return to where we have so many friends and loyalties."

Vinny Cerrato will remain as vice president of football operations, but Gibbs will have final say on which players make his roster. However, draft choices, trades and signings will be decided in a three-person consensus format among Gibbs, Cerrato and owner Daniel Snyder, sources told Mortensen.

Spurrier quit last week with three years left on his contract after two losing seasons. Under Spurrier, the Redskins went 7-9, then 5-11.

"Joe Gibbs helped define what the Washington Redskins stand for -- integrity, hard work, determination, winning and championships," Snyder said. "Who better to set our strategy and lead the Redskins back to championship glory?"

Gibbs will be introduced at a news conference Thursday, but he already has his first two hires in place. Former Buffalo Bills coach Gregg Williams will be defensive coordinator, and Joe Bugel -- offensive line coach during much of Gibbs' first stint in Washington -- will return to that post.

The Redskins made the playoffs during eight of Gibbs' 12 seasons, and his .683 winning percentage ranks third in NFL history. His record was 124-60 in the regular season and 16-5 in the playoffs, including Super Bowl victories after the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons -- each with a different quarterback.

Since Gibbs retired after the 1992 season, the Redskins' five coaches went a combined 74-101-1.

Burned out from long days and nights in the NFL -- he was known as a workaholic who sometimes slept on a cot at Redskins Park -- Gibbs left football and has been running a successful NASCAR racing team.

He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and over the years has said he didn't want to return to coaching, although he has retained NFL connections. He was involved with a group that attempted to purchase the Redskins after owner Jack Kent Cooke's death in the late 1990s, and he and two partners bought a combined 5 percent of the Atlanta Falcons for $27 million in 2002.

Gibbs' record with Redskins
Year Record Playoffs
1981 8-8
1982 8-1 4-0 (Won SB XVII)
1983 14-2 2-1
1984 11-5 0-1
1985 10-6
1986 12-4 2-1
1987 11-4 3-0 (Won SB XXII)
1988 7-9
1989 10-6
1990 10-6 1-1
1991 14-2 3-0 (Won SB XXVI)
1992 9-7
Totals 124-60-0 16-5

The Redskins have budgeted $5 million a year for a coach, the amount they were paying Spurrier. Gibbs has to give up his ownership stake in the Falcons to take the Redskins' job.

Falcons said Gibbs approached them several weeks ago and talked about their vacant coaching job.

"When the opportunity at the Redskins came up, Joe told us he couldn't turn his back on the history, fans, loyalties and relationships built over time in Washington," the Falcons' statement said. "While we understand his feelings, we are disappointed that he didn't continue his talks with us."

The mere mention of Gibbs' name brings instant credibility among the players, who had become disenchanted with the losing atmosphere. Even though most have never met Gibbs, his legacy left a long shadow.

"You can just walk through this building and look at those Super Bowl trophies, and that will tell you enough about him -- even if you were too young to watch the guy coach," tackle Chris Samuels said.

The Redskins have made the playoffs only once since Gibbs retired, suffering through a decade of losing despite aggressive ownership moves.

Snyder has become the master of the big offseason splash since buying the team in 1999, signing star players such as Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith and coaches Marty Schottenheimer and Spurrier.

None of it translated to success on the field, however. The Redskins have had four consecutive nonwinning seasons.

Gibbs, 63, will find today's NFL different from the one in which he coached. He led the Redskins during the last years before free agency and kept together a corps of talented players for the better part of 10 years. Such continuity rarely exists now in an era in which players switch teams regularly.

The Redskins interviewed at least three other candidates: former Giants coach Jim Fassel, former Vikings coach Dennis Green, and Seahawks defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes.

Gibbs' racing teams have been among the most successful in NASCAR, with two Winston Cup championships in the last four seasons. Bobby Labonte won the title in 2000, Tony Stewart in 2002.

Gibbs' oldest son, J.D., is president of Joe Gibbs Racing. The former coach's youngest son, Coy, finished 14th last season in the Busch Series standings.

The racing team will continue under the same management. J.D. Gibbs will remain team president, and all of the drivers and key sponsors have long-term deals.

"He called a big meeting at the airport last night," Stewart said. "He said, 'Can you meet us at the airport? We've got something we got to talk about.' I think it is a great thing for him. He has always been involved in football. Even when he hasn't been coaching, he's kept a close eye on football."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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