Well, Joe Gibbs retired (or technically, resigned). Four weeks ago, I would have told you Joe Gibbs probably wouldn't be the coach on January 8th, but things have changed since then. After pulling his team together, uniting them around the tragedy of Sean Taylor's death, the Redskins won four straight games to make it into the playoffs. Gibbs' retirement didn't have to do with his level of success or pressure from ownership (in fact, Daniel Synder tried to plead with Gibbs to come back), but rather Gibbs didn't want to put the time and effort into coaching that he felt he needed to, as he wanted more time for his family.
This surprise clearly evokes different reactions from a Redskins fan. Gibbs is undeniably the most successful coach in Redskins history, winning all three of their Super Bowls and having his bust in the Hall of Fame. He was well liked by his players (Clinton Portis said, "I think Joe Gibbs is probably one of the top people in life...") and respected by his peers.
On the other hand, his second go-around with Washington was not quite the same as his first. Frequently accused of having had the game "pass him by," Gibbs struggled learning some of the new tricks of the game. His offense was often too conservative, routinely losing 2nd half leads; in fact, a website, firejoegibbsnow, opened this year (but closed in the wake of the Taylor tragedy). Despite his shortcomings, Gibbs will still be missed in DC.
What does the future hold for the Redskins? Four candidates I can think off of the top of my head, with really only two likely ones. The Redskins could try to grab former Hog, Russ Grimm, now the Arizona Cardinals Assistant and O-line Coach, and bring him back to DC, but I don't see this as likely. The Skins could turn to Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator, Al Saunders. Saunders has expressed a desire to be a head coach in the NFL, but the Redskins offense was not good enough in Saunders' time here for me to believe that he will get the promotion. If the Redskins are going to promote someone in-house, it will be Gregg Williams, the Assistant Head Coach, Defense. Williams' defense has been very good in 3 of his 4 years with the Redskins, plus he has a clause (reportedly) in his contract that gives him $1 million if he is not named the next head coach in DC.
However, this is Daniel Synder we are dealing with, which means look out for big names and big personalities, which right now means, Sergeant Slaughter...I mean, Bill Cowher.
Synder will be willing to throw obscene amounts of money at Cowher, possibly $10 million, which should at least raise his interest level a little bit.
If Cowher comes in as coach, what does that mean for the Redskins? Cowher would want a lot of power if he came back, which probably means coaching and GM duties. Cowher would likely bring in some of his own guys, coaches and players. Williams would almost certainly leave (I've heard a rumor he's talked to Miami), and what about Saunders? Would Cowher want him around? How about Clinton Portis? He was willing to renegotiate his contract this off season when he thought Gibbs was going to be around, but does he want to play for Cowher?
As a Skins fan, I have to be excited about the possibility of Cowher, but I also fear more change for this team. They seem to be finally headed in the right direction after years of turmoil and constant coordinator changes, and yet another massive change doesn't exactly sit right with me. I'd like to think Williams could do a decent job as head coach, but he didn't show it in Buffalo. Ultimately, I think the job will be offered to Cowher, and it will be his, if he wants it. With a 161-99-1 record (including the playoffs) I have to be happy about that hire (again, if it happens). My initial prediction when Cowher retired is that he'd be out of the league two years before he came back, and he's only been out one year at this point. Will the money Synder throws at him be enough to lure him back to coaching? I don't know. But if it's not, I hope it's not too much money to scare Gregg Williams away as a cheaper second choice.
Or the Skins could always hire this guy: