ASHBURN, Va. -- Joe Gibbs' second NFL retirement was much
like his first. It came as a surprise, and it was all about family.
On the one-year anniversary of his grandson's diagnosis with
leukemia, and less than a year after one of his sons left town to
return to the family NASCAR team, Gibbs stepped down Tuesday as coach and president
of the Washington Redskins so that he could devote more time to
what he called "the most important thing I'm going to leave on
The 67-year-old Hall of Fame coach, coming off an emotional
season that included the death of safety Sean Taylor and a late run
into the playoffs, said Redskins owner Dan Snyder tried to persuade
him to stay on during a conversation that lasted until about 2:30
"My family situation being what it is right now, I told him I
couldn't make the kind of commitment I needed to make," Gibbs said
during a news conference at the Redskins' practice facility,
standing a few feet from the three silver Super Bowl trophies he
won during his first tenure with the team.
Speaking about his family, Gibbs added: "I felt like they
Snyder said he "tried very, very hard" retain Gibbs as coach.
"This is something none of us wanted to see happen," the owner
The news startled players, who left Sunday's final team meeting
certain Gibbs would return for the final year of his contract.
Gibbs signed a five-year, $27.5 million deal when he returned to
coach the Redskins in 2004, having been lured away from his second
career as a NASCAR owner.
"That's part of this business -- it's full of surprises,"
safety Pierson Prioleau said. "Most of us suspected he would be
back, and he'll definitely be missed."
Gibbs will continue to serve as an adviser to Snyder but was
vague about his new role, other than to say he would no longer have
an office at Redskins Park because it would place an unfair burden
on the new coach.
"I think we've got a lot of pieces in place," Gibbs said. "I
personally want to be a part of that. I want to see it finished.
... Our fans deserve championships. I want to be a part of seeing
that come to fruition."
Among the candidates to replace him will be two former head
coaches who have been members of his staff, Gregg Williams and Al
Saunders. Former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher also could be a
candidate. The team will have to interview at least one minority to
comply with the NFL's "Rooney Rule" as it seeks the sixth coach
since Snyder bought the team in 1999.
After speaking to a Redskins official Tuesday morning, ESPN's Chris Mortensen said that contrary to earlier media reports, Williams does not have a clause in his contract that would pay him a bonus if he isn't named head coach.
Snyder said the process to find a replacement hadn't started and
that he hasn't spoken to Cowher about the job. He and Gibbs praised
the current group of assistants and spoke of the value of
continuity following a playoff season, a possible sign that
player-favorite Williams could have the inside track.
"Coach Williams is a great coach," said fullback Mike Sellers,
one of several players to endorse the fiery assistant hired to run
the defense in 2004. "The players love him. It would be sad to see
him not get it."
When Gibbs retired in 1993, he realized his two sons had grown
up without him. Fifteen years later, he didn't want the same to
happen with the seven people he lovingly calls his "grandbabies."
One of his grandsons, 3-year-old Taylor, undergoes chemotherapy
every few weeks. Also, his son Coy left his job as an assistant
coach with the Redskins last year to return to North Carolina and
work with Joe Gibbs Racing.
That left Gibbs alone in Washington, apart from his wife, sons
and grandchildren. He made an overnight trip to North Carolina on
Sunday to be with his family, interrupting the postseason routine
of meetings that usually follow the final game of the season.
"I had real good visits with everybody, and at that point when
I started back to D.C. and got on the plane that afternoon, I kind
of had a real strong feeling in my heart of what I felt like I
should do," Gibbs said.
Gibbs went 31-36, including 1-2 in the playoffs, in his second
stint with the Redskins, always maintaining he intended to fulfill
the contract. He said this season was the toughest of his career,
referring to Taylor's shooting in November, but pointed to his
family as the chief reason for his resignation.
"I hate to leave something unfinished. I made an original
commitment of five years. I felt bad about that," Gibbs said, his
voice occasionally choking with emotion.
Tuesday's announcement brings an end to a coaching career in
which Gibbs twice raised the Redskins from mediocrity into the
playoffs. He led the Redskins to four Super Bowls and won three NFL
championships from 1981-92; he took the team to the postseason in
two of his four seasons when he returned.
"I give him all the credit for putting us in great position for
the future," Snyder said. "He's done a great job of stabilizing a
situation that became unstable before, quite frankly."
Even so, Gibbs' last four years were down-and-up, down-and-up.
He had his two worst seasons as a coach -- 6-10 in 2004 and 5-11 in
2006 -- but he also led the Redskins to the playoffs with late runs
in 2005 and 2007.
Following Taylor's funeral, Gibbs and his team rallied to win
their final four regular-season games, finishing 9-7 to claim the
final NFC playoff berth. The unlikely run ended Saturday, when the
Redskins lost 35-14 at Seattle.
Gibbs' final career totals: 171-101, including 17-7 in the
playoffs, a career .629 winning percentage that ranks third all
time behind George Halas and Don Shula among coaches with more than
As word of Gibbs' resignation spread, fans flocked to Redskins
Park to say goodbye. Gibbs stepped outside to greet them, creating
a scene similar to the one when he emerged from retirement four
"Y'all tell me what you want done and I'll do it," Gibbs said
as he prepared to sign autographs and pose for photos.
"Stay!" yelled a fan in the back.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.