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When the Redskins entered training camp last August, the team was bubbling with great expectations. After all, their previous season had ended one win short of the NFC championship game, and they seemed to have patched their small leaks via trades and free-agent signings.
But head coach Joe Gibbs remained cautious in his pronouncements. He realized how quickly a team's fortunes could change.
"I don't think I've ever been really arrogant or prideful in football," Gibbs said yesterday, "because I know a knuckle sandwich is coming."
That punch came in the form of a 5-11 record, the worst in the career of the Hall of Fame coach.
But yesterday afternoon, less than 48 hours removed from Washington's season-ending loss to the New York Giants, Gibbs began to look toward next year. And he did it with optimism. He said he and a group of coaches and front-office personnel plan to spend the next three weeks evaluating this past season and formulating a plan of action for next season.
"We've got some things kind of laid out that we're going to be embarking on," Gibbs said, "and we're going to go after it hard."
Gibbs pointed to the turnaround seasons of several playoff teams this year--the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints have first-round byes after having losing records last season--and said there is no reason the Redskins cannot do the same next year.
Gibbs said the team plans to re-evaluate the team's offseason schedule. In past years, Gibbs has praised the team attendance at offseason workouts. But several Redskins have said they prefer to spend more of their offseason training on their own, away from the team training facility in Ashburn.
Last year the Redskins started training camp in early August, about a week after most other teams had kicked off their camps.
"We're going to do everything we can do visit some things other teams are doing that have been real successful," Gibbs said.
Gibbs also said the franchise would consider adding an official general manager. When asked if such an addition was imminent, though, Gibbs backed off, saying that all options would be considered.
Two years ago, the Redskins failed to re-sign linebacker Antonio Pierce, and Pierce went on to flourish with the Giants. And after last season, safety Ryan Clark--who had developed good chemistry playing alongside Sean Taylor--left to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This past season, the Redskins' corps of linebackers was nondescript, and free-agent signee Adam Archuleta was a bust at safety, as he lost his starting job near midseason. Gibbs yesterday defended the team's efforts to re-sign key players.
"In every single one of those cases where we let someone leave, we were [aggressively pursuing them], Gibbs said. "We went after them."Notes:
When asked if Archuleta would return next season, Gibbs responded: "I think right now, yeah." But the coach's other statements about the situation with Archuleta weren't quite as optimistic.
"I hope it winds up being a good thing in the end for however we can work this thing out," he said. "It would be a good finish to a tough start."
Gibbs said that wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who caught just 23 passes this year, is "somebody that can add a lot to the Redskins and has a bright future here."
Gibbs said 36-year-old backup quarterback Mark Brunell could have offseason shoulder surgery, but added that he would like Brunell to return as the backup next season.
"We had a good, long talk and it was very positive," Gibbs said. "We clearly like Mark a lot."
Gibbs hinted that Shaun Suisham would enter 2007 as the team's kicker. Suisham was signed in early December and converted eight of nine field goals and 14 of 14 extra points.
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