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Gibbs seeks harmony with player issues

By Jody Foldesy


No blame. No politics. No divisiveness. And no problems.

At least that's coach Joe Gibbs' plan for a harmonious union of Washington Redskins coaches and scouts in the personnel process.

The plan has begun in recent days as Gibbs and his staff review tape from last season and meet with the personnel department to identify the types of players they are seeking.

From the personnel department's standpoint, the coaches' input is viewed as a positive step. Sources in the department complained last season that coach Steve Spurrier and his staff weren't sure of the types of players they were seeking and that they often changed their minds once those players were signed.

The best examples were players like tight end Byron Chamberlain and defensive tackle Darrell Russell, who were acquired amid high publicity and then contributed virtually nothing. Coaches blamed the personnel department and the personnel department blamed the coaches, and the only sure thing was that the club was fractured.

Although Gibbs hasn't been given contractual control of personnel, he has authority for the current vision of the roster. Having reviewed only a fraction of last season's tape by the time he spoke at a news conference yesterday, he wasn't able to give many specific opinions. But he was extremely clear in describing a process very different from last year's mess.

"Here's what we want: When we take a player, we want it to be our player," Gibbs said. "Everybody's had their input. Everybody's helped put the grade on it. Then when he comes here, he's our player. We'll find that we'll make mistakes. But it was our mistake. Not me. Not some of the coaches. Not some of the scouts. It was all of us together."

The actual scouting process intensifies next week when the Redskins staff watches Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala. — Gibbs doesn't plan to go. Washington traded away three of next year's picks (in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds) but still has its top three selections, including No. 5 overall.

Gibbs' power in the organization, according to team sources, is identical to what Spurrier had last season. Gibbs even has admitted that his title of "president" is superfluous. However, Gibbs' history of success in the league and specific vision for the types of players he wants will allow him far greater — and, in the short term, almost total — sway.

The subject of selecting players was discussed at length, Gibbs said, in his interviews with owner Dan Snyder before taking the job. He exited those meetings "convinced" that vigorous debates could be resolved through consensus and remain safeguarded from public scrutiny.

"What I became convinced of, it's going to be a total team effort," Gibbs said. "We're all in this together. I want guys just busting it. If we have discussions back there, arguments, it's between us. And then when we take the guy, it's our guy."

Vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato emphasized that he is on board with the group process.

"It'll be a team effort," Cerrato said in recent days. "That's what everyone believes in. We all believe in working together and coming out with the Redskins' type player. That's the nice part about it. Everyone's on the same page, everyone's looking for the same thing."

Gibbs and his staff, especially once they've watched all the tape, should give Cerrato and his scouts fairly detailed information on the personnel they are seeking. Gibbs knows what types of players were successful for him from 1981 to 1992 as Redskins coach, and he knows what type of character his roster as a whole must possess.

Washington's pursuit of high-character players fell into doubt last season. Chamberlain had been suspended for testing positive for ephedra. Russell had been suspended for a pair of positive drug tests and had been accused of drugging a woman and videotaping two friends raping her. Offensive lineman Kenyatta Jones, who went on injured reserve shortly after signing, awaits trial for throwing boiling water on his personal assistant.

Gibbs didn't say he wouldn't sign risky players per se, but he did say, "I think we start with character."

"What I've found is this," Gibbs said, "when you take players, and you have 80-some players, it's almost like having a big family. Are you going to have disappointments at times? Yeah. As best you can, you're trying to evaluate the player, his heart, his character. Sometimes there's circumstances there, but you say, we think this guy's a very good person. And sometimes you get disappointed."

In the 11 years since Gibbs left the Redskins, no change to the NFL has been bigger than the implementation of the salary cap. He only has begun to learn the cap and its complexities, but his knowledge so far has left him with the impression that the fundamentals of constructing a team remain the same.

"Even though there's a salary cap, I'm getting convinced that there's a core group you can work with, [and] you can keep that core group," Gibbs said. "Once you've got the core group, the young guys come in and say, 'If I want to be a Redskin, that's the guy who's a Redskin.' I think we've got some of those [core] guys here."

Notes — Gibbs said he knows what he wants to do with the offensive coordinator post. Speculation continues to be that he will share those duties with offensive assistants Don Breaux and Ernie Zampese. ... Gibbs indicated Washington will use the franchise tag to prevent cornerback Champ Bailey from becoming a free agent. When it was mentioned that Bailey was set to become an unrestricted free agent, Gibbs replied, "I don't think that's going to happen. I'd say that's probably one we don't have to worry about."

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