ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — In a bid to return to their heyday,
the Washington Redskins reached into their past with a stunning
move: Joe Gibbs is coming back.

Mira Levitan
Legendary Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs will return to coach next fall. (AP PHOTO)

The Hall of Fame coach who led the team to three Super Bowl
championships instantly restored hope to a franchise searching for
answers after a decade of losing and the resignation of Steve
Spurrier.

Gibbs retired 11 years ago and then rose to the top in a second
sports career as a NASCAR team owner. He signed a five-year
contract worth about $25 million yesterday in a coup for owner Dan
Snyder, who grew up rooting for Gibbs’ great teams.

“Who better to set our strategy and lead the Redskins back
to championship glory?” Snyder said.

The details of Gibbs’ contract, confirmed by a source
within the NFL, speaking on condition of anonymity, is similar to
the NFL-record deal given to Spurrier.

“The desire to coach has always been with me, even after
being away from the game for 11 years,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs owns a minority share of the Atlanta Falcons and will sell
his portion. In a statement, the 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.”

Gibbs was also given the title of Redskins team president, but
the protocol for roster decisions will essentially remain the same.
Vinny Cerrato continues as director of player personnel, and Snyder
will have the final word to settle any disputes, according to the
source. Given Gibbs’ track record, however, his
recommendations are sure to carry more weight than Spurrier’s
did.

Gibbs will be introduced at a news conference today, but he
already has his first two hires in place, according to the source.
Former Buffalo Bills coach Gregg Williams will be defensive
coordinator.

Joe Bugel, who oversaw the “Hogs” as offensive line
coach under Gibbs from 1981-89, returns to that post. The Williams
hiring was first reported by SportsLine.com.

Spurrier quit last week with three years left on his contract.
His teams went 7-9, then 5-11.

In contrast, 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’ retirement after the 1992 season, the
Redskins have gone 74-101-1 with just one playoff appearance under
five different coaches.

Burned out from long days and nights — he was known as a
workaholic who sometimes slept on a cot at Redskins Park —
Gibbs left football and pursued a successful NASCAR career. His
racing team heavily involved both his sons, giving him the family
life he missed in the NFL.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996 and over the years
has said he had no desire 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 five percent of the Falcons for $27 million in
2002.

Gibbs joined the late Paul Brown as the only coaches already
elected to the Hall of Fame to return to the game.

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