As Joe Gibbs begins the evaluation process of his roster, as well as potential free agents and college players available in April's NFL Draft, his first goal is to pinpoint one thing: the character of each of those players.
In a Friday afternoon press conference in which Gibbs touched on a number of topics, the Redskins' new head coach said that his roster evaluation process will start "with a player's heart and character."
"I do think there is a profile--we're looking for a certain kind of person," he said. "Certainly we're not looking for somebody who breaks our heart and has problems, particularly in our community. We want the Redskins to be something that everyone is proud of.
"You watch them on film and you watch them in the fourth quarter when we're behind. Is he playing hard then? Those are the kind of things for a player to kind of prove himself and win his way into your heart."
Gibbs even spoke recently with Darrell Green, the Redskins' long-time cornerback who retired after 20 stellar seasons in 2002, about the character and makeup of the current team. Green, long regarded as one of the most high-character players in NFL history for his charitable work--gave the team a thumbs up, Gibbs said.
After 11 seasons away from NFL football, Gibbs has certainly returned to a changed league, with the salary cap impacting the ability of many teams to keep a team together for longer than a couple of years. The phrase "window of opportunity" is mentioned now more than ever before in the NFL.
Gibbs believes he can develop a core group of high-character, quality players who will embody what it means to be a Redskin--similar to the collection of players he had during the team's Super Bowl run from 1982-91, with stars like Art Monk, Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm, Don Warren, Charles Mann, Monte Coleman and Green.
"I'm convinced we can keep the players we want," he said. "Even though there's a salary cap, I'm convinced we can keep that core group together. I hope there are a core group of guys here that are going to be Redskins. This is what we preach.
"What I've found is this: When there's a core group, the young guys who come here, they're going to look at a player like Art Monk and say, 'That's somebody who can play here for 14 years.' So they ask, 'What does he have [that makes him successful]. Well, he's a real professional. He understands everything about the game plan. He's the best-trained guy in the weight room."
"So once you have the core group, when the younger guys come in and say, 'I want to be a Redskin, they will know what it takes to be a Redskin.' And I think we have some of those core guys here."
Gibbs said he has a "thumbnail sketch" of the profile of a type of player he is seeking to be part of the team. Along with heart and character, other traits he'll evaluate in players is drive, determination and intelligence.
"You look at tight ends--you have to be extremely bright and know a lot of formations," he said. "You're constantly shifting. And so you have a profile there. And I think that's important."
Gibbs even indicated that the group of undrafted rookie free agents who are usually signed immediately following the NFL Draft could have a leg up if they are hungry for success.
"Go back and check our Super Bowl teams--half of them were free agents," he said. That means they either weren't drafted or somebody else had given up on them. Some of our most valuable players were free agents. To me, that's exciting.
"You get about 20 young guys who aren't drafted, you try and sign them. And out of that group, you watch: There'll be some stars coming out of that group."
Gibbs, on what he has focused on during his first week as Redskins' head coach:
"A lot of our attention has been on our coaching staff. We've been trying to work through all the different processes we've got going on. We're trying to get that finalized. We've still got quite a ways to go there. I prefer to get it all done and then say, 'Here's our coaching staff.' We've got quite a bit up in the air. Several of our defensive positions are still up.
"The other thing we've been doing is, we've got all the scouts here and the coaches here and we've all been trying to get on the same page as we look at our players. We're just getting some good film work with everybody. We keep getting interrupted because we got a lot going on.
"So that's basically the two things we're trying to do. Get the coaching staff lined up and we're trying to get a good look at all of our personnel before we leave out of here on Monday to go to the Senior Bowl."
On when he thinks he'll have the coaching staff finalized:
"I would certainly hope within the next week."
On whether as an offensive-minded coach he's watching the defensive film or leaving that to the defensive coaches:
"Even though I obviously I have spent quite a bit of time on offense, I said before that defense leads you to Super Bowls. It's super critical for us that we have great people over there and great players over there.
"Gregg Williams was in there with us and we were all looking at offensive personnel. When we start with the defense, we'll all look at the defensive personnel.
"I think that it's good for all the coaches to get a familiarity with all the players. Even during the year, I think it's important for players to know that I'm going to be over there with the defensive coaches.
"I'm going to go through their film every week and get a chance to see them perform every week. I think that's something that is very important. I'm going to stay hooked into it. I'm going to trust Gregg to run the show over there, but I'll be giving my input."
On what has jumped out on him in the game film he has watched so far:
"I think it's probably still early to say. I think we have some very good players. But it's a process we're going through. We're going to continue to evaluate them. We've been focused on the first part of the year. I want to go all the way to the end and get a chance to see them toward the end of the season. We have some players who weren't even in that early film. So we're going through a process."
On whether he's reviewing only offensive film right now:
"Right. I'm hoping this afternoon to start on some defensive stuff. We have more of our offensive coaches and that's why we started with the offense first."
On whether he's enjoying himself watching game film:
"I think it's fun because you're anxious to look at your guys, see what you think and evaluate the guys. But for me, it's been kind of exciting and I've enjoyed it."
On whether the offense that he is watching on game film will be vastly different from the one he expects to run next season:
"Yeah. I think you do see good things in there and you say, 'This is something we can do.' I have kind of found that in football, to me, there is no pride. We'll take anything. If it looks good, we'll take it, and it becomes ours. The good thing is that we have a ton of film. But sometimes you look at things and you say, 'Hey, that's a neat idea."
"I can go all the way back to the counter tray play, everybody now says it was our deal, but I think it was in Nebraska in college--we looked at that and said, 'Hey, that's a great idea.' And so we stole it and it became ours.
"I think that's one of the exciting things about coaching. You're always learning. I said the last year I coached [in 1992], I probably really and truly felt like I learned as much that year as any other year I coached."
On the strategy he is employing in evaluating players:
"The first thing for us is that we want to know our players. We want to have a good feeling for them. Gradually when you start doing that, you start talking to people who were here and have been around them. In general, we want to know everything about our players. At some point, we will do that. It's a process now for us of getting caught up."
On whether he has met many of his players yet:
"No, I've made the statement that I had the naïve thought to call some of these guys and I found out they have about 12 cell phones. I told them the CIA couldn't find some these guys. I kind of gave up on that and it's been a few of the guys who have come by who I've met. So I haven't had a chance to meet most of the players."
On whether he discussed a position on staff with long-time Redskins defensive coordinator (and former head coach in 1993) Richie Petitbon:
"I did not talk to Richie this go-around. It's been quite a ways back with the last time I've talked to him. I think he was happy being out of coaching. I really haven't done that. I certainly have great respect for Richie. He was great for us."
On whether he has spoken to Darrell Green about a role with the team:
"No, we haven't. We haven't had a chance to sit down."
On whether he will be going to the Senior Bowl next week:
"I may not. We'll see how this goes. I have some flexibility. I can do what I think I need to do."
On how the team will resolve decisions on player personnel matters:
"What we want is teamwork. We want to all be together. As I went through the process before I took the job, we talked at length about that. How are we going to bring the players in? What's the process on making the final decision?
"What I became convinced about is that it's going to be a total team effort. We're all going to be together. That's what I want: I want guys who will just bust it--our scouts, our coaches, working as hard as we can.
"What we want here is this: When we take a player, we want it to be our player. Everyone has had their input, everyone put the grade on a player. Then when he comes here, he's our player. We'll find that we make mistakes--but it's our mistake. Not just me, not some of the coaches, not some of the scouts--it was all of us together.
"So the process will try to be, it's our guy. I think you go into it with that understanding that you're going to try and make a player develop into everything he can be as a football player.
"That's why the exchange between the coaches and scouts is so important. When we go to work players out, we have more than one set of eyes on those players."
On the status of cornerback Champ Bailey, who becomes an unrestricted free agent in March:
"I think Champ has a great reputation around the league. Almost any coach you ask, like Gregg Williams, he has a terrific opinion of Champ. He's a real good corner, so I think it's a matter for us of getting to know him.
"Certainly we have weeks and weeks before camp that all the players are going to be here--we have three mini-camps. There's no way to short-circuit that.
"I'll tell the guys, 'Hey look, don't get nervous if I don't know your name, because soon I'll be able to spot you the way you get in your stance and the way you walk. I'm going to know you that well.'"