Ashburn, Va. After the toughest season of his Hall of Fame career, one that tested his leadership like never before, Joe Gibbs is stepping down.
He resigned as coach and team president of the Washington Redskins on Tuesday, three days after a playoff loss ended an inspirational late-season run that followed the death of safety Sean Taylor.
Gibbs will remain as a special adviser to owner Dan Snyder. The news startled players, who left Sunday's final team meeting certain their 67-year-old coach would return for the final year of his contract.
"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."
Among the candidates to replace Gibbs will be two former head coaches on 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 candidate to comply with the NFL's "Rooney Rule" as it seeks the sixth coach since Snyder bought the team in 1999.