The 5-11 Redskins may have just finished the worst season of Joe Gibbs' 14-year career, but the coach doesn't anticipate major changes in 2007.
"It was the toughest five months of my professional career," said the 66-year-old Gibbs, 22-28 since he returned to Washington in 2004. "I was brought here to win and certainly going 5-11 is not getting it done. It was extremely disappointing. You can certainly be criticized for not being smart enough, but (not) as far as an effort and a commitment.
Our goal is to keep this group together."
That includes an aging defense, which set a 16-game NFL record for fewest takeaways, a Redskins record for fewest sacks and gave up more big plays than any in the league.
"There were certain things that we weren't pleased with," Gibbs said. "We gave up a lot of big plays in the passing game and the run."
While the Redskins did play better down the stretch even when they had already been eliminated from playoff contention in the weak NFC, their run defense was still stampeded by Pro Bowl backs St. Louis' Steven Jackson and the New York Giants' Tiki Barber in the last two games.
"The first year was a learning year," Gibbs said. "The second year, we were extremely happy. This year was a big step back. I thought we would get better. I thought the moves we made in the offseason were well thought out. (But) when you're 5-11, you've got to say they didn't turn out the way we wanted them to turn out. You look at that and say, 'OK. What we can do (differently) this following year?'"
Guard Derrick Dockery, linebacker Warrick Holdman and safety Vernon Fox are the only free agents among the starters so the Redskins will be doing more restructuring too-rich holdover contracts than re-signing players to new deals.
Gibbs said that in hindsight he wished he had returned to the power-based offense during the bye week with the Redskins 2-5 instead of in mid-November when they were 3-7.
"I just hadn't reached that point in my thought process," Gibbs said. "With about six weeks to go (we) stopped to re-evaluate things. We said 'we don't like where we are and this is what we want to look like.' We changed philosophically in some areas. It was (still) Al calling the plays. We made a big step up in a lot of areas the last six weeks."