ASHBURN, Va. -- So much for Joe Gibbs coming back next season with Jason Campbell as his starting quarterback. After Gibbs' performance on Monday, neither of those former certainties seem certain.
The coach was as evasive as could be Monday when discussing his future with the Washington Redskins. Gibbs declined to say whether he would return for the final year of his contract -- or even if he wanted to return -- and said the matter would hinge on talks with owner Dan Snyder.
"Everybody's situation will be taken into context here - including mine, and my future here and all that," Gibbs said. "We're going to start on it hot and heavy tonight."
Gibbs dropped a clue or two along the way that indicated he would be back, but he clearly left the door open that this might be the end.
Regardless, his noncommittal approach will only serve to create what he had hoped to avoid -- intense speculation over whether the 67-year-old Hall of Famer will coach again.
"I don't have anything else to add on what I've already said," said Gibbs, growing weary of the line of questioning near the end of his 30-minute news conference. Trying to lighten the mood, he laughed and added: "We're going to revisit that about 25 times."
Gibbs is 31-36, including 1-2 in the playoffs, since he emerged from NFL retirement and his NASCAR career to sign a five-year, $27.5 million contract in 2004. He had always maintained that he "intends" to fulfill the contract.
Gibbs said last month that he would be open to discussing a contract extension so that he would not return next season as a lame-duck coach.
An official within the league, speaking on condition of anonymity because no negotiations had yet to take place, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Snyder was prepared to offer such an extension. Extensions would also be in order for Gibbs' assistants to keep them from leaving for other teams.
But Gibbs stayed away from such talk Monday, and it seemed poignant that he had made a quick trip to North Carolina over the previous 24 hours to visit his family, including a grandson who has leukemia. Gibbs this season also had to deal with the loss of safety Sean Taylor, who was shot and killed in Miami in late November.
"It was THE toughest for me," Gibbs said. "When you go through a season like that, for a while it's kind of hard to re-grasp reality."
Still, when asked if he was backing off his previous statements that he "intends" to return, he said: "I don't think I'm backing off of it."
Gibbs discussed a few things about next season, enough to indicate that he could very well be back. Asked whether his assistants will return, he said: "I would expect them to. We'll see."
Asked how the Redskins will approach free agency, he said: "More selective, kind of like we were last year."
Asked if he would again allow his players to do much of their offseason workouts at home this spring, he said: "I would say we're going to probably do that again."
Then came the matter of the quarterbacks. Todd Collins had not started a game in 10 years before Campbell dislocated a knee in the first half against Chicago on Dec. 6. Collins led the Redskins to victory against the Bears as well as the next three games, but he is 36 and is slated to become a free agent. Campbell is 26 and is considered the long-term quarterback of the team.
Gibbs said he wants to re-sign Collins, and he left the door open that Campbell will have competition at next season's training camp.
"What Jason knows is that with everything we invested in him, he's got a great future with the Redskins," Gibbs said. "If it's competing with somebody, I don't think he worries about it."
Of course, whether Gibbs will be Campbell's coach is an open question. At least Gibbs did promise that he wouldn't take long making up his mind.
"Well go fast," Gibbs said, "because we know time is real important in this."
Notes: Gibbs said LB Rocky McIntosh, who tore the ACL in his left knee last month and had surgery last week, is expected to return for the start of next season. The usual rehabilitation time for a torn ACL is nine to 12 months. ... Gibbs listed five players who will need minor offseason surgery: DL Lorenzo Alexander (right ankle), LB H.B. Blades (left knee), S Vernon Fox (left knee), DT Cornelius Griffin (right knee) and TE Todd Yoder (right knee).
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved