Players surprised as Gibbs departs for Seahawks

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Alex Gibbs (center) worked closely with offensive line coach John Benton (left) for the past two seasons in Houston.

Assistant head coach/offense Alex Gibbs, 68, was considering retirement after the 2009 season. Instead, he has decided to leave the Texans to join the Seattle Seahawks and new head coach Pete Carroll.

Gibbs came out of retirement in 2008 and coordinated the Texans' running game for the past two seasons. He worked closely with the offensive line, including line coach John Benton, and helped to develop former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

"Alex called this morning and said he had a heck of an offer from Seattle, and I wished him the best," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said to the Houston Chronicle. "He did a great job for us, and he'll do a great job for them."

In Gibbs' first season in Houston, the Texans averaged a franchise-record 4.3 yards per carry using his zone blocking scheme. The Texans' running game struggled in 2009, producing only a 3.5-yard average as the team dealt with injuries to Chester Pitts, Mike Brisiel, Owen Daniels and Steve Slaton.

News of Gibbs' departure for Seattle came as a surprise to players on Tuesday.

"I'm pretty shocked, man," left tackle Duane Brown said. "Just looking at the time he's put in here and the progress that we've made and just looking at so much that we had to look forward to next season, I'm kind of surprised. I don't really know too much about his situation, but hopefully he does well out there."

Right tackle Eric Winston commented on Gibbs' exit via his Twitter account on Tuesday afternoon.

"I know everyone is surprised by Gibbs leaving and he is a great coach but trust me, the O-line is in good hands with Benton," Winston said. "(He) is more than capable."

Benton is entering his fifth season with the Texans and seventh in the NFL. He will continue to work with assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack and offensive assistant Bruce Matthews, and the Texans might soon add a fourth coach with offensive line expertise. Broncos offensive line coach Rick Dennison was offered the team's offensive coordinator position on Monday.

"We've still got a great staff," Brown said. "Actually, (Gibbs) was more vocal and did a lot more hands-on stuff last year. This year, he kind of stepped back and let John Benton take over and do a lot more.

"It'll definitely be noticeable without him here, but I think he was kind of prepping John for what was about to happen. So like I said, I'm surprised, but I guess I could kind of see it coming a little bit."

Though the writing apparently was on the wall, Gibbs will no doubt be missed. One of the most respected offensive line coaches in NFL history, he leaves Houston with 25 years of NFL coaching experience.

"I know he was very instrumental in drafting me and getting me out here, and he's definitely brought me a long way since I've arrived in all areas of my game," said Brown, a first-round draft pick in 2008. "He's very intense. He's very frank. He doesn't try to spare your feelings. It rubs some people the wrong way, but I think it's the best way to get the job done.

"He tells you how it is, tells you how he feels, but he knows what he's talking about. He's been doing this for a long time with a lot of great people, and he knows his stuff, so you've got to listen to everything he says and try to apply it to everything – life or football."

Follow Nick Scurfield on Twitter at *twitter.com/NickScurfield or find him on the "I'm A Texan Club" at imatexan.com/profiles/Nick_Scurf/.*

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