View Full Version : New NFL era greets old schooler

08-10-2004, 10:25 AM
Aug. 10, 2004, 1:03AM

New NFL era greets old schooler
Gibbs takes over Redskins using time-tested tactics

CANTON, OHIO - The start of preseason could not have come soon enough for Washington coach Joe Gibbs.

Gibbs' return to the Redskins after an 11-year absence has received more scrutiny than the presidential campaign. The only time he can escape the madness that threatens to suffocate him is when he's on the sideline.

Monday night's 20-17 preseason-opening win over Denver in the AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game offered Gibbs his first chance since the 1992 season to do what he does best coach the Redskins.

Gibbs made his first appearance in Canton, Ohio, since July 1996 when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I really kind of thought and rightfully so that was it for me," Gibbs said about his induction. "I feel kind of like I'm starting over."

And not just in Canton, either. Gibbs feels the same way about a career move in which he has everything to lose and nothing to gain other than a fourth Super Bowl ring.

"Anybody who's ever gone back someplace where you've got a lot of pride at stake probably can imagine the emotions I'm feeling," Gibbs said early in camp. "You're nervous about it. You want to do well, and all the fans are counting on you.

"One of the things you worry about is everybody's expectations of what's going to happen. There are high expectations, and you realize that those high expectations are good to get everybody excited, but it can be pretty hard to live up to."

Gibbs is growing tired of being the center of attention, but he knows it goes with the territory in Washington.

"I've been embarrassed a little bit by all the attention, but the good thing about sports is that (attention) goes away if you don't do well," he said.

Attention has followed Gibbs since he shocked the sports world Jan. 7 by announcing his return to the Redskins. He hired a staff of veteran NFL coaches, including some offensive assistants who had been out of the league.

Since Gibbs took over a 5-11 team to end the two-year reign of Steve Spurrier, his work ethic has been evident.

"His passion and drive are incredible," said Gregg Williams, the former Buffalo head coach who is Washington's assistant head coach/defense. "He never stops working. His attention to detail is amazing. Working for Joe has been one of the greatest experiences of my life."
Historically sound
In his first incarnation as Washington's coach, Gibbs compiled a 140-65 record in 12 seasons (1981-92), including eight playoff appearances and three Super Bowl victories.

Gibbs' .683 winning percentage is best among coaches with at least 125 victories. He has a .789 winning percentage in playoff games (16-5).
"He's a legend, but he's very humble," said Steve Jackson, who is in his first season coaching the Redskins' safeties. "He works so hard, and sometimes I don't know how he does it.

"The biggest thing is that he's still adjusting to the NFL in the new millennium, but his X's and O's and his fundamentals and leadership are incredible."

Gibbs brought back such former Redskins' coaches as Joe Bugel (assistant head coach/offense), Don Breaux (offensive coordinator), Jack Burns (quarterbacks), Rennie Simmons (tight ends) and Dale Lindsay (linebackers). They average 22.6 years of NFL coaching experience.

"There's a lot of football knowledge and experience around here," Jackson said. "Players and coaches can learn a lot from guys who have been in this league for so long."

Bugel, who coached the Hogs during Gibbs' first tour of duty, is recognized as one of the greatest offensive line coaches in history.

"Joe has that special camaraderie that every offensive line coach needs by making all his players feel like they're No. 1 picks," Williams said. "He makes his players want to go on that field and die for him."

Gibbs is still a perfectionist who takes care of his players. He had owner Dan Snyder build a huge players' lounge at their training facility. Snyder also granted Gibbs' request to put a sleeper sofa in his office.

"Joe's work ethic is legendary, of course, but he also tells a lot of great stories," Williams said. "If you're a student of NFL history, being around Joe is a history lesson."

Making changes
No one disputes that Gibbs is one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, but most agree that he'll have to adjust to the era of free agency and the salary cap. Unlike the old days when he could talk the late owner, Jack Kent Cooke, into opening his vault to bring in players to fill needs, Gibbs has to operate within the current system.

After Monday's game, Gibbs has four more games to figure out exactly what he has on his team and what needs to be done to move forward from that point.

"One of the hardest things in coaching is to get a perception of what the talents are of your players so that you can start putting them in roles where they can really excel," Gibbs said. "That's extremely hard when you're trying to get accustomed to a new group."

Until Gibbs was rehired, most of the Redskins knew little to nothing about him. Now that they've seen firsthand how the fans lionize him, they realize how special he is and how much he means to the Washington area.

"The city's on fire, (and) the team's on fire," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "You judge a team by the leader. We've probably got that leader that we've been looking for."

08-10-2004, 01:26 PM
Well, Gibbs is 1-0...good start even though it was preseason and they only played the starters for 1 quarter, but still, this will help Washington gain some confidence. Taylor and Springs looked good in the secondary, so I am hoping that the loss of Bailey will not hurt them.

08-10-2004, 09:08 PM
It begins already Jim, Washington lost an OL for the season already.