Here in Washington, we’re fired up about the return of Joe Gibbs as coach of the Redskins. Fans from other parts of the country may not appreciate or remember what a great football coach Gibbs was (and, we hope, still is). In 1981, he took over an aging 6-10 Redskins team and promptly lost his first five games. But he went 8-3 the rest of the way, and the next year he led the Skins to victory in the Super Bowl. Overall, in a little more than a decade, he won three Super Bowl victories in four appearances. In my opinion, two of his teams, his Super Bowl winners of 1992 and his Super Bowl losers of 1984, were among the ten best offensive football teams in NFL history (Gibbs specialized in offense). What is most remarkable to me is that Gibbs won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks (Joe Thiesman, Doug Williams, and Mary Rypien). Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, and Chuck Noll won all of their titles with the same quarterback, and each quarterback was better than any of Gibbs’.
I am mindful, however, that (Dick Vermeil and Bill Parcells apart) most top coaches don’t do nearly as well when they return to the game after an extended absence. And lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place. One of baseball’s greatest managers, Earl Weaver, couldn’t do anything with the Baltimore Orioles the second time around. Howard Kendall, who led my favorite English soccer team, Everton, to glory in the 1980s was a failure in two return stints in the 1990s. And Gibbs may find it find it tough to work with Redskins’ problem owner Dan Snyder.
Nonetheless, I’m reasonably confident that Gibbs will succeed here. The reason is that Gibbs is quite intelligent and profoundly driven to win. After leaving the Redskins, he became involved in NASCAR. With no experience in the sport, he organized Team Gibbs and achieved tremendous success with two different drivers. I have to like his chances of leading the Redskins out of the wilderness they have inhabited since he left us in 1993.
HINDROCKET adds: If he can win a Super Bowl with Mary Rypien at the helm, there’s no stopping him!
DEACON adds: Gibbs also won his three Super Bowls with three different primary running backs, only one of whom is a Hall Famer. This too distinguishes him from the other big-time winning coaches. Tim Smith set the Super Bowl rushing record in 1988, and was never heard from again. In addition, Gibbs got to an NFC title game with Jay Schroeder at quarterback. Schroeder was worse than Rypien (who was actually pretty good before injuries wrecked his career).
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