Washington's Dream Team
The Washington Redskins are looking to their past for their future. After a coaching carousel that had Redskins maintenance changing the name on the Head Coach's door seemingly every year, the team's most successful head coach, Joe Gibbs is back after an 11 year hiatus during which time Gibbs' collected two NASCAR Championships as a car owner.
Gibbs will be looked to restore the credibility to this once proud franchise. A franchise that has seen only one playoff appearance since Gibbs resigned following the 1992 season. With the failed experiment of Steve Spurrier and his vaunted "Fun and Gun", a two year span that saw the Redskins post a 12-20 record, the Redskins will look to a more conventional style with the return of Gibbs.
The pressure of returning the Redskins to glory once again is certainly going to be a challenge but if there is one man that can do it, it is Gibbs. This is not to say that Gibbs will be shoulder it all himself, in fact his supporting cast is quite possibly the most talented collection of coaches that the NFL has ever seen. When the Gibbs hiring was announced in January, behind the scenes the statement was made in a joking manner that he would be getting the old gang back together, making reference to the famous line in "The Blues Brothers".
The coaching staff that will be leading the troops this season will be at the opposite end of the spectrum from the recently departed staff. Whereas Spurrier's coaching staff had the least amount of NFL experience in the league, Gibbs' staff will have over 100 years of NFL experience collectively. In fact, with the exception of receivers' coach Stan Hixon, running backs coach Earnest Byner and quality control assistant Coy Gibbs, every coach on Gibbs' staff has served on at least one NFL staff. While those around the league have tipped their caps to Gibbs for what he accomplished with the Redskins during his first tenure (1981-1992), many of those same people were quick to point out that his success came before the advent of free agency. They feel that Gibbs will struggle to find the success he once had and that being out of the NFL for the last 11 years will only further delay the Redskins return to glory. It may appear that the only active Hall of Fame coach wasn't given enough credit as he has surrounded himself with both younger coaches that have been working within the free agency system since it's inception as well as some of his former Redskins assistants.
Coach Gibbs has named two assistant head coaches; on the offensive side of the ball, former Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel will return as offensive assistant head coach and will again oversee the offensive line. Bugel is a 26-year coaching veteran and while he served as head coach with the Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders, he may be known best as the man who built the offensive line that became known as "the Hogs". The other assistant head coach comes from the defensive side of the ball in Gregg Williams. Williams, who spent the last three seasons as head coach in Buffalo, was brought on board to oversee the defense and will be counted on to implement the defensive strategies that he used to make the Tennessee Titans a formidable defensive unit. He served as defensive coordinator for 11 seasons there prior to going to Buffalo.
The offensive game plan will be coordinated in a joint effort along with Gibbs will be Offensive Coordinator Don Breaux, Bugel and Offensive Assistant/Consultant Ernie Zampese. The quarterbacks and tight ends will be guided by former Redskins assistants, Jack Burns and Rennie Simmons. Burns returns to the Redskins after serving as quarterbacks' coach in Atlanta, working with Michael Vick. Earnest Byner will be returning home (he was named as one of the Redskins' 70 greatest all-time players in 2002) for his first NFL coaching job as running backs coach. The receivers will be coached by Stan Hixon. Hixon will be getting his first NFL experience as he left the staff of NCAA National Champion LSU Tigers to serve under Coach Gibbs. Rounding out the offensive coaches are Offensive Assistant Bill Lazor and Quality Control assistant Coy Gibbs.
On defense, Assistant Head Coach Gregg Williams will be working closely with Defensive Coordinator Greg Blache to raise the performance of the Redskins defensive unit to a level more in line with the talent on the field. While Williams will work on the defensive schemes, his work with the Titans was very impressive as they led the NFL in defense in 2000. They also set season records for sacks (55), fewest passing yards (2,424) and touchdowns allowed (17). Blache joins the Redskins after serving in the same position for the Chicago Bears. He will be concentrating on the defensive line which has been a weak spot for the Redskins and is widely considered to be Blache' specialty. Coaching the linebackers will be Dale Lindsey, who served in that capacity under Norv Turner during the 1997-98 season before serving under Blache in Chicago. Lindsey and Blache are given credit for helping develop Brian Urlacher. The secondary will be handled by DeWayne Walker and Steve Jackson. Walker comes to the Redskins from the New York Giants staff where he served two seasons in the same capacity. He also served under Pete Carroll in New England in 1998. Until his tutelage, both Lawyer Milloy and Ty Law earned trips to the Pro Bowl. He will over see the unit as a whole but will be working specifically with the cornerbacks. Jackson, who served on Williams' staff in Buffalo in the same role, will be charged with working on third-down strategy and the play of the safeties. Another of Gregg Williams' coaches from Buffalo, Danny Smith, will be joining the Redskins coaching staff to oversee the special teams. He will be assisted by Kirk Olivadotti, who for the past two seasons served as assistant defensive backs coach for the Redskins.
The fans of the Redskins have seen and heard just about everything as it relates to free agent spending sprees (2000) and big name coach signings such as Spurrier. The return of Gibbs however is something entirely different. The fans know what Gibbs did in his first term in Washington and they believe he can do it again because his coaching philosophy is timeless and what he demands of his players is still what makes his teams good, despite having the hurdles of free agency. Gibbs has brought the swagger and pride back to Redskins Park and they have yet to play a game. While most of the players only know Gibbs' reputation, the impact that he made not only on this franchise but this league is undeniable as the majority of hardware that the players see in the trophy cases throughout Redskins Park has been put their by Gibbs coached teams. The question on these players mind has to be will they add to that hardware or will they be content to collect their fat salaries and not work to get to that next level. Based on Coach Gibbs track record, if they choose the latter, they will be doing it somewhere other than for the Redskins.
This article was released on 2004-06-01.
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