Chapter 3

1. There was a man of the Checkbook, named Snyder, a would-be ruler of the Gridiron:

2. The same came to Gibbs by night, and said unto him, Joe, we know that thou art a Coach come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3. Gibbs answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be a winner again, he cannot see the kingdom of the Super Bowl.

4. Snyder said unto him, How can a man be a winner when he has more money than sense? Can he enter the fifth time into his motherís stadium, and be a winner?

5. Gibbs answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of football and the stadium—and maybe of the NASCAR track as well—he cannot enter into the stadium of God.

6. That which is born of the football is football; and that which is born of the stadium is stadium.

7. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8. The Counter-Trey rusheth where it rusheth, and thou feelest the force thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Stadium.

9. Snyder answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

10. Gibbs answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of an NFL team, and knowest not these things?

11. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and thou receivest not one Playoff.

12. If I have told you Preseason things, and thou believest not, how shalt thou believe, if I tell thee [of] Postseason things?

13. And no man hath ascended up to the Super Bowl, but he that came down from the Super Bowl, [even] Gibbs, which is in heaven.

14. And as Riggins dragged along the Dolphins, even so must Washington be dragged along.

15. That whosoever believeth in Gibbs should not perish, but have eternal victory.

16. For Gibbs so loved Washington that he gave his misbegotten Team, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting playoffs. —Dave Nuttycombe

Hail to the Chief

President Joe Gibbs addresses the nation.

A new day is rising over the giant dome of Mark Moseley’s head. It’s up, and it’s good.

I’m sitting in an auditorium at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., listening to Joe Gibbs, the greatest coach in Redskins history, announce his return to football.

I’m ecstatic.

As head coach of the Redskins, Gibbs won three Super Bowls in 12 seasons from 1981 to 1992. Along the way, he racked up one of the highest winning percentages of any long-term coach in the NFL. He won at home and on the road. He won with superstars and scrubs. He won the blowouts and the close ones. And all across the District, he won over kids like me, who grew up believing that Redskins fandom guaranteed a lifetime of Sunday bliss.

So when Gibbs retired after the 1992 season, I wasn’t worried. The sun rises. The Redskins win. That was life as I knew it.

In the first game of the 1993 season, the Redskins, led by new coach Richie Petitbon, beat the Dallas Cowboys, 35-16. There was no sigh of relief on my part. After all, there was nothing to suggest that my illusionary universe was about to unravel.

The next week, the Redskins lost, at home, to the Cardinals, 17-10. Then they lost five more games in a row. That year, the Redskins finished with four wins and 12 losses—only their second losing season since I had learned how to read. Worse yet, the Cowboys won the Super Bowl.

As the losing seasons piled up, the bitter reality of life as a sports fan sank in. The disappointment. The anger. The regret. As it turned out, it wasn’t manifest destiny or some inchoate deity protecting Redskins fans from the indignities of football mediocrity. It was Joe Gibbs.

And now he’s back, standing on the stage in front of me. Our new head coach. Our new team president. The guy with the high-pitched titter.

“I’m nervous and excited,” says President Gibbs. “To see the people out front, I tried to stop and say thanks to each one of them.”

That could have been me.

A half-hour earlier, I sauntered up to the entrance of Redskins Park and faced a dilemma. Do I stand outside as a fan? Or do I go inside as a reporter? Simple. I went inside as a fan posing as a reporter.

Somehow, my yellow, expired D.C. Metropolitan Police Department press pass, strung around my neck with a shoelace, has landed me in a seat behind former Redskins kicker Moseley.

As President Gibbs continues to lay out his platform for the seasons ahead—humility, respect, family values, special teams—I stare at Moseley’s outsized noggin. The perfectly coiffed dome of slick gray hair rises up between me and President Gibbs like Yosemite’s El Capit´n.

How did he get that thing in a helmet, I wonder, let alone win a Super Bowl?

All around the room, former players from the Redskins’ salad days stare with rapt attention at President Gibbs. Like Moseley, these guys are champions. But looking at them, I can’t help but think, These guys won Super Bowls?

Joe Jacoby stands to my right. He looks like a guy who might win the tractor pull at the county fair, but an NFC championship game against the Cowboys? I’m impressed he’s still standing.

Darrell Green sits a few rows ahead of me. In person, he looks as wee as Dan Snyder. That guy chased down Tony Dorsett?

Flanked out wide to my right stands former receiver Gary Clark. He’s dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. He looks about at fierce as Ryan Seacrest.

All of which only adds to my euphoria. If President Gibbs won with these guys, surely, he can win with the likes of LaVar Arrington, Fred Smoot, and Laveranues Coles.

More than 70 years ago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood in front of the U.S. Capitol and made a speech that was sober yet uplifting. The American people were suffering through the Great Depression—an epoch of national history comparable to the reign of Norv Turner.

Roosevelt told the country that all they had to fear was fear itself, and he offered them a reason to hope. He offered them the New Deal.

Like Roosevelt, President Gibbs is inheriting a terrible depression. Since he resigned, the team has won only 75 out of 178 games. Embarrassing episodes have flourished. Free agency brought the likes of Deion Sanders and Jeff George. Quarterback Gus Frerotte knocked himself out of a game with a celebratory head butt. Coach Marty Schottenheimer stalked the sidelines with his belt up near his shoulders, his entire torso tucked into his pants.

But now, like Roosevelt, President Gibbs speaks of a new epoch, a new deal.

“It’s a whole new deal for me,” says Gibbs. “I got to prove myself, and all the coaches, we’ve got to prove ourselves, all over again.”

But for me, and the Washington faithful, showing up is all the proof that’s needed.

Throughout the evening, Gibbs preaches patience. “I think I’m optimistic about it,” said Gibbs. “We all got to be realistic about it.”

Realistic, I intend to be.

Since the Redskins have already been eliminated from the playoffs, I concede that they probably won’t win the Super Bowl this year. We’ll have to wait until next season. As far as other accomplishments—achieving peace in the Middle East, finding a cure for SARS, safeguarding American cattle from the threat of mad-cow disease—I’m willing to give President Gibbs more time. At least long enough for him to find some decent tight ends.

The president finishes his statement and opens the floor to questions.

Reporters, throughout the auditorium, stifle their inner fans long enough to toss out some hardboiled questions: Do you think you’ll still be the hardest-working, smartest, most successful coach in football…?

I ponder asking a question. Perhaps something like “Do you intend on using the shotgun formation on third downs, Oh Captain, My Captain?”

But it’s cold outside. So I keep quiet. —Felix Gillette

What Does Joe Gibbs Mean to You?

The public weighs in.

Interviews by Dave Jamieson; photographs by Darrow Montgomery

Clarence Payne, 49

Bowie, Md.

Computer technician

“I remember the heyday. The Super Bowls, Doug Williams. When I heard about [Gibbs], I just got excited. It’s not gonna be a quick fix….To get us back to the Super Bowl, I give him two years.”

Name withheld

Metrobus driver, D8 line

“Sorry. I just talked about it with [a reporter] the other day on K Street.”

George Gauthier, 59

Adams Morgan

Retired

“This is the only thing I can tell you: I was in the Childe Harold a few years back. They all took me for Joe Gibbs in there. They wanted me to buy everybody drinks.”

Kevin Mahaney, 24

Capitol Hill

Bartender

“I’m thrilled. This is the best thing to happen to this city since Jordan came….I just hope Dan Snyder has patience with him, because there are gonna be growing pains. I hope he doesn’t give him the boot.”

Hope Vess, 52

Capitol Heights, Md.

Union Station baggage foreman

“I think the Skins will do better, but the Cowboys will still win….I’ve been a Dallas Cowboy fan since the days of Roger Staubach. My son is 33 years old and doesn’t know why he’s a Cowboy fan. I wouldn’t let him wear burgundy and gold. You can do that to a child.”

Name withheld

Employee at the Washington Redskins store in Union Station:

“Sorry. We’re not allowed to say anything. I can’t talk to you.” CP

Your Loss Is My Gain

For some of us, a rescuer is the last thing the football team needs.

I am a sworn hater of Washington’s football team. From August through December, from the sweltering preseason through the first frost, I wish them nothing but ill. If they played in January anymore, which they don’t, I’d hate them into the New Year. There is nothing I like better on a fine Sunday afternoon than to drive around, running errands at the empty stores, while you all sit home and watch your squad being hammered into the ground. The wailing and groaning of Sonny, Sam, and Frank is music to my ears. After particularly brutal defeats, I’ll even tune in to the Fifth Quarter show, just to hear more lamentation. So the Steve Spurrier era should have been a golden age for me.

Even so, I was relieved to see the Ol’ Ball Coach go. This might be confusing to you local fans, who understand football only in terms of winning and losing. But I liked Spurrier from back in his University of Florida days; he was goofy and innovative. He would go out and call a flea-flicker or a flanker option pass in the first quarter on New Year’s Day, in front of God and everybody. Though I always want your team to fail, I also wanted to see Spurrier have fun in the NFL. It pained me to see a man like that chewed up and spit out by a bunch of humorless fanatics.

Now, Marty Schottenheimer…There was a Washington coach I could get behind: a grim-faced martinet and a has-been, whose career high point was choking away two AFC titles against John Elway. The thought of Coach Shit-Hammer hunkered down in Landover, grinding out a joyless string of 8-8 or 7-9 seasons, gave me a warm feeling.

But it was not to be. Marty got the ax, bringing in Spurrier and cognitive dissonance. My only comfort—besides all the losing—was knowing that this was just a stage in the turmoil of the franchise. Spurrier would be replaced by another coach, and another, and another, as your emotionally stunted owner kept flailing about for something that worked. Ray Rhodes? Jim Fassell? Please, bring ’em on.

Instead, in comes Joe Gibbs. This is the worst possible news. Growing up around Baltimore, I had plenty of reasons to loathe your football team. My Colts were gone, and this burgundy-and-gold gang of imposters was being pumped into my TV every Sunday. A child of football divorce, I saw the team as some strange woman who talked too much and smelled of lipstick and kept telling me to call her “Mommy.” I hated the complacent, sycophantic fans; the racist team name; the smug, braying fight song. Following my Philadelphia-born father’s example, I became an Eagles fan—which enabled me to root against your team and the Cowboys simultaneously.

But I despised Joe Gibbs independently of, or at least separately from, all that. I despised him as a matter of pure aesthetic judgment: He was the first coach, in any sport, I ever hated for his sheer boringness.

I know Gibbs was the architect of one of the highest-scoring offenses in league history. It didn’t matter. Somehow, he made even touchdowns boring. What Gibbs meant to me, always, was a 65-yard scoring drive in which John Riggins touched the ball 20 times. First and 10…second and 6…third and 3….first and 10. It was almost enough to make me go out and rake the leaves.

Down here, you didn’t notice how dull it was. That’s because you’re not really football fans. You’re just fans of winning. It would be inconceivable for a Washingtonian to call home after a playoff victory, as I did Sunday night once our beloved Eagles had wheezed their way past the Packers, and say, “They stink.” “They stink,” my father replied.

To cheer for the Eagles is to know despair. And Joe Gibbs made the despair cut deeply. He refused to be impressed by the Eagles I loved—the crazed, blitzing Eagles of Buddy Ryan. They were a savage team with blood in their eye-whites and blood on their hands, but they could never make Gibbs flinch. Over and over again, whenever the two teams met, ugly and dull beat brilliant. (The only consolation, in the rock-paper-scissors game that was the NFC East, was that Bill Parcells’ Giants would beat Gibbs as surely as Gibbs beat the Eagles. And the Eagles would beat the Giants. But that never got Philadelphia a Super Bowl.)

Yet I’m not sure I was worse off. You won’t understand this, either, but I’ll tell you anyway: It’s better to have lost with Randall Cunningham than to have won with Mark Rypien. Cunningham had punts that were more exciting, more involving, more flat-out inspirational than Rypien’s entire Super Bowl season.

That’s what the Gibbs experience comes down to: the triumph of inhumanity. It’s no accident that he threw you fans over for the joys of making machines run fast around a track. People and automobiles are interchangeable in his world—which is your world, too. Paint a Monte Carlo burgundy and gold, and you’d cherish it like a member of your own family.

So now the mechanic is here again, telling the fans he needs ’em to back the team. He needs you, all right—the way he needs tight lug nuts and properly inflated tires. Bitter fans would keep his quarterbacks from running smoothly. In this, the sainted coach has more in common with the despised owner than you think. What was it that little Danny learned, eating chili in front of the TV? He learned that passion could be a means to an end. He learned that love could be a form of greed. —Tom Scocca

Tuck It In, Mister

The coach as fashion expert

NFL coaches have never based their reputations on fashion. Remember Bum Phillips, his white belt as wide as the Mississippi? Tom Landry’s dour fedora, as gray as the man himself? Or John Madden’s tentlike shirts, which usually held the left side of the menu from yesterday’s steakhouse?

Well, Joe Gibbs had his own bad aesthetic—call it Gibbswear—that fit right in with these coaching fashion plates. Windshield-wide glasses. Redskins-logo feed cap, with enough headroom to store a playbook. Tight burgundy Sansabelts topping white shoes. Polo shirts with seagull-wing collars—embroidered Redskins helmet gracing each point, and so stiffly starched that they could clothesline you. The whole package was enough to give Mr. Blackwell writer’s cramp, and since leaving the team, Gibbs’ taste has gone further south. To promote his NASCAR Winston Cup racing team, he wears a logo-festooned polo that sports…epaulets.

Despite his wardrobe, though, Gibbs doesn’t hesitate to weigh in on the fashion industry’s peccadillos. In fact, he played smashmouth last summer against what he called a “sexually provocative campaign” by clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. In a late-August open letter to Michael Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch’s chair and chief executive officer, Gibbs announced that he was joining forces with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Young Life in a nationwide campaign against Abercrombie & Fitch’s Winter 2003 A&F magalog, subtitled “David Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch’s Christmas Field Guide.”

What offended Gibbs’ about the “field guide” wasn’t the firm’s winter line, but its photo spreads of naked young men and women cavorting and cuddling in the great outdoors. “I want to be one of the Americans to stand up and say I’m embarrassed by your efforts and I’m embarrassed for each of you,” wrote Gibbs to Jeffries.

Gibbs also promised to slam Abercrombie & Fitch to the “hundreds of thousands of race fans and football fans” whom he claimed to speak to during the course of each year, as well as to his “numerous friends on Capitol Hill.”

“I can promise you—I will devote my full efforts to spread the word about this campaign,” wrote Gibbs. “My hope is your business will indeed suffer as a result.”

Abercrombie & Fitch pulled the catalog from its stores in November, and its sales for that month were off 13 percent.

Let’s hope Gibbs doesn’t hop online and take a look at some of the offerings on the Redskins’ own online catalog. Like the “Logo Print Thong,” whose elastic string sides and rear connect tiny patches of red satin with the team name and logo in a “snapshot pattern.” Or the “Women’s Glitter Tank,” with rhinestones and “Redskins” in script curling across the left breast. Or the knit shorts with the “screen printed two color name across the seat,” as the catalog’s text delicately puts it.

Karl Swanson, spokesperson for the Redskins, says there’s no chance right now that Gibbs will be able to influence what’s in and out of the Redskins’ catalog.

“He’s dealing with just football stuff” as the team’s new president, says Swanson. “The two are completely separate. He certainly has his opinions, but it’s way too soon to tell. He’s focused on looking at coaching résumés.”

Gibbs might also want to review the Redskins cheerleaders’ Web site—where he can see their usual uniforms of halter tops and plunging-waisted white-satin boy shorts (with embroidered script “R” positioned off-tackle left). Or he can page through their 2003ñ2004 swimsuit calendar, which features the “First Ladies of Football” preening and lounging at a Mexican resort. The calendar’s photos are also available in a $75 set of trading cards. “Over the past several years, the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders have become the most visible cheerleading squad in the NFL,” boasts the group’s Web site.

Swanson says that the organization has the final say on the cheerleaders’ costumes and merchandising, although clothing suggestions usually come from the cheerleaders themselves. “If they have something they’re interested in wearing, they’re the ones who have to wear it,” says Swanson. “It doesn’t consume a lot of meeting time.”

But now that Gibbs is back, could Gibbswear make a resurgence? Look for headgear to be a leading indicator, according to Swanson.

“With the previous two coaches,” he says, “the most immediate items that people requested were hats. [Marty] Schottenheimer—he wore big straw hats in training camp, and we got requests for those. With Steve Spurrier, it was visors. So it’s not unrealistic that hats will be part of the equation.”

Don’t peel off your Wuerffel jersey just yet, though. At the Washington Redskins Store at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Va., employee Josh Holland says “it might take some time” for Gibbswear to hit the stores.

“We have nothing [about Gibbs], really,” says Holland. “We have just pictures on the wall from the Super Bowl, and those are not for sale.” But Holland says one Gibbs item is guaranteed to ship: a bobble-head doll. “They do a new one every time they hire a new coach,” Holland says. “The Spurrier one looks just like him. It’s not selling real well.”

“He did have a distinctive look,” Holland says of Gibbs. “But those shirts are kinda dead right now.” —Robert Lalasz

Are You Ready for Some Jesus?

Coach Gibbs and the Redskins may find themselves at cross purposes.

It’s Old Home Week at Redskins Park. The old-new ball coach is back. Buges, the Boss Hog, is back. And, sometime in the next few months, you can be sure, the Boy Wonder owner will make certain that a big, bruising back in the Riggo mold will also be back.

But the biggest return to the Skins next season will be the return of Jesus.

Because, let’s face it: Above and beyond the legendary coach’s counter-trey and the long-forgotten-but-now-sure-to-return H-back sets and those vaunted halftime adjustments about which even immigrant cabbies can wax poetic, there was the piety, the sanctimony, that made it possible for an entire city to swallow the notion that football is really and truly a religion.

Yes, this town was Redskins-mad before Joe Gibbs arrived in 1981. But it was not football-crazy the way that, say, the state of Texas is, or Florida, or whole swaths of the Deep South. Winning big, and winning consistently, helped change that, of course, lifting us from being merely fanatical to being the sort of devoted—nay, obeisant—followers we have become today. But it was more than that: The Redskins under Gibbs did not merely win; they won the right way. The played the game the way it was meant to be played. They exuded an aura of almost saintly perfection. Every organization is a reflection of its leader, none more so than a successful organization, and the Redskins under Gibbs were a team built not merely in his image, but also, crucially, a team built in His image.

The young, boyish coach who came east from San Diego was by then already a changed man, a born-again Christian who, even in the midst of the five-game losing streak that inaugurated his career (and very nearly got him fired by irascible billionaire owner Jack Kent Cooke), never cursed. Oh, he threw chairs. He raised a ruckus in the locker room. A flurry of “dang’s littered the air. But no profanation ever sullied those lips.

No coach before had ever worked so hard or been so public in letting it be known that he maintained a fanatical work ethic. His 16-hour days were well-known, as was his penchant for spending four nights a week in his office and sleeping on his cot. Could anything have been more ascetic, more pure, or, for that matter, more inspiring than the image of Coach Joe on his cot, a humble, hardworking servant of the greater good?

Gibbs was not the only coach to proclaim that what he valued most was a player whose priorities were, in this exact order, “God, family, and football,” but he was one of the shrewdest in turning his entire team into an emblem of this fundamentalist philosophy. Gibbs, as Tom Landry had done before him, equated success on the gridiron with solid family values off it. Talent was important, yes—but so was character, integrity. Never mind that the roster of those years might have been dotted with the occasional drug abuser, alcoholic, or wife beater. Just as an injured player could be sent to rehab, so, too, could a damaged soul undergo a transformation of the heart. The Redskins were a family, and in the end, the family was there to save them—provided, of course, they had not lost a step in the 40.

A master motivator, Gibbs turned pep talks into prayer meetings, during which he urged each and every one of the young men assembled before him to dig down deep within himself and lay it all out there for the team. To give to the team, to subsume one’s identity into the larger whole, was the ultimate sacrifice. A classic piece of coachspeak—and yet Gibbs somehow elevated it above cliché2, brought it into the priestly realm. Gibbs had been touched by the light. He saw. He knew. And, equally important in the minds of the increasingly egocentric players, he was successful. He became, in this way, more than a coach. He became a conduit.

The Redskins won three Super Bowls, and yet, except for a few beloved heroes who are still fondly remembered among the local faithful, those Gibbs-era squads were curiously devoid of star quality. Joe Theismann and John Riggins and Dexter Manley—they all came and went during those first few years like so many prodigal children. The team, the family, endured. It was the quieter, self-effacing players who became the public face of the team—Art Monk, Charles Mann, Mark May, and, of course, Darrell Green, the born-again-Christian corner, whose stunning longevity (20 years!) seemed offered up as a parable of the good that can come of a life that is lived cleanly and with noble purpose.

Gibbs’ credibility as a winner—as a consistent winner—validated his approach, and his cloying fundamentalism was every bit as important to understanding the man, the coach, and the growing myth as his mastery of X’s and O’s. There was a moment, toward the end of his first term, in 1988, when it was apparent to me that Gibbs had crossed a previously uncrossable line. Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ had just been released, to critical acclaim but also to a fair amount of public outcry. Gibbs was one of the dissenters, dutifully standing outside the Avalon Theatre one day and handing out leaflets that proclaimed his distress at the purported treatment of Christ and urging strangers to boycott a film he had never seen—nor, if he could help it, would ever see.

Few of us, then, were bothered by the fact that Gibbs had gone from mingling football and church to mingling church and state, just as few of us, now, are going to allow ourselves to get too riled up about the do-gooding solemnity, the insistent pigskin piety, that will soon find its way back into the world of our beloved Skins. And why not? It’s been 11 long and depressing years without Joe Gibbs and his command, not just of the fundamentals that separate the bad teams from the good, but also of the fundamentalism that separates the good teams from the great. If a little old-fashioned godding up is what it’s gonna take, then who are we to complain? —Todd Kliman

Dan Snyder’s Serenity Prayer

Gibbs

Grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know

When to shut the fuck up

And stay the hell away.

Old Ball Coach vs. Ol’ Ball Coach

How does Joe Gibbs stack up against Steve Spurrier?

Coach Gibbs

Coach Spurrier

Unshakable faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

Unshakable faith in the quarterback Danny Wuerffel

Talked John Riggins out of retirement

Couldn’t talk Danny Wuerffel out of retirement—or Bruce Smith into retiring

Got Jim Lachey for Jay Schroeder

Gave Stephen Davis to Carolina

Slept in his office during season

Went 0-2 against a coach (Saints’ Jim Haslett) he mocked for sleeping in his office during season

“Sometimes the most important decision you can make is who’s backup [quarterback].”

Rob Johnson, Tim Hasselbeck, Gibran Hamdan

Set NFL scoring record

Set franchise record for penalty yards

Won 20 games in first two seasons

Lost 20 games in first two seasons

Never lost in first round of playoffs

Never made it to first round of playoffs

Beat 49ers in 1983 NFC Championship Game

Beat 49ers in Osaka during 2002 preseason

Won five NFC East titles

Won two NFC East games

“I have a lot to learn.”

“I sort of got NFL-ized.”

Made everybody forget Steve Spurrier

Made everybody remember Joe Gibbs

—Dave McKenna

Success Was in the Cards

Serious football-heads wasted no time pointing out potential pitfalls for Joe Gibbs after 11 years away from the NFL. The returning coach will have to find his bearings in a subtly but definitely altered league. Free agency requires teams to reassemble their rosters on the fly, rather than clinging to a core group of players. The salary cap forces veteran stars to take a pay cut or leave town. The go-to play on third and short isn’t the fullback up the gut, but the fullback pass-blocking for a quick throw. And instead of merely grumbling at the refs, coaches are now outfitted with flags of their own to throw in protest.

But perhaps the greatest challenge to Gibbs’ old formula for victory has nothing to do with personnel or tactics: It’s that he no longer gets two games a year against the St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals.

In 1981, Gibbs lost to the Cardinals in St. Louis, 40-30, as his team went 0 for 4 in his first pass through the NFC East. But in Week 9, with the Redskins at a lowly 2-6, the Cardinals came to RFK and got drilled, 42-21. That taste of divisional victory would become a familiar one: Gibbs went on to play the Cardinals 22 more times, and he collected 19 more wins.

As the accompanying chart shows, Gibbs never quite got the hang of beating the Cowboys, and he labored to break even against the Giants. (He did more than hold his own against the Eagles.) But twice a year, he got to play the Cardinals, and twice a year—nearly every year—he beat them. Now that the Cardinals have decamped to the more geographically logical NFC West, the coach is going to have to either find a new patsy or figure out how to beat Bill Parcells. —Tom Scocca

[CHART HERE]

“We’re All Losers Now”

An oral history of the post-Gibbs era

When Joe Gibbs stepped down as Redskins head coach after the 1992 season, he didn’t just leave his shadow on the sidelines. In the 11 years since, five different coaches have stood in the Skins’ locker room, stared down the microphones, and tried to answer the same question: “What happened out there, coach?” Their explanations and apologia offer a tidy recap of the Gibbs interregnum. —Josh Levin

Richie Petitbon, 1993 (4-12)

Oct. 10, 1993

Lost to Giants 41-7, the worst loss in RFK history:

“We obviously got our ass kicked. We were beat in every department. I think this may have been the longest day I ever spent at RFK Stadium. From the coaching staff right down to the players, we obviously stunk.”

Norv Turner, 1994ñ2000 (50-60-1)

Nov. 23, 1997

Tied Giants 7-7; QB Gus Frerotte sprained neck head-butting a wall after TD:

“I never thought to tell a guy not to do that.”

Oct. 18, 1998

Lost to Vikings 41-7:

“Offensively we’re just totally inept. We can’t snap two plays together in a row and not jump offsides. When we do get the ball snapped properly and a guy’s open, we can’t get him the ball. When we get him the ball, he doesn’t catch it. We’ve got guys going the wrong way. We’re just not capable of performing offensively right now.”

Terry Robiskie, 2000 (1-2)

Dec. 10, 2000

Lost to Cowboys 32-13:

“All week, we talked about focus. We talked about competing. We talked about coming out here to fight a war. We didn’t do that. Obviously I’m responsible.”

Marty Schottenheimer, 2001 (8-8)

Sept. 30, 2001

Lost to Chiefs 45-13:

“I’m as disappointed as I have been at any time in my coaching experience. I don’t think I’ve ever been through anything like this. It just deepens my resolve, to be honest with you. It really does. It’s going to be a lot of hard work. But if that’s all it takes, then we’ll get it done.”

Steve Spurrier, 2002ñ2003 (12-20)

Nov. 23, 2003

Lost to Dolphins 24-23:

“[Tim Hasselbeck] deserved to be a winner tonight. But it didn’t work out tonight for all of us. We’re all losers now.” CP