Mike Richman is the author of the Redskins Encyclopedia, and he was nice enough to talk to the Rag a bit about Joe Gibbs and his legacy with the Redskins. I highly recommend the Redskins Encyclopedia which is full of some fabulous stories and tons of great pictures and stats. No Redskins fan should be without it. To learn more about Richman and his book, you can go here or you can click on the book jacket on the page. Here’s the interview:
In your book you called Joe Gibbs the “Most Celebrated Coach in Redskins History.” Though I agree with you, this is quite the statement considering 7 Redskins head coaches are in the Hall of Fame. Considering this team has been coached by the likes of Vince Lombardi, Curly Lambeau, and George Allen, what is it (besides the four Super Bowls) that separates Gibbs from the other Redskins legendary coaches?
MR: Joe Gibbs is the most celebrated coach in Redskins history by virtue of his amazing achievements during his first 12 seasons inWashington (1981-92): four Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl victories, eight playoff appearances, five NFC East titles, a 124-60 regular season record (.674) and a 16-5 postseason mark (.762). Including the four seasons in his second stint in D.C., his .621 regular season winning percentage (154-94) and .708 postseason percentage (17-7) are still among the best in NFL history. The only other Redskins coach who won a championship was Ray Flaherty, who captured the NFL title in 1937 and 1942. Flaherty, by the way,has the highest winning percentage of any Redskins coach at .701 (56-23-3). George Allen took the Redskins to the playoffs five times in the1970s, including an appearance in Super Bowl VII, but he didn’t win a championship. Lambeau (10-13-1 in two seasons in Washington) and Lombardi (7-5-2 in one season in D.C.) won a combined 11 championship during their coaching days — all in Green Bay.
On your site, you list Casey Rabach as one of your favorite players, and he is certainly one of my favorites and I believe a fan favorite as well. Rabach was devastated by Gibbs leaving and even said on Redskins.com that he showed up to “talk coach Gibbs out of it.” The loyalty coach Gibbs inspires is amazing to me, and I think it is interesting that the most loyal players also seem to be the most popular players with the fans (like Rabach, Clinton Portis, Fred Smoot). Do you think there is a connection? Does Gibbs draw that out of players and make us love them, or do think Gibbs simply knows how to pick the best people and that’s what makes us love them?
MR: Gibbs has always been known to speak highly of his”core” players, those with great character, a desire to work hard, and a strong loyalty to the team. At the same time, fans tend to root harder for players like that. Thus, it’s no coincidence that the most popular Redskin names are such players as Rabach, Portis, Smoot, Jon Jansen, James Thrash, Rock Cartwright, Chris Samuels, Cornelius Griffin, Phillip Daniels and Marcus Washington, all of whom posess Gibsean characteristics. In Gibbs’ first era, he had the eccentric John Riggins,the mercurial Gary Clark and the flamboyant Joe Theismann. Another coach may not have tolerated them because of their quirks. But Gibbs knew they were his type of players when it counted most — during the 60 minutes on the field on Sunday.
You have lots of great quotes and stories about coach Gibbs in your book, do you have a favorite or two you’d like to share?
MR: My favorite story about Gibbs as told in The Redskins Encyclopedia deals with developments in the days leading up to the Redskins-Eagles playoff game at Veterans Stadium on Jan. 4, 1991. Shortly after brash and bombastic Eagles coach Buddy Ryan predicted that Redskins running back Earnest Byner would fumble the ball three times, Gibbs was asked to respond by reporters at Redskins Park. He refused to do so. According to Ray Didinger, a Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter who was there at the time and is now a producer for NFL Films: “That was the big difference between Buddy and Gibbs. Buddy tried to win the game from Monday to Friday, as much as he tried to win it on game day, and Joe understood better than anybody that what you said (during the week) didn’t matter.”Indeed, Gibbs refused to let himself or his team become distracted by Ryan’s comments. He wanted them to stay focused. Byner did fumble once, although it was overruled by replay officials. Meanwhile, a Redskins squad determined to embarrass Buddy and to exact revenge on the Eagles for their 28-14 win in the infamous “body bag” game a few weeks prior, beat the Eagles, 20-6. Gibbs has called it one of the most enjoyable wins in his coaching career.
There’s a lot of talk on TV and radio today about coach Gibbs’ legacy. Do you think the up and down four years we’ve had effects his legacy?
MR: That Gibbs was able to get into the playoffs in 2007 for the second time since he came back prevented any negative impact on his legacy in the minds of fans, although the accomplishments in his return were obviously a mixed bag. He certainly didn’t achieve what most Redskin fans had hoped for — another Super Bowl victory. On the flip side, you can’t touch the sparkling record from his first era. The Pro Football Hall of Fame recognizes that. It will probably only put a line on his bust saying he returned for four seasons without even noting the record in his comeback years. Those years were not why he was inducted. In his final press conference at Redskins Park on Jan. 8, he was asked if he ever felt “overwhelmed” during his return. His answer was that everyone must go through adversity in life, and that “this is where I was supposed to be.”
Coach Gibbs emphasized family his whole career. As a fan, what do you think about his successor? Should we keep it in the current family with someone like Greg Williams? What about Russ Grimm or another of the assistants out there that played with the Super Bowl teams of the 80’s? Who would you like to see?
MR: Gregg Williams seems like the logical choice to be the next Redskins head coach. His Redskin defenses have finished in the top 10 in the NFL in three of his four seasons in Washington. Dan Snyder must recognize the need for continuity on defense and try to hire Williams. Also, Williams is a favorite of many of the players who want him to get the head job. Staying in-house means it’s less likely there will be a major assistant coaching shakeup. It’s important that offensive coordinator Al Saunders, for instance, remain to handle the Redskins’ offense and continue mentoring quarterback Jason Campbell, who has had to learn many different offensive schemes dating back to his college days. There’s no reason Dan Snyder has to make another big splash by hiring a big name.
Thanks again to Mike, and more on that coaching situation as it develops.