Over the Hill?

How old is too old? <P> That's among the topics of debate around Washington this week, as the once-vaunted offense of coach Joe Gibbs struggles to produce with the 63-year-old coach and his cast of veteran assistants at the helm.

Joe Gibbs' offense ranks 26th in the NFL and is a big part of why Washington is 29th in scoring. For now, the feeling inside the team is that execution is to blame. But it's not hard to imagine Gibbs' assistants taking the brunt of blame if the unit remains stagnant into the latter parts of the season.

This week Gibbs gave a vote of confidence to offensive coordinator Don Breaux (64 years old), assistant head coach for offense Joe Bugel (64), tight ends coach Rennie Simmons (62) and quarterbacks coach Jack Burns (55), saying no one's job would be up for consideration -- now or ever.

"I ain't making a switch," Gibbs said. "That's done. A switch would be me. They could switch me out of here. Because that's my responsibility."

Although the offense hasn't been effective, the assistants do have several viable arguments in their favor. First, as mentioned, the execution has been poor. Second, Gibbs' offense can be seen in a variety of forms around the NFL. In essence, this set does work. Third, the staff has been open to change, varying the game plan in tangible ways each week.

"I don't think any of us would have come back, especially Joe, if he felt like he couldn't do it," Bugel said. "Our whole mind is on, not just winning, but winning Super Bowls. We had a taste of that. We haven't ever forgotten that taste. Believe me, we will recover. We'll be back."

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