Can Gibbs Work With The Front Office?

Around the league people wonder if Joe Gibbs can accomplish something his precessors could not: work with the front office. The answer is a definite maybe and here's why.

Let's start with this premise: Gibbs knows he wields all the power, despite whatever setup the Redkins say exists. They can talk all they want about how this will be a team decision and that everyone will have input. End that talk now.

From what we've heard Gibbs told people who warned him not to take this job that he knows owner Dan Snyder would lose a major PR battle if he did to Gibbs what he had done to Steve Spurrier. Gibbs is too smart not to understand what Snyder has at stake with his latest move, and how badly he needs to make this work. Or else.

Some in-house fighting wrecked Spurrier's chances of ever holding that power, as did his lack of desire to fully involve himself in the details of personnel. He relied on the savvy of others to carry him through this process and that helped lead to his undoing.

But that won't exist under Gibbs. And if it does, Gibbs will take steps to correct that, just as Marty Schottenheimer did. Snyder, though, could fire Schottenheimer after one season and get away with it, partly by trotting out Bruce Smith and Darrell Green to say bad things about him. That won't be possible with Gibbs. After all, the man is responsible for all those trophies in the lobby.

What also helps is that Gibbs has a definite blueprint as to what he wants in a player. Again, Spurrier didn't because of his inexperience, and that of the coaches around him.

So when Gibbs and his staff and the front office watch film, he can say right away what he likes and dislikes based on what he sees. More importantly, he'll provide that blueprint to those in the scouting department. That should eliminate guys like Trung Canidate and almost all of the defensive linemen they signed this past year.

``On both defense and offense you have a thumbnail sketch of what you want and what you have experience in as far as intelligence and character and OK, what's it take at this position?'' Gibbs said. ``I'll give you tight ends for example. You have to be extremely bright, a lot of formation stuff, constantly shifting. We have a profile there. And that's important. Scouts want to hear that. You draw up this profile and the good thing is about watching film you say this is what we're after. That's good because there's an exchange.''

Gibbs also is smart because of how he's treated the front office. He's made it a point to stress their importance, as well as the importance of teamwork, a lacking trait at times--for whatever reason. Great leaders have a knack for making others feel good about their work and that's what Gibbs is doing. He might not listen to all their suggestions, but I'm guessing he'll know how to make them feel important. And he'll cut out the days of blaming someone for a certain selection.

We'll just say this: the front office wouldn't undercut him by telling him he can't keep a certain player on the roster. But Gibbs won't also air those types of dealings, keeping problems in-house.

``What we want is that when we take a player we want it to be our player. Everyone's had their input and everybody's helped put the grade on it. When he comes here then he's our player. We'll find that we make mistakes, but it's our mistake. Not me, not some of the coaches, not some of the scouts. The process will be as much as we can that it's our guy. We'll try to make him everything he can be as a player. When we work people out it will be scouts and coaches. You have more than one set of eyes on it, the coaches explaining this is what I like at this position. It's a work in progress.''

That process is taking place this week at the Senior Bowl, the first chance for this staff to be out in public together, identifying players they need. Most likely the player they'll eventually take at No. 5 isn't at this gathering -- that is, if they take a junior such as Miami's Kellen Winslow or Sean Taylor.

I also like that Gibbs won't fall in love with certain attributes that are evident only at the combine, like how fast they run, etc. Last offseason the Redskins fell in love with speed, which is vital in this age. But so, too, is how well can a guy play. When it came to Canidate, there was speed and not much else. Same with Sultan McCullough; no way would Kenny Watson have left under Gibbs.

``What are the easy things? How fast they run, how much they weigh, how high do they jump,'' Gibbs said. ``Then you get down to the critical thing for this guy to make the team is what's in here [pointing to the heart]. That's tough. There is no scale. If you go back and check our Super Bowl teams, half of them were free agents. That means they either weren't drafted or someone else had given up on them. Some of our most valuable people were free agents.

``To me it's exciting. There will be 20 young guys that others won't be drafting and we'll try to sign them. Out of that group there will be some stars. It doesn't matter where guys are taken. Top draft picks, big disappointments. Or someone way down the line makes a team. Those are great stories. Some of our best players were guys . . . I think we gave Joe Jacoby $8,000 as a signing bonus and I tried to get that back. I looked down the list and we had too many offensive linemen. I thought he played defense, that's how smart I am. And he winds up going to the Pro Bowl. How can a guy that big and move his feet like that and all of us all across America, we all missed him. And we wind up with a guy who's one of the best ever to play in the league. He was a great producer for the Redskins and he was our kind of guy.''

In the end, my hunch is that Gibbs will surround himself with others he can trust in the front office. Until then, he'll make it work.


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