In Pursuit of Assistant Coaches

After his first press conference, Joe Gibbs huddled with a group of reporters. He had worn a giddy look all day, talking about how he loved returning to Washington and why this was the right time to resume coaching. He looked honestly worried about one thing, however: finding good assistant coaches

And that's yet another reason Gibbs won't fail simply because he hasn't coached since 1992. If he doesn't win a Super Bowl, it won't be a reflection on his coaching. Because the things that made him a great coach already are evident, even to those who didn't cover him the first time around.

His pursuit of his assistant coaches is reason enough to see why Gibbs can still be successful. While his predecessor, Steve Spurrier, didn't seem overly concerned with the quality of his staff, Gibbs was. It's why he ended up with what many consider a strong staff, one which will be formally announced Monday (Gibbs is still figuring out roles and needs to add a couple coaches).

But the heavy lifting is done. Now Gibbs can heave a sigh of relief.

``I couldn't relax until we got this done,'' Gibbs said. ``I was totally relaxed the other night. There are a lot of great coaches in the league, but I think our group, when you see these guys and see who we were able to get, it's outstanding.''

That's because the Redskins were willing to pay to land these coaches. Gregg Williams went from being a head coach to a defensive coordinator and got a raise. Greg Blache went from being a defensive coordinator to a defensive line coach (though he might still have a greater title) and also got a raise.

But they also landed quality people because of Gibbs. He was willing to fly around the country pursuing these coaches, as he did with both Williams and Blache.

At one point Gibbs told owner Dan Snyder, ``I won't be able to sleep until this is done and I can't because you're so nervous.''

Here's why, Gibbs said,``You're going to be working with guys for 18 hours a day. Each one of them will have a huge part in how we do so to me I had a tough time relaxing. You're nervous, you think about it all night. You recruit. What's real important is that it takes a lot of experience. Almost everyone we have will have a ton of NFL experience. A number of guys have been coordinators and head coaches. We have a good mix. We have some good young guys who are very good at what they do. The best thing is that our players will really working with these guys. They're all people persons.''

That's what Gibbs wanted, coaches who could relate well to the players. And who were teachers. He wanted to make sure there would be good chemistry among the coaches.

When he talked with Williams about landing high-profile assistants such as Blache and Dale Lindsey, both of whom had been coordinators, he gauged Williams' reaction.

``If you're bringing up a lot of people you're talking about and if you hit a high profile guy you'll pick up is he worried about that?' Gibbs said. ``Or he's afraid of that guy. Never ever. Gregg was, `Hey we want the best guys. We want people who have the most ideas.' He was actively helping me every step of the way and I was helping him.''

Like great coaches throughout history, Gibbs is a supreme learner. So he likes having Williams around because he had just been a head coach. He can help ease Gibbs' transition and Gibbs knows that. Williams helped Gibbs understand current rules about hiring assistants. He also kept his offseason calender from his Buffalo stint, which Gibbs will refer to this offseason.

``All of that is invaluable to me,'' Gibbs said. ``One of the biggest things now we've already talked about. Preseason is much shorter. There's a lot of things. I'm already getting a feel for it. But it really helps having someone who is well-organized who's just been through it.''

Yet another example of what makes Gibbs so good -- and yes we're supremely gushing -- is how he attacked these hirings. He read up on the rules, he asked questions about the rules and he became an expert on the rules. Leave no stone unturned, a motto his players say sums up his coaching.

``You take off and you dive in,'' Gibbs said. ``It's been a fast learning curve for me.''

But those who weren't around him in the past have learned what made him so good in the first place. It's easy to see. And it's also why he'll be so good the second time around.


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