Super Bowl Provides Blueprint

If there's one lesson the Super Bowl reminded us of, it's this: the NFL, more than ever, is a coach's league. And that's why the Redskins have a chance to turn things around under Joe Gibbs.

It's not just because Gibbs was once a good coach. It's because of how Carolina and New England reached the Super Bowl and it's how the Patriots ended up as champions. They got that far because both teams make the best use of their talent. And because both teams do what's necessary to win.

When the Patriots needed to win by throwing, they could. When they needed to shut down opponents, they could. And, by the way, how many false start penalties did you see on either team?

They have talent, but they're not more talented than the teams they beat. It's hard to say that they're that much better coached than the teams they beat in the championship games, too. After all, the Colts have Tony Dungy and the Eagles have Andy Reid. Both are high-quality guys.

Both also support the way this game has gone. All four teams play smart and tough.

Just like Gibbs' teams used to do. That's why there's no doubt in my mind that the game hasn't passed him by. He never proclaimed to be a genius. In his mind he has to work harder because everyone else is smarter.

``I was just a phys ed major in college,'' he reminded us at his press conference last month.

But he's smart enough to figure out how to win, which is why this season will be interesting. The Redskins have a lot of work to do: it'll take two years to repair this horrible defensive line. Until they get a premier player up front -- look at Richard Seymour's impact, or Julius Peppers or Kris Jenkins -- and develop consistency on offense, they can only improve so much.

They will improve, however. Because Gibbs will demand they play a certain way. They'll play the smartest a Redskins team has played since the final 11 games under Marty Schottenheimer (whose brand of ball in 2000 is similar to the Patriots and Panthers). For a full season, they'll play the smartest brand of ball since Gibbs last coached here.

In this league it's not all about X's and O's. In an era where the salary cap forces teams to turn over their rosters often, it's the coach who can get his team playing the smartest who ends up winning.

Some people used to wonder if Gibbs could succeed in the salary cap era, where there is so much change. I say there's no question he can thrive in this day and age. Those who are hurt the most by constant changes are coaches who are wedded to a system.

But Gibbs is wedded only to winning. He'll demand smart play and will penalize those who don't give it to him. He'll have them prepared in every game, just like Bill Belichick or John Fox do.

It's too hard to say if Gibbs will guide the Redskins to the Super Bowl -- he'll need help from the organization to get there; can they provide it? But he will make them winners again. This is a league where great coaches get it done.

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