Redskins Blog: Fassel, Rhodes, or. . .

It was just a year ago today. . .

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You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins.

January 6, 2005

Fassel, Rhodes or. . .

Three hundred and sixty six days ago to this moment (about 7:30 EST), Jim Fassel was the upside, the best possible case, the cream of the crop. Ray Rhodes was an unattractive second choice as Dennis Green had taken himself out of the running.

As I left the house to attend a work-related social function, I nearly forgot about the Redskins coaching search, which had been going on for a week since Steve Spurrier quit, and had a few beers, sang some karaoke, shot some pool, and talked with my co-workers and their significant others. It was fun and I stayed out too late and dragged home after eleven (that's late when you're my age!). I nearly went straight to bed, but I decided to log on to a few message boards to see if there was any news about the coaching search. They were abuzz with a bolt out of the blue.

Gibbs is back.

It wasn't a done deal, but the tone of Mark Maske's report in the Post make it sound like it was very close to being one. I saved Maske's original report on my hard drive, but I can't find it now, so you'll have to settle for the AP's Joseph White's report of Maske's report:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs could make a surprise return to the Washington Redskins.

The Washington Post, citing sources with connections to Gibbs, reported late Tuesday on its Web site that Gibbs was in serious discussions about returning to the team that he led to three Super Bowl titles.

The 63-year-old Gibbs coached the Redskins from 1981-92 before resigning to pursue a career with his own NASCAR team. He has been adamant over the years about not wanting to coach again, although he has retained NFL connections. He is currently a minority owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

The Redskins are seeking a replacement for Steve Spurrier, who resigned last week. They were known to have interviewed three candidates: former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, former Minnesota coach Dennis Green and Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes.

Calls to the Redskins and to Gibbs' racing team were not immediately returned.

A similar report also appeared on CBS Sportsline.com.

Gibbs' racing teams have been among the most successful in NASCAR with two Winston Cup championships in the last four seasons. Bobby Labonte took the title in 2000 and Tony Stewart in 2002.

Gibbs' oldest son, J.D., is president of Joe Gibbs Racing. The former coach's youngest son, Coy, finished 14th last season in the Busch Series standings.
Maske's article was intriguing, to say the least. But it was Mike Wilbon's column The Next Joe Gibbs Could Be Joe Gibbs that appeared on the Post's website shortly after midnight that convinced me that it was going to happen:
The other day I received an e-mail from someone inquiring about the next head coach of the Washington Redskins. And I immediately dismissed it because the e-mailer was asking whether Dan Snyder had the name Joe Gibbs at the top of his list of candidates, and whether Gibbs would come back, like Vince Lombardi came back, like Dick Vermeil came back, like Bill Parcells has come back a time or two.

I dismissed it because not only has Gibbs said repeatedly over the last 11 years that he wasn't coming back to coach, he has been demonstrably happy in his life outside of football. Most coaches, when they leave football, can never again satisfy their competitive urges. . . .

The Packers have won since Lombardi, the Giants and Patriots have reached Super Bowls since Parcells, the Eagles have threatened to win since Vermeil. But the Redskins have been to one lousy playoff game since Gibbs left. And when Steve Spurrier resigned last week, the desperate cry went out one more time from the sycophants who wondered who out there reminds anybody of Coach Gibbs. D.C. has never gotten over him leaving. The late Shirley Povich might disagree, but it seems to me the pecking order of sports icons around here is Gibbs first, Walter Johnson second.

Well, one would assume that the only thing better than getting a potential Joe Gibbs is getting the real Joe Gibbs.
Now, I've never worked in the newspaper business, but I have some idea about how it works. And there is no way that the prime NFL columnist for the Washington Post is going to get up in the middle of the night to bang out a column about Gibbs' potential return if there wasn't a real, real good chance that it would happen.

After chasing down information to the point where there was nothing new, it was about 3 AM and I went to bed. As it was revealed later, Joe Gibbs was still hard at work at that hour. As the news of his return was just starting to break, he was on a plane to Buffalo. In the wee hours of the morning he was in the process of hammering out an agreement with Gregg Williams.

In the morning, the cement was beginning to set. The aforementioned CBS Sportsline story came out. When contacted, the Redskins were in the "can't confirm or deny" mode. The first rock-solid affirmation that Gibbs was back came via the Web from Gibbs own NASCAR team site It was via that medium that Gibbs confirmed the rumors that were barely 12 hours old:

Joe Gibbs was again the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins.

There wasn't a buzz around town, there was an absolute roar. The DC media turned to an all-Gibbs, all the time mode. The press conference was going to be on Thursday evening. I was going to be there.

Next: The Presser


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