Football fans with even a rudimentary knowledge of Redskins history are familiar with the legendary accomplishments of Joe Gibbs. Gibbs arrived in D.C. in 1981 as an unproven understudy of Don “Air” Coryell, the head coach and offensive mastermind of the San Diego Chargers.
Gibbs inherited a Redskins squad that had regressed to a 6-10 record in 1980 and whose bell cow running back, John Riggins, had sat out the preceding season. He talked his star running back into returning — an un-retirement that was ended with the Riggins-esque declaration, “I’m bored, I’m broke and I’m back” — but it seemed to matter little as the rookie head coach started the 1981 season 0-5. Gibbs righted himself, and the talented roster that blended young, old and, well, Riggins, finished on an 8-5 run. It proved a prelude of things to come.
In the strike-shortened 1982 season, the ‘Skins finished 8-1 in the regular season, beat Dallas in the NFC Championship Game and the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. Joe Jackson Gibbs, behind the once-retired Riggins’ MVP performance, had delivered Washington’s first Super Bowl title. The season had provided the signature game in the beloved RFK Stadium’s history with the NFC Championship Game win over Dallas, the franchise’s signature play in Riggins’ 43-yard run on fourth-and-one in the Super Bowl and announced the team’s young head coach as one of the league’s brightest minds.
During his 12 seasons in Washington, Gibbs coached four teams to the Super Bowl, hoisted three Lombardi trophies, won 10 games or more eight times — it would have been nine except for the abbreviated 1982 season — made eight playoff appearances and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
His legendary work ethic and character were unspoiled by accolades and success. Gibbs always represented himself, the organization and Washington, D.C. with the utmost class. He never delivered mumbling, rude and dismissive press conferences or disrespected the game with sideline temper tantrums or post-game meltdowns.
The Redskins’ fiercest rivals couldn’t help but respect him, and ‘Skins fans couldn’t help but love him. Joe Gibbs, version 1.0, was simply and inarguably the best head coach and the author of the greatest era in franchise history.