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For Bugel, There's Always a Fine Line

Bugel's presence on the Redskins is so influential that he heavily influenced Washington's thinking during the 2004 draft. Despite the need for a pass rusher on the defensive lines, the Redskins selected offensive linemen Molinaro and Wilson in the lower rounds instead. "I guess I go back to the days when you pick a Jacoby and give him to Buges," Gibbs said, "and you wind up with a Pro Bowler. You have flashbacks there."

The rookies are no different than the veterans when it comes to Bugel's unusual brand of instruction. It's not uncommon for an NFL player to doze off during a two-hour meeting. When Bugel senses that a player is becoming inattentive, he sometimes responds by screaming or cursing loudly.


Joe Bugel, with tackles Jim Molinaro, left, and Pita Elisara, is working to reshape the Redskins' offensive line without injured linchpin Jon Jansen. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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"You're probably jumping three or four feet out your seat," Raymer said, "because he just scared the hell out of you. He's been around and knows all the tricks."

And after a great play, Bugel has a habit of yelling: "Thaaaat's football!"

Dockery, a second-year player, said: "He's a character. He makes you laugh when you're around him. You enjoy coming to work because he's a great guy. At the same time, he's somebody that's going to push you to become the best person you can be."

Bugel is known for switching from excoriating a player's gaffe to moments later being effusive about a great play. During meetings, Bugel has shown videotape of a poorly executed block several times in slow motion while throwing things around the room in outrage. Conversely, Bugel dissects good plays and heaps praise on the relevant players.

"He's one of those guys who kicks you in the butt, and hugs you one play after another," recalled Walker, now a local radio personality, echoing current players.

But Bugel's split coaching personality isn't contrived, because players say he adapts to their sensibilities. If Thomas had taken umbrage to Bugel's blunt remarks, the coach said he would have altered his approach.

"You can't treat everybody alike; everybody is different," said Bugel, who makes sure to familiarize himself with his player's relatives. "You've got to find a guy's hot button. Some guys you can kick in the rear end. Some guys you've got to hug and squeeze all the time. When you can master that, then you can put an offensive line together."

Linemen say Bugel also inspires by being active and hands-on. In practice, Bugel often joins his players doing footwork or hitting tackling dummies. When the unit has weightlifting sessions, it's no surprise for Bugel to be there too, pumping iron. Trudging off the field after practices, Bugel is a familiar sight, sweat dripping down his face to his white T-shirt, burgundy mesh shorts and burgundy-on-white sneakers.

"If you've got a big heavy coach telling you you're not in shape," Bugel said, "you're going to look at him like, 'I'm out of shape? Look at you coach. Look in the mirror. Your belly is doubled-up over your pants.' So as a coach you try to be in condition."

Time seems to have frozen for Bugel since his previous Redskins tenure. A swath of Bugel's hair is blonde. But Bugel didn't take a page out of the style book of Dallas Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells, who dyed his hair blond after returning to the NFL in 2003 following a hiatus. "Lacquer but no dye," insisted Bugel, who explained that his hair turns blonde naturally from the sun.

Bugel first left the Redskins in 1990 to become head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, beating out Bill Belichick, then the New York Giants' defensive coordinator, and Mike Holmgren, then the 49ers' offensive coordinator, for the job. From 1990 to 1993, Bugel went 20-44 with the Cardinals. He became an Oakland Raiders assistant for three seasons before being promoted to head coach in 1997. But Bugel was dismissed after one season and a 4-12 record.

"The best years I've ever had in coaching was with the Washington Redskins and Joe Gibbs," said Bugel, who initially retired from coaching after being with San Diego from 1998 to 2001. "I learned a tremendous amount of football from Joe. We had great assistant coaches. When I left here I was naive. I thought every program was run like this organization, but to find out it's not.

"There have been some rocky roads out there, then I made that U-turn when Joe called and said we're going back home. So I'm going to finish on a great note coming back to Washington."


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