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George Solomon

Gibbs Keeps Redskins on Course

By George Solomon
Sunday, March 13, 2005; Page E02

The Washington Redskins losing cornerback Fred Smoot to the Minnesota Vikings last week, on the heels of taking a salary cap whack as a result of the Laveranues Coles-for-Santana Moss trade and the recent loss of up-and-coming linebacker Antonio Pierce to the New York Giants, has many fans asking, "Who's in charge of this team?"

And the answer would be Joe Gibbs.

There is no doubt that Joe Gibbs has the last word on any moves involving the Redskins. And don't expect him to put up with pouting or players who put money above the team. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

Gibbs, who earned his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame coaching the Redskins to four Super Bowls, winning three, is now running a team in a time of free agency so different from his previous reign.

To those who question whether he can succeed at managing a franchise when his previous role here was mostly coaching, Gibbs must want to ask, "Do you think running a NASCAR operation the last decade was simply about replacing spark plugs and buying team jackets?"

Gibbs, 64, signed a five-year contract last year at more than $5 million a season to be team president and coach. While his 6-10 team was a major disappointment to him and the fans, one can assume he has learned enough about his players, coaching staff, his boss, the salary cap and front-office personnel to be the right person running the operation.

At least I think he's the right guy, even though keeping Pierce and Smoot at their prices would have been my choice and following through on owner Dan Snyder's threat to deliver a flat-screen television set to an inactive Coles's house in Virginia on game days might have been fun.

But Gibbs watchers know how he operates: He didn't want to pay Smoot more than fellow corner Shawn Springs, even though Freddie wasn't seeking more than a million or two more than what the Redskins were offering and is better than the apparent replacement, Walt Harris, or possible draft pick Adam "PacMan" Jones of West Virginia. Nor did Gibbs want to pay Pierce more than Marcus Washington, whom the coaches believe is a better player. Nor did Gibbs want Coles pouting in a Redskins uniform.

Gibbs is very much about loyalty. Could the Redskins -- after taxes, 401(k)s, rollovers, tax deferrals, stretching out salary and bonus money -- have satisfied Smoot and Pierce? Sure. But Smoot and Pierce made it clear this was about money -- not even a lot in their world. And to me, that's the main reason both players are gone. Money over team.

Coles was another matter. He was too much about Coles; one of those modern pro athletes you'd prefer never to see or hear from again, although one hopes he finds contentment somewhere in Chriswebberland when you really know he won't.

Choose a side on this Gibbs stuff, if you must, knowing once the race begins you can't cross the track.

See You Again in 20 Years

The ACC basketball tournament is at MCI Center -- the first time in the area since 1987, and it may not return for another 20 years. That means I'll be 84, Gary Williams would have sweated through another 12,000 white shirts and Feinstein might have bought a new sweater.

Some observations:

What's my Maryland journalism student, Erin Farrell, doing on the front page of Friday's Washington Post, ignoring my demand of objectivity, her hands clutching her head in agony as the Terps were eliminated by Clemson? Farrell was one of several hundred Maryland students with sufficient student "loyalty" points to buy a student ticket for the tournament. Suggestion for Maryland administrators seeking to curb postgame riots in College Park: Deduct loyalty points from rioters. Suggestion to Redskins: Give loyalty points to fans running across Landover Road.

Williams was refreshingly candid about his team getting an NCAA tournament bid for a 12th consecutive year: "You earn your way onto the court" and "whatever happens, happens" and "you get paid for what you do."

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