Joe Bugel, Gibbs's assistant head coach-offense, said Washington's staff has been so consumed with its game plan that the coaching rivalry is an afterthought. The Redskins appear more focused on eliminating the uncharacteristic numbers of mistakes, including seven turnovers, in last week's 20-14 loss to the New York Giants and overcoming the losses of linebacker LaVar Arrington (knee surgery) and defensive end Phillip Daniels (torn groin).
"We haven't really talked about the old times," said Bugel, who coached with Gibbs during his previous Redskins tenure.
Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs.
(Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
Gibbs, while acknowledging the game's magnitude, said Saturday, "Bill Parcells and I won't be out there" on the field.
Did Gibbs look forward to facing a Parcells-coached team? "No, I don't," he responded dryly. "I'd rather have somebody easy."
Said Parcells, "I feel the same way because he's a very, very worthy opponent -- always has been."
Bringing Out Their Best
Gibbs, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996, joked that Parcells's congratulatory fax went unreturned last January because he remains angry that Parcells prevented him from winning three more Super Bowl titles. Gibbs is 135-55 against teams not coached by Parcells. But against Parcells, who has been ineligible for the Hall of Fame because he has not stayed away from the game for five consecutive years, Gibbs is 6-11, including six straight losses.
"Is it really? That's not good. Don't tell the players that," said Gibbs, who won his first three games against Parcells. "He's definitely done the best job when I coach a team and he's coaching a team. So hopefully, we can find a way to overcome that."
Gibbs-Parcells games were known for their close results: Parcells's Giants averaged 22.1 points; Gibbs's Redskins 21.4. Parcells -- who won five straight during one stretch by a total of 18 points -- attributes his upper hand to a few lucky breaks. "Ninety percent of those games," Parcells said, "could have been won by either team, really."
Redskins tight ends coach Rennie Simmons, who returned to the team with Gibbs this year, said: "We knew when we went up there or they came down here, that it was just going to be down to the wire. It was like a heavyweight fight, so you gain a lot of respect for one another."
Parcells wouldn't reveal a favorite recollection against Washington, but he has previously said that one of his best occurred Sept. 11, 1989: The Giants won, 27-24, at RFK when Raul Allegre kicked a 52-yard field goal with no time left. It was the only Gibbs-Parcells match settled on the game's final play, and Parcells relished silencing Washington's rabid crowd of 54,160.
Perhaps the most memorable showdown was the 1987 NFC championship game at the Meadowlands, played on Jan. 11. The Giants won, 17-0, in front of 76,633 -- the only time that a Gibbs-coached team has been shut out. The contest, during which New York took a 17-0 halftime lead, was notable for the wind gusts that reached 30 mph and the bone-chilling cold.
The scores and results aren't etched in Gibbs's mind as much as critical moments in games. "I can kind of remember some awesome goal-line stands," said Gibbs, who didn't vividly recall the 17-0 game except for the difficulty of scoring in the wind. "He had probably as physical a group, and we thought we had about as physical a group. And sometimes down there, it's first and goal at the three. It's hammer city."
The Redskins' storied offensive line, the Hogs, was the bulkiest unit in the NFL at the time. New York's defensive front seven was the league's biggest, anchored by Lawrence Taylor, who redefined the outside linebacker position playing from 1981 to '93 as a quasi-defensive end. During his first season, Gibbs implemented the two-tight end system largely because of the need to block Taylor.
"When it came to Lawrence Taylor, we always had an expression: Find the general," said former Washington offensive lineman Jeff Bostic. "If you get the general, you kill the whole army."