Players Rally Around Their Embattled Coach

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 3, 2007

Several Washington Redskins players expressed support for Coach Joe Gibbs in the aftermath of the botched timeout call that aided the Buffalo Bills on their game-winning field goal yesterday at FedEx Field.

"I just feel sorry for him," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "He put the blame on himself. Everyone makes mistakes. It's been a tough week. No one is exempt. He shouldn't beat himself up. This hasn't been a usual week. It means more to us for him to admit his mistake. One mistake didn't lose this game for us. We had plenty of chances to win this game."

Calling last-moment timeouts to make opposing place kickers wait before important kicks has become a popular tactic for NFL coaches this season, aided by a new rule that allows them to call timeouts themselves from the sideline. Denver Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan did so successfully early in the season, nullifying what appeared to be a successful kick against his team, and other coaches copied the tactic. Gibbs used it successfully once in the closing seconds yesterday, calling a timeout just before the Bills' Rian Lindell appeared to connect on a 51-yard field goal attempt.

But Gibbs made the mistake of trying to call a second timeout, an infraction that cost the Redskins a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and allowed Lindell to win the game with a 36-yard field goal with four seconds to play. Gibbs accepted the blame for the mishap publicly and apologized to his players in the postgame locker room.

"I knew about the rule," veteran cornerback Shawn Springs said. "Coach Gibbs apologized. You can't put it on one person."

Although there was some grousing -- "Come on man, this is the NFL," said one veteran who requested anonymity. "What coach don't know the rules?" -- members of the Redskins' defense said they blamed themselves for the Bills' 30-yard completion over the middle that set up the field goal.

"It was a guy running down the middle," safety Reed Doughty said. "That was my responsibility. I actually stepped in front of the pass and thought I was going to intercept it."

Said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: "I was more upset with the pass play that gave them the chance. If you don't give up that pass play, there is no decision."

The Redskins were left with a deflating finish to their emotional day.

"I really wish we'd have pulled it off," Daniels said. "I really wish we hadn't put Coach Gibbs in that situation. We have to look at ourselves. We can't just blame him. He always tells us we have to stay together as a team. Now we're telling him that."

Staff writer Jason La Canfora contributed to this report.

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