The Redskins Must Continue to Follow Their Leader, Coach Gibbs

By Mike Wise
Sunday, December 23, 2007

Less than two months ago, I was a part of a growing mass who thought Joe Gibbs should say goodbye to the NFL for the second time. I bought into the notion he had lost his laser focus and there were younger, better-suited coaches to lead the Washington Redskins back to the Super Bowl.

Today, I believe there is no better soul to lead this team. Regardless of what happens around midnight tonight in Minnesota against the Vikings -- in the crucible of a huge game that amounts to Washington's Super Bowl -- Gibbs should return next season and finish the job he started.

Come back, Joe. Over the past two months, it's become clear this franchise needs you -- more than you might need the Redskins.

Why the change? It's not solely because Gibbs has won his last two games with a backup quarterback who had not started a game in 10 years -- although being there when the Redskins beat the Giants in a game they had no business winning on a brutal weather night at the Meadowlands last week helped.

And it's not simply the compassion he used to guide the organization through its most sorrowful days -- though his leadership after Sean Taylor's death clearly illustrated that.

It's the totality of the last two months, the way in which Gibbs has begun to successfully heal a physically and emotionally injured team and how his players responded as he balanced gentleness with competitiveness, his humanity with his heart.

Having been around the man recently, it's also a gut feeling. Everyone has somewhere they are supposed to be in this world at a particular time. For Gibbs, there is no better or right place to be than here, leading this team.

All indications are that the team owner, Daniel Snyder, never waffled regarding whether Gibbs should return. According to a team official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Snyder is ready to offer Gibbs a contract extension beyond his fifth and final year in 2008. I've heard two years, because that's the realistic feeling of how long a genuine Super Bowl run will take. But another team official said a duration has not been discussed.

More importantly, Snyder has no contingency plan. The ball is in Joe's court. And while he bristles at the mention of the word "contract" these days -- committing to nothing more than saying he will sit down with Snyder at season's end and open a dialogue about coming back -- all signs point to Gibbs returning to coach the Redskins for his fifth straight season and 17th overall.

Joe Gibbs Racing is in good hands with his son, J.D., who admires his father's leadership in their NASCAR business but knows, down deep, that football is where Joe Gibbs's heart remains.

J.D.'s youngest son, Taylor, caused his grandfather much angst and many tears the past year. But the courageous 3-year-old is now winning his battle against leukemia. Taylor is now in the maintenance stage of the disease, alleviating many of Gibbs's family concerns.

Most of all, Gibbs still has a passion for coaching the Redskins, a passion that percolates and sometimes boils over. Sixty-seven-year-old men ready to walk away don't behave like Gibbs.

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