The Redskins had to keep going down the list.
So who was this Joe Gibbs guy at the San Diego Chargers? Most fans had never heard of him, and Cooke certainly knew nothing of him until he spoke with Beathard. Actually, Ernie Zampese, the Chargers' wide-receivers coach, had recommended Gibbs to Beathard, just as he would recommend Norv Turner to Charley Casserly 13 years later.
"I had dreamed of being a head coach," Gibbs said while sitting in that cab of his NASCAR team's 18-wheeler. "But you've got to remember, I was 40 years old and couldn't get a college head-coaching job. I had two interviews Missouri and Arizona and they wouldn't hire me. But both were token things. I was 40 years old, and that's up there in coaching. I didn't know if it was going to happen."
Born November 25, 1940 in Mocksville, North Carolina, Gibbs was the son of a county sheriff. When he was 14, his family moved to Southern California, and Gibbs ended up at San Diego State. There he played tight end, guard and linebacker for Aztecs coach Don Coryell, a patriarch of the passing game. Then he spent three seasons as a graduate assistant to Coryell, working with the offensive line, followed by stints as an assistant coach at Florida State, USC and Arkansas.
In 1973, Gibbs joined Coryell's St. Louis Cardinals as running-backs coach. In five seasons the Cardinals won two NFC East titles, and Gibbs developed relationships there, as he would elsewhere, with men who would work for him years later: running back Terry Metcalf, who would play for the Redskins in 1981, and offensive line coach Jim Hanifan, who would work his magic with Gibbs' lines in Washington.
After the Cardinals fired Coryell, Gibbs became offensive coordinator at Tampa Bay, a team in need of a new quarterback. That's how Gibbs and Doug Williams first met. After trading their first overall draft pick in 1978, the Bucaneers made Williams whose rifle arm had helped Grambling go 35-5 the first African American quarterback chosen in the first round. The next year Williams led the Buccaneers to the NFC title game. Gibbs, however, wasn't there to enjoy it: After a 5-11 Bucaneers season in 1978, he had left in frustration.
"In Tampa, I was offensive coordinator, and it blew up in my face," Gibbs said. "We couldn't beat anybody. We won five games, and it was three more than they ever won, but it was still awful. I took the job in San Diego [with the Chargers' Coryell again], but it was going backward, to be a backfield coach, and I started to think I might not go any further.