"He had a camouflage outfit on," Gibbs remembered. "He had been hunting, him and a buddy. He had a beer can in his hand. It was 10 o'clock in the morning and he's meeting his coach for the first time and I'm thinking [sarcastically], `This guy really impresses me.' But I went in there, and I'm telling him everything. I'm telling him, `You won't have to block, you're going to run.' I'm giving him everything. He hadn't said a word. Halfway through the conversation, he says, 'You need to get me back there. I'll make you famous.' "
"I thought to myself, 'Oh, my God, he's an egomaniac.' I thought, 'I'll get him back and then I'll trade him. I'm not putting up with a fruitcake.' So I fly back to Washington, and two days later he calls me. He says, 'Joe, I made up my mind, and I'm going to play next season.' I thought it was great. I've got him back, and I'll trade that sucker. But then he says, 'There's only one thing I want in my contract.' I ask what it was. He says, 'A no-trade clause.' "
It was one of the best concessions in the history of the franchise, and Riggins reported to training camp, telling reporters, "I'm broke, I'm bored and I'm back."
"The thing is," Gibbs said, "I tried to screw that up" with the plan to trade him. "But the bottom line is that John Riggins made me famous."
Gibbs, with a different approach from Pardee's, quickly impressed the players. "The problem with Jack was that he was too nice to a lot of guys, and several players took advantage of him, with the way they practiced and went about their jobs," Mark Moseley recalled. "Joe said he was going to build a championship team and surround himself with people who would pay the price to be the best. Those that wouldn't do that would be gone."
In Gibbs' first preseason, the Redskins went 3-1. He seemed to be making headway. But then reality hit and hit hard: The team lost its first five games of the regular season. Turnovers, injuries and penalties were the problems. In the Game 5 loss against the 49ers, for example, Metcalf had a fumble returned 80 years for a touchdown, and running back Clarence Harmon fractured his shoulder.
The next day, when Gibbs met with Cooke, he wondered if he would be fired. Instead, Cooke reassured and encouraged him.