For a dozen years now, the ritualized advent, rise and -- inevitable? -- demise of succeeding Redskins coaches has assumed a vein-popping pattern.

First, the new guy is paid more than the last guy. He is said to be the Greatest for this, that, or the other reason, which can be statistically proved with X's and O's. He is going to restore the Glory of the Franchise. An escalating arms race of superlatives establishes him as really, really, really the One.

When he proves not to be, the spiritual devastation is the worst imaginable -- until the next one.

The last sanely accomplished ascension of a Redskins coach was the hiring of Joe Gibbs Version 1.0. Remember that? There were few expectations to live up to that day in January 1981.

Gibbs Version 1.0 ruined it for everyone who followed, including, 11 years after his 1993 resignation, Gibbs Part Deux, whose team this season is bumbling along at 1-4.

That's because Version 1.0 really was the One. He didn't so much restore the Glory of the Franchise as take it to unmatched altitudes in Redskins history.

Gibbs, former offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, achieved a 140-65 record in 12 seasons (1981-1992). He led the team to the playoffs eight times, including four Super Bowls, three of which the team won -- the only Super Bowls the Redskins ever won. He retired after the 1992 season, telling owner Jack Kent Cooke he wanted to do something different after the exhausting demands of coaching.

Then, during the 11-year Gibbsless interregnum, the team went 75-102, with a paltry single playoff appearance.

Yet during those years, each of the new guys initially looked more fabulous than the last.

First came Richie Petitbon. It was easy to believe in him.

"We're lucky to have someone so qualified," Cooke said upon anointing him in March 1993. "All he will do is continue the tradition of winning with the Redskins."

The team finished 4-12. Petitbon was axed.

Norv Turner sounded even better.

"I see so much of Joe Gibbs in him," Cooke said in February 1994. "This is a new day, a new time, a time to build toward the seasons ahead of us."

Wrong: The Redskins went 49-59-1 in regular-season play, plus one trip to the playoffs. New owner Dan Snyder fired Turner with three games left in the 2000 season.

Snyder thought offensive coaching assistant Terry Robiskie could do a better job as interim head coach during those three games; the team lost two of them.

Next came Marty Schottenheimer. He was the sage veteran, former coach of the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, who had won five more NFL games than Gibbs, though it had taken him three more years.

"I don't think there's a better man for the job," Snyder said of Schottenheimer in January 2001. "This is the first official stamp that Dan Snyder is putting on this football team."

Snyder erased Schottenheimer a year later, after an 8-8 season, and hired Florida Gators coach Steve Spurrier. By the time he landed in Landover, Spurrier's reputation had ballooned into, more or less, the Greatest College Football Coach Ever.

"Steve Spurrier will bring a supercharged, exciting and dynamic brand of football to our great fans," Snyder said in January 2002. "His ability to energize players and teams is unprecedented. The Redskins deserve to be back at the Super Bowl and I am immensely confident that Steve is the coach to get us there."

Two years later, Spurrier's record was 12-20, and he quit.

It seemed the only man who could revive the heroic era of the Greatest Redskins Coach Ever was, in fact, the Greatest Redskins Coach Ever.

Snyder brought Gibbs back for an encore, saying last January: "Who better to set our strategy and lead the Redskins back to championship glory?"

Now Joe Gibbs Part Deux has only his former self to blame. In this early season of underachievement and doom, the feelings of anguish and betrayal are more soul-killing than they have ever been. There's a dispiriting sense that you can't go home again, that there are no successful second acts in America after all, no second comings . . .

Never mind that Gibbs started his novice season as Redskins coach in 1981 with an 0-5 record. The psychic stakes were much lower then.

We already know how this tragedy ends. So without further ado: Next, please.

The only figure left who might save this team is the Greatest NFL Coach Ever.

The late Vince Lombardi, of course. Recall him back from the gridiron in the sky.

But wait, Lombardi already tackled the Redskins coaching job. For one season, in 1969. He did kind of so-so: 7-5-2.

We'll take it.

The men who tried to follow the king, Joe Gibbs, center: From left, Norv Turner, Steve Spurrier, Marty Schottenheimer and Terry Robiskie.Richie Petitbon was the first successor to Joe Gibbs. He was fired after one season, after the team compiled a 4-12 record.