ALL FOOTBALL seasons should end like that: a mad scramble in real mud, the crowd so loud no one on the field can communicate, the clock running down and unstoppable, even for a TV commercial, and the ball sailing toward the goal posts with everything riding on the path of its flight. Good thing it missed.

"Complacency is coming," said the Washington Redskins' coach, Joe Gibbs, looking ahead to the usual fate of those who win so often that it gets to be a little boring. But if Washington had any tendency to become blas,e about its Redskins just because they were on the verge of winning their third straight division championship, that hair-raising finale to the regular season Sunday afternoon put an end to it. Washington's fans are now fully motivated for another mad lunge toward the Super Bowl, and we hope we'll all get there in one piece.

Before that happens, though, we have a few days for reflection. We would observe, upon very little reflection, that it's been a good four years with this fellow Gibbs. It isn't just the winning; it's also the losing, and knowing how to deal with it. We're thinking not just of the five straight losses with which he began his tenure here -- although those were a test he and the Redskins passed -- but of his actions following that dispiriting Super Bowl defeat last January. After the game, Joe Gibbs stood in the locker room, calmly and patiently telling one interviewer after another how he and no one else had come to call a key play that went disastrously wrong. It was a painfully drawn-out post mortem endured without any sign of irritation, a gratifying and heroic sight to behold.

But of course it wasn't a victory celebration. We're still glad the Cardinals missed that field goal Sunday.