In his debut performance as Redskin coach at a press conference yesterday, Joe Gibbs would not predict how soon he would produce a winning team. But he quickly dismissed any thoughts that an immediate lack of success might lead to the same front office problems that resulted in the dismissal of predecessor Jack Pardee.
Gibbs, former offensive coordinator at San Diego, said one of the first things straightened out with Jack Kent Cooke during their initial meeting Monday night was the chain of command in the Washington organization. Team owner Cooke told him that General Manager Bobby Beathard, who had major philosophical differences with Pardee, was in charge of football operations and would be Gibbs' boss.
"I wanted to make sure who I answered to," said Gibbs, who agreed to a three-year contract during the meeting. "I wanted to make sure there was a sense of permanence here, that there was a stable program with everyone going in the same direction. We are all thinking alike.
"Bobby and I will work together on all aspects of the football program. We know we won't always agree, but I've known Bobby for a long time and we're going to be able to sit down and talk with each other and we'll make a lot of right decisions.
"No one has told me I have to win right away. But I'm certainly going to try to do that."
Gibbs, an advocate of a wide-open offense featuring plenty of passing, promised that the Redskins would be exciting and entertaining "and would play as hard as we can every week." But he declined to predict the team would have a winning record next season or how long it would take him to get the club in the playoffs.
"I don't think we are going to go through a rebuilding program," said Gibbs, an assistant coach for 17 years on both the pro and college levels. "But before I can say very much, I have to know more about the personnel.
"I just know I feel very happy about being here. This is what I've been looking for since I became a coach. I figured I'll get one opportunity to be a head coach and this is where I belong and where I'll take my shot."
Gibbs, who displayed a dry wit and speak softly approach to his new job, also said during the press conference at Redskin Park:
He was certain the Redskins would try to talk retired fullback John Riggins into returning next season. Riggins has maintained he still doesn't know if he wants to play again, although one of his friends said yesterday Riggins seems to be thinking more seriously about a comeback. Riggins could not be reached. Beathard said he would call his ex-fullback sometime soon, but team sources indicated it was likely an attempt would be made to trade Riggins before Cooke would consider taking him back.
He had hired Richie Petitbon, secondary coach on Pardee's staff, as his defensive coordinator. Gibbs said he was given permission by Cooke to hire nine assistants -- two more than Pardee had -- but didn't know yet whether he would employ that many.Most of the staff probably wil be hired by the end of the week after Beathard and Gibbs interview candidates at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Potential candidates include Joe Bugel, former Houston Oiler offensive line coach, and Ted Tollner, former San Diego State offensive coordinator.
He would call the offensive plays from the sidelines while his offensive coordinator likely would be stationed in the press box. Gibbs talked to quarterback Joe Theismann yesterday and told Theismann the success of the offense would depend "on how much he studied and how smart he was." Added Gibbs with a big smile: "Joe assured me I had no worries on either account."
He would hold a minicamp as soon as possible so he could evaluate the squad. He said he would not make decisions about what players might be released prior to training camp until "we've thoroughly evaluated them on film and in person. I don't think the age of a player matters. It's whether he still wants to play or not." Beathard has said he expected significant roster changes that would reduce the age of the club prior to next season.
He would aim to have a balance between passing and running in the Redskin offense despite San Diego's emphasis on throwing the ball. "Honestly, we did start off trying to have a balanced attack there two years ago," he said. "But it didn't take much intelligence to see what we did best. a
"Our whole aim is to set the tempo of a game and don't slow down for the defense. We'll play the way our personnel here dictates. We'll have to make some adjustments, I'm sure, but there still is an awful lot you can do with any team."
The press conference served as a chance for both the press and many Redskin Park personnel to get their first look at the new coach, whose name was unfamiliar to most before Pardee was fired nine days ago.
Gibbs put on an impressive performance. He did not try to hide his enthusiasm and he displayed the type of graciousness that characterized his predecessor.
"If I had to pick an area I do best, it would be in working with, motivating and teaching people," he said. "I like to be around people. That's why coaching is so appealing. I want to give the fans a team they deserve because I know they will respond.
"And besides," he said with a smile, "I've coached in seven games at (RFK) Stadium and I figure if you can't beat 'em, you might as well join 'em."