Joe Gibbs had been waiting six weeks for the Redskins to win a game so he could hand out some awards to his players. Yesterday, when it came time to announce the winners, he got a bit carried away.
"We were supposed to give out only one portable television to the outstanding player," Gibbs said, "but we wound up giving five. I called the guy who is supplying them and I talked him into five. We've been waiting so long we've had everything stored upstairs. We just gave it all out."
In addition to the five televisions, players also received sports coats, free dinners, watches and shirts. Gibbs' reward for the 24-7 triumph over Chicago, his first win as a head coach, was a game ball from his team.
"Things are a lot more relaxed today," Gibbs said. "We can laugh and have some fun for a change."
But every time Gibbs laughs, he starts thinking about his injury situation. He realizes it sounds like a broken record, but once again, the list has grown longer, especially along the jinxed offensive line.
With Mark May (broken nose), Joe Jacoby (sprained neck) and George Starke (broken hand) all hurting, the Redskins don't have a healthy tackle on the roster. And starting guard Melvin Jones (pinched neck nerve) also is ailing.
May should be okay for Sunday's game at Miami, but Starke is not expected to play for another week and Jacoby's status will depend on a doctor's examination today. It is almost certain that the Redskins will sign a free agent tackle, who very well could wind up starting against the Dolphins, especially if Jones is out.
"I could see us with a line of (Russ) Grimm and May, Jones and Darryl Grant and Jeff Bostic," Gibbs said. "But that would depend on Jones being able to play. He is very, very sore and we are going to hold him out of contact all week and see if by Sunday, he'll be okay. If he isn't, Grimm would have to play guard. We just have to wait to see if Joe Jacoby comes along and Starke is now a week-by-week thing.
"Until this line problem straightens out, we just can't make the kind of progress we want. It's hurt us a lot, you can't relax and call what you want to call and do what you want to do. You tend to be a little more conservative, because you want to keep the offense out of bad situations that set up long plays and possible sacks. To be good, you have to have the same guys playing out there every week."
Only once in six weeks have the Redskins begun two games in a row with the same five line starters, against San Francisco last week and Chicago Sunday. And that Bear game was by far the best the line has played, as the Redskins were able to utilize ball control by rushing for 227 yards, even though they were using four rookies and a second-year center.
Gibbs acknowledged that a more conservative approach against Chicago reaped some welcomed benefits: fewer turnovers. But there is no question that he'd rather be much more aggressive on offense, although he is going to have to pull back until the team is much healthier.
"We did prove that we can run the ball, that we can move it out from the goal line in a tough situation and that we can control it for a long drive," Gibbs said. "And our defense also found out that it really is a great unit. We had been giving up big plays and long drives but we totally shut down Chicago. Now they know they can dominate people."
Richie Petitbon, the defensive coordinator, said improved coverage by the secondary and the return of some injured players combined to produce Sunday's near-shutout performance, which maintained the Redskins' standing as the NFC's No. 1 defense.
"Lemar (Parrish) was able to play and our coverage tightened up," he said. "Brad Dusek and Wilbur Young were in there for another week, too. I think we've played the run well since preseason, but if we can keep our secondary healthy, our coverage will continue to be good and we can do some more things, become more offensive on defense."
Petitbon will be able to use linebacker Monte Coleman this week for the first time since a shoulder injury a month ago. And end Dexter Manley should be okay despite a bad ankle. But end Mat Mendenhall still may not be able to play because of a bad knee and end Mike Clark is out for two to four weeks with a sprained knee.
But even with the injuries, this week has to be a better one for Gibbs.
The more games the Redskins lost, the more hours he was putting in at Redskin Park. His wife finally bought him a pullout sleep sofa, and he has started to sleep three nights every week in his office instead of going home.
Last Thursday night, he walked outside to the parking lot to drive to his weekly television program and couldn't remember where he put his car. "I thought someone had stolen it," he said. "Then I remembered it was at the Marriott (at nearby Dulles). We left it there before the previous game and I had never picked it up."
Torgy Torgeson, the defensive line coach, drove Gibbs to the hotel. But Gibbs couldn't find a key to start his car. "I finally told Torgy I had to get into town. I took his car and he had to call someone to get him back.
"I'm just the absent-minded professor. It's unbelievable."