For the first time in his 13-game head coaching career, Joe Gibbs called the National Football League office yesterday, to discuss the officiating in Sunday's 21-14 loss to Buffalo that knocked his team out of contention for the playoffs.
"I called the office today and sent them film clips and told them what I thought. That's what they want you to do," said Gibbs, who emphasized repeatedly in a press conference that he was not "in any way, shape or form" criticizing the game officials.
"We cost ourselves the game, not the officials. No matter what happened out there, we could have won the game if we hadn't had the turnovers, penalties and dropped passes. I'm not concerned about any fine, because if I thought they did something that really took it away from us, I'd say it anyway."
Gibbs said, "It's just frustrating to be standing on the sidelines and not have things explained to you. I asked him today (Nick Skorich, NFL assistant supervisor of officials) if they (the officials) should come and talk to me. He told me they should. They should explain anything out of the ordinary to you.
"We had officials wave us off or refuse to come over in the game. They would not come to the bench. Three times . . . I asked them to come to the sideline, and they waved me off, and all they talk to me about is coming onto the field. That's what you don't understand. I need to know something and I get nothing."
Responding to a question from a reporter, Gibbs also said Mike Nelms was obstructed by a Buffalo player while trying to catch a third-quarter punt. The ball bounced off off Nelms' leg and was recovered by the Bills, who converted the turnover into the winning touchdown.
"The way we see it," Gibbs said, "is he was obstructed from catching the ball. (Nelms) doesn't fair-catch anything. He was going to catch it, and the guy was obstructing him. A Buffalo guy's arm hit Nelms in the chest."
Nelms, who said after the game that he had not been hit, now agrees with his coach. "There is no question after seeing the film that I was hit in the chest. The whole thing happens real fast, but they didn't give me an unobstructed chance to catch the ball."
Gibbs also said Jeff Bostic had a good hit on Buffalo end Sherman White and should not have been penalized for illegal use of the hands, a call that nullified a John Riggins gain to the Buffalo 32 in the fourth period.
"He hit him right with his head and his shoulders . . . it was a legal block. He had contact in front (of White's body). No way was it a shove (with his hands)," Gibbs said. "But it's a judgment thing."
Gibbs said that after Buffalo sacked quarterback Joe Theismann, forcing a fumble at the Bills' five-yard line, "six (Buffalo) players (from their bench) are five yards or more out on the field" during the ensuing return by nose guard Fred Smerlas.
"One guy who has his helmet off runs all the way out on the field and jumps on the guy (Smerlas) after Joe Washington tackles him 20 yards down the field. That's as gross as anything I've ever seen.
"All I'm doing is explaining these things. You are asking me and I'm giving you answers. One time I did this and it was reported that I was ripping the officials. I'm not doing that."
Gibbs did not disagree with the illegal procedure penalty assessed on the Redskins when they failed to keep Theismann on the sidelines for one play after he was injured briefly in the third quarter. But he wondered why the officials didn't stop Theismann as he ran on the field.
"We were yelling and everything and looking around, and I said there was a play (before he came in) and they didn't say anything . . . Their (Buffalo) sideline caught it . . . Then they threw Theismann off for the next play. My contention was if they had known it, they should have thrown him off the first time."
Gibbs said all that any NFL coach wants "is for things to be consistent. We are working toward that (as a league), and I'm sure we'll get there. We just want to know the play is going to be called and someone is going to tell us why with authority. All the problems Sunday ruined the game's continuity. You start worrying more about the calls than what's happening on the field."
Although the Redskins no longer can dream about the playoffs, Gibbs said he expected his team to continue to "play hard and finish strongly. We want to win our last three games. We want to finish with an upbeat, with everyone looking at us thinking we are playing hard, playing well. Then we can look forward to next season.
"I want them to play for this year's pride, not next year's job. We have all offseason to evaluate next season. We aren't going to do anything to hurt our chances of winning the last three games . . .
"The one thing we haven't done since we started playing well is beat a team that is definitely going to the playoffs. We lost at Miami, at Dallas and at Buffalo. Philadelphia (this Sunday at RFK Stadium) is our last chance."
The team now is in last place in the NFC East. The Redskins never have finished in the division cellar since the league realigned in 1967.
Gibbs declined to discuss the team's needs in the next April draft. He did say that he felt a Super Bowl team needs "nine or 10 all-pros" and that the Redskins "would continue to keep working toward that number."
Cornerback Lemar Parrish, who has been out with a sore knee, worked out lightly yesterday, and Gibbs hopes he'll be available as a nickel back Sunday.