Rivalries being what you make them, Joe Gibbs looked back over his shoulder at Redskin Park the other day, saw Florida State-Florida and called it "the most intense hatred I've experienced in sports. If you're a Seminole, you hate the Gators."
Gibbs was a Seminole salesman for two years in the late 1960s, trying to overcome State's image as a former girl's school at a time everybody who could mold a prospect's mind seemed to be for snooty Florida. That's how Gibbs recalled it, his mind focusing briefly on bus trips to Gainesville, at so many crude cartoons of a Gator with a screw through its heart.
Another breed of indian now, Gibbs is going to get a rivalry restoked Saturday by beating the Cowboys in RFK Stadium with troops and tactics supplied by none other than the Redskins' rascal who all but defined athletic hatred: George Allen.
You think not?
Realize this: of the 12 indispensable Redskins, Joe Theismann, John Riggins, Mark Moseley, Dave Butz, to juggle a few stars, half were brought to Washington by Allen. Say what you will of Allen, and a good dealKEN DENLINGERThis Morninghas been said here, he has an eye for talent few in the history of football can match.
Or perhaps not. Having assembled the cornerstone of a team terrific now and for the near future, if Riggins decides to stay, Allen made a career decision he deeply regrets. After the '77 season, he took a dispassionate look at where the Redskins were headed and sort of agreed that his critics were right, that he'd mortgaged any more Super Bowl hopes long ago.
Playing the Redskins against the Rams, in his mind and with each front office, Allen bet on L.A. being better for him. And soon got, to use an Allenism, blitzed. Win by friction, lose by it.
Ah, but that Over The Hill Gang Allen created. Football codgers, broken men mauling Adonis with a blue star on his helmet the last time the Redskins and Cowboys marched off to such a war, New Year's Eve slightly more than 10 years ago.
Not quite. At 33, Theismann is almost exactly the same age Billy Kilmer was when he whupped the Pokes, 26-3. The most valuable player in the NFL that year, Larry Brown, was just 25. Riggins is 33. Moseley is five years older than Curt Knight was when he made seven of seven postseason field goals before missing from 32 yards against the Dolphins.
Gibbs is to offense as Allen is to defense: creative and bold. What might the Redskins of '72 have been like if Gibbs had been their offensive coordinator, or if Allen had allowed that much freedom and imagination? Charley Taylor thought about Kilmer and Brown, himself, Jerry Smith and Roy Jefferson and said: "The San Diego Chargers you see now."
Allen had Indy car players and ran them at Model T speed; Gibbs has the pedal to the metal on corners. Or does he? Funny thing: the more successful the Redskins have become the more Allen-like they have played. The best minds Jack Kent Cooke can buy are consumed by whether Riggins should go right or left.
Never in his entire run-into-the-ground Redskins' life did Brown carry the ball as often as Riggins against the Vikings. What dazzled you last week is going for an encore Saturday afternoon: hammer Harvey Martin and his pals early and often, same as what worked once a year against Dallas with the Allenskins.
Riggins gained only 26 yards when the Cowboys won here Dec. 5; he carried the ball only nine times. Much has changed. Now Riggins totes it that often in one drive. If he runs even decently, the Redskins run wild, for that keeps the Cowboy offense strapped to the bench and gives the world's most accurate passer time to hit all those midgets on the numbers.
The Cowboys might have the better players; the Redskins have the better team of late. How can one go against a mobile monument who consumes more precious seconds than yards with each plunge? Or a quarterback who has completed an astonishing three out four passes for nearly a month? Or the gods of football?
The Redskins surely have not been so fortunate this season for no reason. They avoided Dallas in Dallas, Cincinnati in Cincinnati and the Steelers, Vikings and 49ers because of the strike, George Rogers and Kenny Stabler in New Orleans because of injuries. Five games were decided by Moseley's foot.
This can't be a divine setup.
Unless it is.
The Redskins want to make this collision a legal brawl. They want to go man for man on the line, Jeff Bostic on Bob Breunig, Russ Grimm on Randy White, if he can find him now that White assumes a linebacker's posture now and then, and let Riggins make small holes majestic.
They also would like to tap Tony Dorsett hard the first few times he carries the ball, so he later loses some enthusiasm. Yes, there is a Redskins player getting a five-figure playoff check just to make sure the punter, Danny White, punts.
Rivalry with the Cowboys the last few years, like confidence in the economy, has been confined mostly to Washington. The Redskins have lost the last six games. The Dallas dreads have been the Eagles and, to a great extent, themselves. If they fall one step short of the Super Bowl for the third straight year, White might become the Craig Morton of the '80s.
Washington by a touchdown. Redskins winning with what has been preached here for ever so long but suddenly reborn: Redskins' football. Then on to Pasadena and the Super Bowl against--is there any other choice?--the Dolphins. Such a gift of the gods every decade isn't too much to ask.