A coach who shall go unnamed here, save to say he inherited the nucleus of a pretty good team in gentlemen named Charley Taylor and Sonny Jurgensen and Larry Brown, had a long list of things to do at the 1973 Super Bowl. Right up there was this one: chart the sun. He would send a scout, kind of a Kit Carson of the Redskins, to the Coliseum to see what the sun looked like late of an afternoon.
Sun bright, the scout said.
Hmmm, the coach said, knitting his delicate brow and wondering what this startling information meant.
So now that the Redskins are back in the Super Bowl a decade later, a wise guy asked the new coach, Joe Gibbs, if he had any solar priorities.
"I definitely will not chart the sun," Gibbs said with a smile, because when you're two years into this head coaching business and your next game is against Don Shula's meanies, you have more to fret about than the path of the sun.
He's new to this genius business (every coach who gets to the Super Bowl is a media-anointed genius, even if he gets fired two years later), and so someone asked if he would call other coaches for advice on how to best prepare his team for the NFL championship game.
Again, laughing: "No, but I'll take some if anyone offers it."
The day after the biggest victory of his career, six days before he coaches in a game that is the dream of a thousand guys tooting whistles on hump-backed fields from Bangor to San Bernardino, Joe Gibbs wore the same size hat he came to town in. Call him a genius at your own risk, because he sees the label as pretentious, the ultimate in self-congratulation. No airs about Joe Gibbs. He won't ask us to believe he can do anything about the sunshine in California.
But what we're seeing, according to Bobby Beathard, is more than a good coach working very hard.
"Joe will hate me for saying this," began Beathard, the Redskins' general manager, who convinced owner Jack Kent Cooke to hire an assistant coach he'd never heard of. (So he's a biased witness. Caveat emptor.)
"But Joe will go down as one of the great coaches, because he can do everything they can. The Xs and Os, being able to motivate players, getting along with players, getting players--and Shula is great at this--to have pride in themselves. Joe's players all want to be the best because he's always saying, 'To get where we want to go, we're going to have to be the best.' "
To be the best, the Redskins needed two major changes two seasons ago. They needed to weed out tired and cranky veterans to make room for new blood in the game that uses up people faster than any other. Then, to teach the new people how to play in the NFL, the Redskins needed--what else?--a teacher. Any list of Jack Pardee's considerable strengths never included his ability to move a kid up in ability.
Enter Joe Gibbs. Beathard and Gibbs weren't intimate friends. They knew each other mainly by reputation and an occasional meeting. But as Beathard moved around the country on his scouting safaris, first for the Miami Dolphins and then the Redskins, he'd drop Gibbs' name in conversations with mutual acquaintances.
"Everybody acted like his press agent, telling me how great Joe was doing everywhere," Beathard said. "Finally, I got to asking things like, 'How does he handle himself at the blackboard?' After a while, everything just reinforced it in my mind that he'd be a good coach."
When John Madden and John Robinson said they weren't interested in Pardee's job, Beathard went to Gibbs.
"Joe wants the same kind of players I do--smart players willing to do the work necessary," Beathard said. "That's the way Shula's teams have always won, with smart players. And if you're going to get those kinds of players--maybe not so talented as the great-looking prospects--you have to have somebody to teach them. This staff recognizes potential, and if a kid is willing, they can make him into a player."
At the blackboard, Gibbs succeeds not only because he is a good teacher with all the communications tools that assumes but also because, in Beathard's vernacular, "The players know he isn't blowing no smoke. I hate to go back to this all the time, but when we were 0-5 last year, the players saw what Joe is all about. He never wavered. He's so sincere it's unbelievable. He'll laugh at himself. He doesn't take himself too seriously."
Not a sun-charter, for sure. All this is nice, the genius-schmenius bit with the media. He'll tell the players this is what football is all about. The money will go away and you won't know where it went. The ring will stay, and so will the memory that you were a world champion. The day, next Sunday, is important because who knows if we'll pass this way again.
No, he won't send a scout to peer into the California sky. But that's not to say Joe Gibbs doesn't have a sense of priorities.
"I've been here an hour and a half now," Gibbs said to reporters at Redskin Park late yesterday afternoon, "and I haven't talked to a coach yet. Nothing personal, guys, but I have to get going here."
Then he disappeared into an office, and a whirring sound came through the door. A film projector had started. Either that, or Gibbs' brain was revving up. And Bobby Beathard, laughing as he walked the corridors, said, "I guess we're all geniuses now, right?" Picture 1, Redskins' fans in RFK Stadium accentuate the positive truth as it unfolds: Dallas down, Miami to go.; Picture 2, Joe Gibbs, says Bobby Beathard, will be one of the great coaches.; Picture 3, Joe Gibbs jokes, "I'll take some (advice) if anyone offers it." Photos by Richard Darcey -- The Washington Post