Coach Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins reacted angrily yesterday to criticism of his game strategy in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 23-19 National Football Conference playoff loss to the Chicago Bears, saying some published statements "totally misrepresent everything I've been trying to do here over the past four years."
Gibbs said he took offense to several points made in a Washington Post column written by Thomas Boswell that appeared Wednesday. Most notably, Gibbs was angered by a reference in the column that stated, "Hopefully, during his winter of introspection, Gibbs will rediscover his faith in his men and they in him."
"I don't have to 'rediscover' faith in the players," Gibbs said pointedly yesterday, "because I've never lost it. In fact, that's the thing I hold closest to me, the thing that's most precious to me, the feeling between the players and me. I think that's the one thing we have, more than anything else -- a faith in each other."
He added that he was also angered by Boswell's reference to Gibbs' "panic" in the fourth quarter of the game. That's when the Redskins coach opted away from the running game with fullback John Riggins (the team's "trademark play," according to Boswell) and chose a passing attack instead. The Redskins began three drives inside Chicago territory in the fourth quarter, but scored only on a safety.
Boswell was commenting, in part, on Gibbs' postgame comments Sunday in which he said the reason he did not run more in the fourth quarter was, "I didn't have the confidence we could move the ball with John. I felt our best shot was passing."
Gibbs said yesterday that his play-calling decisions were affected by a first-quarter injury to right guard Ken Huff, who was sidelined for the remainder of the game. This forced a shuffle for the Hogs -- Morris Towns, who hadn't played a down with the offense all season, entered at right tackle, and right tackle Mark May shifted to guard.
"The article says I didn't have faith (to run Riggins), but it wasn't that I didn't have faith," Gibbs said. "We tried at the start of the game to be balanced; we ran and passed and moved the ball well in the first part of the game. (But) our running game wore down gradually, particularly with the injury to Kenny Huff. That accelerated things.
"In the third quarter, we started using a short passing game with (wide receivers) Art Monk and Calvin Muhammad. We started hitting things and doing the best we had done (the Redskins gained 164 of their 336 total yards in the third quarter). So in the fourth quarter, having had the injury on the offensive line, I went with the things we had done best in the third quarter."
Gibbs said that Boswell's questioning game strategy represented only a small portion of his anger about the column. "He (Boswell) uses words like 'faith' and 'guts.' Well, faith and guts are what this team is all about.
"I don't think he could write this article if he had objectively evaluated me and the Redskin organization over the last four years, in terms of faith, guts and our lack of panic. He uses the exact words that describe what we are all about. We've had a steadiness over the last four years. I don't think we've stood for panic. We've had a fixed goal and we have stood together.
"Judge me on my four years and I'll stand on my record. It was a gut check year for us, and our guys responded. We didn't get where we wanted, but it was a year where we were tested and when we could have folded after we lost our first two games. I think we showed everybody that we've got guts, faith and determination.
"I look at the past, the way we came back from off of our butts at halftime (trailing, 21-6) at Dallas to beat them (30-28) and the way we came back in the fourth quarter to beat St. Louis (29-27). Guts and faith, we've got more of that in the Redskins organzation and, over the last four years, we've exhibited as much of that as anybody in football.
"I don't plan to abandon anything. I plan to keep going. I'm not down about this season. I'm down that we didn't go farther. We came up short, but we'll go on and do great things next year."
Neither did he want to be compared with the 49ers' Bill Walsh or Dallas' Tom Landry. "Judge me by myself," said Gibbs, who has won two consecutive division titles and has been to two Super Bowls in four seasons as Redskin coach while compiling a 47-18 record (.723).
Gibbs said that he also is bothered by implications by the media that, prior to next season, the Redskins will simply cast aside some of their oldest players.
"What I look to do is wait for the dust to settle," Gibbs said. "Then I'll ask some of those (older) players 'How do you feel? Are you planning to make another run at it?'
"When I first came here (in 1981), we had a lot of older players. Now, I feel we're a strong, vibrant team at every spot. Obviously, people look at running back where we're old. But I just got off the phone a minute ago with Joe Washington (31-year-old running back) and he told me that he's excited about playing next year.
"My answer to why we have the oldest team in the league is because the oldest players have won their spots on the roster . . . The players will determine their future through competition or through their decision in the offseason not to come back. There may be one or two guys who I may encourage not to come back."
Gibbs wouldn't say which players, but said "The older players will make their decision. We won't just eliminate them."