When Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs began putting together that first coaching staff 10 years ago, he turned mostly to people he knew. He'd grown up with Rennie Simmons and had worked with Dan Henning, Don Breaux and others at various levels.
Joe Bugel was an exception. Gibbs knew only that he came highly recommended from then-general manager Bobby Beathard and others. Gibbs knew he'd worked for Woody Hayes at Ohio State and for Bum Phillips with the Houston Oilers, with whom he built the offensive line that helped Earl Campbell become an NFL rushing champion.
His reputation was that of an outgoing, hot-tempered perfectionist who worked 14-hour days and expected as much of his players as he gave of himself.
Gibbs and Bugel met for the first time at the 1981 Senior Bowl, and Gibbs remembered yesterday that "we hit it off. He had that extra kind of dynamic in that he could work guys hard and yet they'd like him. He was energetic, enthusiastic, a good teacher. He's one of the guys who has meant so much to our success here. He's always in the back ready to go to war for you. He's just really special."
To understand the emotions a lot of the Redskins may feel Sunday afternoon when they open the season against the Phoenix Cardinals and their new head coach, Joe Bugel, at RFK Stadium, it's important to understand the history of the relationship.
Bugel was there when the Redskins started the '81 season 0-5 and he was there when they went to three Super Bowls. He once punched a hole in a blackboard during an argument with Gibbs and once ran each play of a Giants loss five times so that every member of the offensive line could see what they'd done wrong.
He threw film cannisters at players, and once after a loss to Houston demanded that his players strip off their official "Hog" T-shirts and turn them in. One of his catch phrases was: "My way or Trailways."
"What do I remember about him?" Raleigh McKenzie said. "Well, I remember him hollering at me every time I moved my rookie year."
Mark Schlereth heard the hollering last year during his rookie season, when injuries forced him into the starting lineup in Week 10. Bugel ended a tough week of practice by taking Schlereth for a quiet walk around Redskin Park.
"He wanted me to know he believed in me," Schlereth said. "I'd known for a few days I was going to start, but it was our little secret. He just got me away from everything to tell me I was going to do fine. The guy had a temper, but you always knew he cared about his players."
He also was one of the first NFL assistants to come up with the idea that 300-pound offensive linemen were the wave of the future, and his nickname for them -- "Hogs" -- became both a spiritual and commercial success.
Bugel said the nickname came to him one sweltering training camp day when he looked at all the huge sweaty bodies with their pot bellies and said something like: "Okay, you hogs, let's get down to the bullpen and hit those blocking sleds."
"Some players might have resented it," he said, "but these guys loved it."
Soon, Redskins fans were dressing like Hogs and there were Hog T-shirts, Hog designer jackets, Hog posters and . . . Iowa ranchers sent sausage and pork chops to Redskin Park.
Bugel distributed new Hog T-shirts to his players each fall and on Thursdays his guys were required to wear them to Redskin Park. A failure to wear your T-shirt resulted in a $5 fine, which went into a pot for an end-of-season rib feast.
They posed with real Hogs and Bugel's office was decorated with a Hog poster and a Hog spittoon. When T-shirts were designed, Bugel ordered that there be "a mean-looking Hog. I don't want Porky Pig."
Joe Theismann petitioned to join the Hogs and was rejected. John Riggins was accepted because of his size, running style and, according to Original Hog Russ Grimm, "He was crazy."
Bugel was Boss Hog, and while there were a few laughs, there also was the construction of the NFL's best offensive line. Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic and Mark May opened holes for Riggins, protected Theismann and Doug Williams and helped the Redskins to three Super Bowls. They have 10 Pro Bowl appearances among them.
Grimm once said his success was "50 percent ability and 50 percent Buges."
"He's the single most important coach in my career," Bostic said. "You ask Jacoby, Grimm or May and they'd tell you the same thing."
Bugel screamed and cajoled, but he was also perhaps one of the first line coaches to spend as much time on footwork as upper-body technique.
"Joe has a way of making you believe you can do anything," said Jim Lachey, one of the new generation of Hogs.
Last spring, when the Cardinals hired Bugel, the four remaining original Hogs -- Grimm, Jacoby, May and Bostic -- threw a going-away party at Jacoby's house.
Over the course of a long evening, the Redskins toasted a guy they'd both loved and hated over the years, wished him the best and presented him with a gold bracelet inscribed with their jersey numbers.
"They'd better not take it off when they bury me," Bugel said. "It was a real special night. I love those guys."
Spin ahead six months and feelings have changed a bit. Bugel has inherited a young team that lost all its preseason games and may be at least two years from being competitive. Meanwhile, the Redskins have been out of the playoffs in the two years since winning Super Bowl XXII.
"There'll be no mixed feelings from my end," Grimm said. "He's a friend and I wish him well except when he plays the Redskins. If anything, his being there puts some intensity into the game. I have to have some feeling for him. Until this year, he was the only coach I'd ever had. He taught me everything. I only played the offensive line two years in college. He was a coach, friend, father figure."
Bugel said a lot of the same things during a conference call from Phoenix yesterday. "We'd better be prepared to play our best or it'll be a disaster," he said. "It's going to be different going in there, looking over there and seeing those darn good football players. If our young guys don't grow up real fast, it'll be a long afternoon. But you have to open somewhere and it might as well be back home. In nine years, I built a lot of fond memories, but for three hours Sunday afternoon, you've got to wipe that out and be your own man."
Bugel said six members of his family were driving down from Pittsburgh, "so I'll have at least six people rooting for us. At least, I hope my dad does. He's grown into a big Redskin fan."
On Gibbs: "I know how badly he wants to win. He could be playing his brother or father and you'd know what kind of contest you're going to have. One thing I learned about him is that when you become a head coach you have to tone it down. You're the one making the decisions. As an assistant coach, you take on a particular role. But when we went 0-5 that first year, Joe was the guy who pulled everything together. We're going through that now here and I can thank Joe for teaching me how to persevere."
Bugel said he has told the Cardinals many stories about the Redskins and how they went from that 0-5 start to the Super Bowls. When two of his players -- cornerback Carl Carter and H-back Rob Awalt -- disagreed, they were traded with Bugel unapologetically saying: "We are looking for a certain type of individual here. We felt they'd be better off out of our system."
And he said that Sunday is only a beginning and that it may be some time before his Cardinals are able to compete on a winning level. He said people have to be patient.
"The important thing is learning," he said. "We tell our players there's a certain way to do things in practice and preparation. We have to have a great game plan and see if we can win in a situation where there'll be extreme pressure. The Redskins have been through all those situations."