- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

This season is all about Joe Gibbs. It is all on him.

It is all about how much his 64-year-old body has left and how much he has adapted to the NFL following an 11-year absence and an arduous one-year re-indoctrination.

It is all about his moxie on offense and his ability to relate to today’s athletes.

The onus is now on Gibbs to demonstrate that he has some Hall of Fame magic left in his playbook.

The honeymoon is over now, if not all the sunny feelings that surrounded his return. He has to show his coaching verve. He has to show a willingness to put the pedal to the metal, as it is said in his other job. And he has to let Patrick Ramsey be the gunslinger that he is, if Ramsey actually is the team’s long-term quarterback instead of an option of last resort.

Otherwise, this has been a mostly uneventful offseason for the Redskins. They usually win the Super Bowl in the offseason, with this or that splashy acquisition.

But this offseason, the Redskins largely have worked below the radar. Changes have occurred, of course, for change is inevitable in the NFL.

Yet the biggest changes — the departures of Antonio Pierce and Fred Smoot from a defense that was the team’s MVP in 2004 — do not inspire.

There is a new receiving corps and a revamped blocking scheme to complement the darting abilities of Clinton Portis, and offensive tackle Jon Jansen has recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and there is a little of this and that but nothing to really embrace.

This is why it all comes back to the wily coach who appeared overwhelmed at times last season, who discovered his NFL had been replaced by a faster, blitzing NFL that changes players like socks because of the salary cap.

Gibbs acknowledges the need to throw the ball deep and the adjustment difficulties that contributed to a 6-10 season. He acknowledges that last season’s offense put insomniacs to sleep, in contrast to his 1983 offense that set a scoring record.

Gibbs has won big in the NFL and NASCAR, and he has earned the benefit of doubt.

And yet, the head-scratching persists. He dumped three draft picks to select Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell in April, a curious maneuver, given his reluctant history with Ramsey.

And the coaching legend could not get safety Sean Taylor to pick up the telephone, a humbling experience that is all too indicative of the attitudinally challenged athlete of today.

Taylor merely has shown promise after one pro season, along with a surly nature and a need to keep a good attorney on retainer.

Yet he is accomplished enough to blow off a coach who has three Super Bowl rings.

Gibbs was stuck in mental quicksand in 2004, no more so than in his interminable commitment to quarterback Mark Brunell, who was not benched until the ninth game of the season.

The Redskins might have been a playoff team in 2004 if only they could have mustered a vaguely competent attack on offense. Their defense was certainly playoff worthy, the No.3 defense in the NFL.

But it is difficult to win games in the NFL if the coaches take forever to relay a play to the huddle, and only then to have all that plotting result in a 1-yard pass completion.

And all that inertia falls on Gibbs, who made his legend on offense.

As legend has it, it did not matter who was passing the football, whether it was Joe Theismann, Jay Schroeder, Doug Williams or Mark Rypien. Gibbs could win with anyone standing behind center, because he was a maestro with the X’s and O’s who was able to adapt his scheme to the personnel.

That is the prevailing element going into the season, the by-play between the legend and quarterback.

It will result in either the beginning of something good or the beginning of the end of Gibbs II.

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