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Building with Gibbs’ guys
During his first three years in Washington, cornerback Carlos Rogers was consistently inconsistent. He was better known for dropping sure interceptions than for shutting down receivers. Then he missed the last nine games of 2007 with torn knee ligaments.
Rogers’ college and pro teammate, quarterback Jason Campbell, also didn’t prove himself during his first three seasons. Campbell became the starter in 2006, his second season, but he posted a passer rating below 75 in 11 of his 20 starts until his 2007 season ended in Week 13 with a dislocated kneecap. Campbell’s reputation suffered more when the offense thrived under veteran reserve Todd Collins last December.
But Rogers and Campbell are now the rising stars of the surprising 4-1 Redskins. That’s in part a testament to former coach Joe Gibbs, who selected them in the first round of the 2005 draft. Although Jim Zorn has exceeded expectations so far, it’s clear that the first-year coach has succeeded with the team Gibbs assembled. When the Redskins’ 2008 roster is fully healthy, 18 starters are Gibbs acquistions.
In his second stint, Gibbs hit on all six of the first-day picks in his four drafts: Rogers, Campbell, late safety Sean Taylor, tight end Chris Cooley, linebacker Rocky McIntosh and safety LaRon Landry. Such veteran acquisitions as center Casey Rabach, running back Clinton Portis, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, cornerback Shawn Springs and receiver Santana Moss still start.
“You look around the locker room and these are all [Gibbs’] guys, guys that learned football from him, learned how to handle different situations,” offensive tackle Jon Jansen said. “Last year, we had a tough year. We had [five starters] get hurt [for the season]. We had [Sean Taylor] die. You learn from all those situations. The leadership that Coach Gibbs had throughout the year is something that everybody still now falls back on. When you’re down 14-0 in Philly [last week], how can you not fall back on some of the lessons that you learned over the last four years?”
Receiver Antwaan Randle El, one of the high-profile free agents Gibbs lured to Washington, said Gibbs’ offseason moves in his second tenure resulted in a tight-knit team. Sixteen of Washington’s regular starters are in at least their third season with the Redskins.
“Coach Zorn gets a lot of credit for putting us together on the field, but he’s come into a good group of guys, not just on the field, but in the locker room,” Randle El said.
Gibbs didn’t return the Redskins to the glory days of 1982-92, when he guided them to three Super Bowl triumphs, but the team has earned playoffs in two of the past three seasons.
Zorn said coaching “absolutely” contributes to a team’s success, but demurred about his own impact on the 2008 Redskins.
“I don’t know about head coaching,” Zorn said. “In my [20-year] assistant coaching career, I felt like we were 30 percent of the success of what was going on on the field. Players have to win.”
And almost all of the important ones are Redskins because of Gibbs.
About the Author
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