- The Washington Times - Friday, December 30, 2005

Phillip Daniels and Jon Jansen laughed at the hypothetical because they agreed with it.

If a person entered Redskin Park on a Monday without knowing the result of the previous days’ Washington Redskins game, would they know whether Washington won or lost from coach Joe Gibbs’ demeanor?

Daniels: “I wouldn’t be able to tell. He’s the same. I wouldn’t know until I got into the meeting and he gave us one of his great laughs after a win or talked about how we need to bounce back from the loss.”

Jansen: “He’s the same way after a four-game winning streak and a possible trip to the playoffs as he was after a three-game losing streak and being on the brink of elimination. And that’s what you need from a head coach.”

Gibbs probably would disagree with the theory he is Mr. Even Keel, someone who never outwardly pushes the panic button or shows he’s on the brink of hysteria regarding his team’s standing.

But players and assistant coaches point to Gibbs’ never-too-giddy, never-too-panicky disposition — one of his trademarks since becoming an NFL head coach in 1981 — as a key reason the Redskins have won four consecutive must-win games and are on the cusp of their first playoff appearance since 1999. The Redskins play at Philadelphia on Sunday and will secure a postseason spot with a win.

So why do the Redskins credit Gibbs for his leadership as they have caught fire at precisely the right time? Three reasons:

• Players don’t like surprises.

• Players don’t like to see their coach riding an emotional roller coaster.

• And players don’t like to be singled out in front of their peers.

He has become adept at avoiding all three scenarios, and it shows: Redskins teams coached by Gibbs have a 40-13 record in December and January regular-season games.

“You know what you’re going to get from him every week, and that’s what’s best for us,” safety Ryan Clark said. “I know it’s the reason why we’re good this year. We take the same approach every week.”

According to Redskins running backs coach Earnest Byner, who played for Gibbs for four seasons, that approach hasn’t differed from Gibbs’ first stint (1981-92).

“The air around him is very balanced, and from a leader, you need that,” Byner said. “The guys need to be able to look to their leader and see somebody that has the ability to stay consistent. Coach Gibbs exemplifies a lot of that. … If some of the old players came here to visit, they would probably say, ‘Yeah, he’s pretty much the same.’”

Gibbs’ defining moment this season came when the Redskins were 5-6 following three crushing defeats — 36-35 at Tampa Bay on a two-point conversion in the final minute and 16-13 and 23-17 losses to Oakland and San Diego, respectively, in which the Redskins squandered 10-point leads.

“During that time, he was always saying, ‘We can still do this. We’re going to get it done,’” Daniels said. “No matter the situation, he believes that we’re going to win.”

Said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: “That comes from a person that knows exactly how to [react] in a situation. He’s coached an awfully long time and been a part of lot of successes and also a lot of depressions that happen throughout the course of a season.

“He understands that confidence comes from doing the right thing and saying the right thing over and over and over again. He made sure [during the losing streak] that he didn’t let a lot of key players get down on themselves. He didn’t back off — we worked harder — but he kept their spirits up.”

Gibbs expressed surprise earlier this week when told of his players’ impression of him after the San Diego game.

“I wouldn’t have thought I was that way,” he said. “I thought I was a little bit like them, in the dumps. We were working so hard, and things weren’t going well. You have all the normal feelings you’d think somebody would have. Why is this happening? Why are we going through this because we’ve worked hard? Why are we losing close games? You have all those emotions.

“But somewhere in there, we grabbed on to something.”

Before coming to the Redskins in 1981, Gibbs served as an assistant coach for 17 seasons in college and the NFL, and he took lessons from all of those coaches to form his demeanor.

“The main thing I learned from those coaches was to be yourself,” he said. “They were all different. Don Coryell was the most down-to-earth person but didn’t like the publicity. Frank Broyles was a great salesman. John McKay was quick-witted and a bright motivator.”

Redskins offensive coordinator Don Breaux first coached with Gibbs in 1967 at Florida State. He sees those qualities in Gibbs and a drive that, occasionally, makes him more anxious during a winning streak than during a losing skid.

“What you see, that’s what you get with him,” Breaux said. “Being able to focus is one of his strengths. He’s not a big second guesser, raver or ranter.”

Gibbs puts responsibility on his coaching staff to carry his message to players in position meetings, and he also trusts the team’s veterans to be an extension of the staff in the locker room.

The result of those efforts this season could be Gibbs’ ninth playoff appearance in 14 seasons with the Redskins.

“He looks to the leaders of the team, and I remember him saying, ‘I’m coaching, but it’s up to the veterans to lead the team because that’s where things start,’ ” defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. “He puts a lot of trust on us, and that’s very impressive on his part.”

Added Jansen: “The season is long enough as it is. There are going to be times when you’re flying high and times when you’re flying low. You need to have a middle ground, and that’s what he provides.”



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