- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

Mea culpa. An acknowledgement of a personal error or fault.

American Heritage College Dictionary

O, ye of little faith.

Matthew 8:26

Maybe we also should check out the line from Willie Shakespeare’s Puck: “What fools these mortals be!”

I mean, how could I … we … anybody have doubted Joe Gibbs, saintly man and super football coach that he is? Wasn’t that sort of like rooting against Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Forces of Greater Good Everywhere?

So here it is January, with Christmas trees about to go out and Christmas bills about to come in, and the Redskins are in the NFC playoffs. One columnist in town already has predicted they’ll win the Super Bowl. I think that’s a bit far-fetched, but you won’t catch me betting against it. I’ve learned my lesson.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, I said we should give thanks that the Redskins wouldn’t be messing up our holidays this season, not with a 5-6 record. Maybe I should have ordered more giblets and stuffing for New Year’s because I’m certainly feeling like a turkey these days.

What we all forgot was that except for an aberrational 36-0 licking by the Giants, the Redskins’ other five defeats were by a total of 19 points, an average of 3.8. Reverse just a couple of those — say, the consecutive losses to the Bucs by one point and the Raiders by three — and Gibbs’ galoots would have been 7-4 then.

And 12-4 now, just like in the old days.

Shades of Joey T, the Diesel and the Hogs.

As it turned out, the Redskins did intrude on, if not exactly mess up, the holidays. Could there have been a better way for football fans to mark Christmas Eve than by getting emphatic (35-20) revenge against the Giants? And what would you rather have watched on New Year’s Day, a boring batch of bowl games or that 31-20 victory over the Eagles?

Fortunately or otherwise, January is devoid of major holidays except for the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the District already has moved the accompanying parade to April for some reason. So we won’t have holidays messing up Redskins games, starting with Saturday’s excursion to Tampa Bay.

Revenge II, anyone?

For a while there, some of us were thinking Gibbs might be mortal, in a football sense. After all, the first 27 games of his second Redskins tenure produced merely an 11-16 record that reminded us too much of the Petitbon, Turner and Spurrier outfits. He’s too old, some said — the game has passed him by faster than one of his NASCAR entries speeding toward the finish line.

Although he’s too polite to take it, Joe can have the last laugh now — no matter what happens Saturday and thereafter.

Even after decades of watching coaches and managers, I’m amazed at how some men and women have whatever it takes to produce winners and others don’t — and sometimes for undefinable reasons.

Remember what happened to the Packers after Vince Lombardi left?

The Orioles after Earl Weaver packed it in?

UCLA after John Wooden decided to give the rest of college basketball a championship chance?

And, of course, the Redskins after Gibbs took a hike and a hiatus in 1993?

Times change, and coaching methods differ. Lombardi terrorized his troops. Weaver’s O’s hated his guts. Wooden’s Bruins knew they simply had to win, even if it required Bill Walton to make 21 of 22 shots against Memphis State in the 1973 NCAA championship game.

Though Gibbs can be testy — he once upended a whole table of locker room food after a disappointing performance way back when — his M.O. is to get his players believing and trusting in him (except maybe for LaVar Arrington). And, yes, loving him for his sheer football knowledge and honesty.

So let’s drink a belated New Year’s toast to Joe Gibbs if we haven’t already done so, await further developments and never again doubt this master motivator.

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