- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2008

It has been a “tough time” this Christmas, Joe Bugel said. His wife, Brenda, and daughters Angie and Jennifer were all back home in Arizona. The Bugels’ other daughter, Holly, died of cancer in August.

“I talked to them this morning,” the Washington Redskins’ offensive line coach said after practice Thursday. “Of course they miss their middle sister. We all do. I asked them what they did last night, did they watch videos [of Holly]? They had some tears, but it was happiness because when our daughter died, she was a very happy person.”

The most difficult of Bugel’s 41 seasons as a coach, 31 in the NFL, is nearly over. The Redskins play their regular-season finale at San Francisco on Sunday. The offseason begins Monday, and there will be plenty of decisions for first-year coach Jim Zorn to make, including which of his assistants will return.

Bugel, who turns 69 in March, wants to come back.

“I really do,” he said. “I’m enjoying this. I really am. I like our new staff. I like the players, of course. The organization’s been super, super to Joe Bugel and his family. I have no reason to leave.”

On Wednesday, defensive coordinator Greg Blache, who pondered retirement last year, said he felt rejuvenated and wants to return next season, when he will turn 60. Bugel liked the sound of that.

“I’ll be the first to express my feelings like Greg Blache, you know?” he said. “We’re both getting a little up in age. But I feel like I belong. I enjoy it. I wouldn’t miss it. I’d like to get one more Super Bowl before I decide to retire.”

Bugel dates to Joe Gibbs’ first term as the Redskins’ coach. Bugel coached and named the famed offensive line from that era known as “The Hogs.” When Gibbs decided to try it again in 2004, he called Bugel. And when Zorn replaced Gibbs before the season, Bugel stayed.

Holly Bugel died in August of a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer at age 35. Her left arm had been amputated, and she spent several months in Houston undergoing intensive, often radical treatment until there was nothing left to be done. Bugel, who tried retirement for two years and found he hated it before rejoining Gibbs, remained on the job.

“If I had stopped working right there, I would have been a very miserable person,” he said. “When you work and you’re with your other family, you’re thinking football. And then, all of a sudden when you walk, you’re thinking about your kids and your family.”

But work has been a mixed blessing because of the Redskins’ up-and-down season. They started 6-2 but lost five of their next six to miss the playoffs.

“The way we started, it was outstanding,” Bugel said. “My family, they were getting ready for the Super Bowl. I tell you what: We were on a run.”

The offensive line has taken a measure of criticism, which means that Bugel has, too. The run blocking, as usual, has been solid for the most part but not the pass blocking. Injuries have contributed to that. As Bugel points out, though, everyone has injuries.

“It bothered me when we were giving up sacks,” he said. “Being around a long time, I know when a sack happens the blame goes to the offensive line. But you can’t carry that over. Basically, schematically, we’re sound. It’s the individual technique. One guy dropping his head against a good rusher, he’s around you.”

Bugel “has done an outstanding job this season,” said Zorn, who has leaned on his wizened assistants for guidance in his rookie season. “Buges has the respect of the veterans, and the younger players see that and respond to it. He always has these guys ready to play and very focused. It’s great to have a legend like him on our staff.”

Veteran guard Randy Thomas expects Bugel to return.

“Why wouldn’t he be back?” Thomas said. “He’s a great teacher. And it goes farther than him coaching us. It’s personal with him and us. He’s like family.”

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