Is Joe Gibbs resigned to the fact that the Washington Redskins aren't likely to beat the New York Giants this year?
The Redskins coach never would admit that, but he did stress yesterday that there will be life for the Redskins even if they lose to the Giants for the second time in 15 days Sunday.
He sounded like a man waving the white flag in the division race.
When he talked about his goals for the year yesterday, he put making the playoffs ahead off winning the National Football Conference Eastern Division title and said a loss wouldn't knock the Redskins out of the playoff hunt.
"Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs. First of all, we just want to get in. Secondly, we'd like to win the division. This game is very big for both of us. It's very important as far as winning the division. Does it mean we're not going to make the playoffs if we lose this game? No, it doesn't. It certainly would help us," Gibbs said.
A New York victory would boost the Giants' record to 7-0 and drop the Redskins' to 4-3. In effect, it would be a four-game lead with nine left because the Giants would have swept the Redskins.
But, as Gibbs said, they'd still be in the wild-card race even if they lose because six teams make the playoffs from each conference and the Redskins are one of only five teams in the National Football Conference with winning records.
"I'm just like everybody else. I'm adding up who's there with us. Who's making a run at this thing, where are we, where's our schedule, everybody is looking at it. That's what we're trying to figure out," Gibbs said.
Actually, it seemed early to focus on the wild-card race until Gibbs brought it up.
It's also unusual for him to be talking about what happens if the Redskins lose to the Giants.
But he may be using a bit of reverse psychology, since the NFL keeps scheduling the Giants and Redskins twice in the first half of the year.
The Redskins didn't seem to recover from the frustration of losing to the Giants twice in the first five games in 1988 and twice in the first six games in 1989. In 1988, they were 2-3 after the second Giants' loss and finished at 7-9.
Last year, they were 3-3 after the second one and went into a tailspin to 5-6 before they won their last five games.
This year, Gibbs wants them to recover if they lose again Sunday.
The Giants have won eight of the past nine non-strike games against the Redskins and got a boost yesterday when coach Bill Parcells said quarterback Phil Simms will play against the Redskins. Simms was knocked out of the game against the Phoenix Cardinals on Sunday with an ankle injury. Parcells called it a mild sprain.
Simms is remarkably consistent against the Redskins. In his past 11 games against them, he's put between 17 and 27 points on the board to help the Giants win nine.
Gibbs, though, does like the way his team is playing. He called the 13-7 victory over the Eagles a "classic" game.
"Sometimes, I'm kind of amazed. I think we've lost our appreciation for some real [defensive] battles. It's a shame really because you're missing some of the best things in football, the great hard-hitting game that may only be 13-7. It seems like today that's not what we want. We'd rather be 36-35 and everybody plays sloppy as you can," Gibbs said.
NOTES: Gibbs said the Redskins will wait until later in the week to decide on the status of defensive lineman Markus Koch, who sprained a knee Sunday. . . . James "Jumpy" Geathers has recovered from a knee injury he suffered last year and can be activated if the Redskins want him to play Sunday. . . . Quarterback Stan Humphries isn't expected to have any problems with the bruised left hand he suffered Sunday.