WASHINGTON -- After coach Joe Gibbs finished hugging several players in the jubilant Washington Redskins locker room in Philadelphia last January, he had a short, emotional message for them:
"Hey, let's win," Gibbs shouted above the din. "Hey, let's win with, hey, let's win with style, men, win with style. Great job, proud of you all, proud of you all, men."
NFL Films caught the message, giving a rare look at a coach who usually hides his feelings behind bland comments.
The team's 20-6 playoff victory over the Eagles -- coming on the heels of the 28-14 whipping the Redskins had gotten in a Monday night game in Philadelphia last November -- was one of the sweetest of Gibbs' career.
But he wanted them to celebrate the victory with "style." Maybe the word he was really looking for was class.
The not-so-subtle message was that he didn't think the Eagles had won with "style" in the past. To put it more bluntly, he didn't think coach Buddy Ryan's team had done so.
There was never any doubt that Gibbs didn't like Ryan's take-no-prisoners style. He didn't like it when one Eagle asked the trainer during the Monday night game if the Redskins needed any "body bags," because nine Redskins were injured in the game.
He wasn't happy that the Eagles gloated after the game. Jerome Brown said: "They acted like they didn't want to play us anymore, if you ask me."
Gibbs also wasn't happy that his team seemed to be intimidated in the Monday night loss. In their first practice after that game, he pulled them off the field for a tongue-lashing.
That's why it meant so much to Gibbs to avenge that defeat in the playoffs. But he didn't want his players to gloat the way the Eagles did.
When Gibbs was asked for his definition of winning with class, he tried to downplay the "win with style" comment.
"I doubt if I was referring to that game in particular," he said.
When he was pressed for a definition, he said: "If you win a game, you want to do it the right way, win the right way. If you lose, you want to lose the right way. You can probably define the right way. I'd say after every game, I would hope that's what we'd do, win with class and lose with class."
As it turned out, the Redskins' win cost Ryan his job. He was fired by owner Norman Braman, who apparently didn't like Ryan's rambunctious style any more than Gibbs did.
Ryan has become a commentator for CNN, and he's just as opinionated as ever. He still calls the Eagles "we" and predicted yesterday on CNN they'll beat the Redskins with defense in tonight's game at RFK Stadium.
Referring to last year's Monday night victory by the Eagles, he said: "That's the way the game is played when we play the Redskins. The Eagles will get after them. It'll be the same type game, and it won't be a game for sissies."
The game won't seem the same without Ryan, but the Eagles now might be tougher for the Redskins to beat.
For all of his swaggering, Ryan was 3-8 against the Redskins. His blitzing style of defense sometimes backfired against the Redskins, because their offensive linemen can pick up blitzes, and that left the Eagles secondary vulnerable.
Under new coach Rich Kotite, the Eagles have toned down their act. But Kotite's new defensive coordinator, Bud Carson, may have put together a defense tougher to solve than Ryan's was.
Although Carson flopped as a head coach in Cleveland, nobody questions his credentials for drawing up defenses. He was the defensive coordinator on the Pittsburgh Steelers' first two Super Bowl championship teams in the 1970s.
Even though quarterback Randall Cunningham was injured in the opener, the Eagles defense has led the team to a 3-1 start. The Eagles never started that fast under Ryan. Although Jim McMahon has been injury-prone -- and there are rumors that his elbow was bothering him last week -- he's been effective in relief of Cunningham.
Despite McMahon's surprising play, this is a defensive team, and Carson uses more schemes to mix up his coverages than Ryan did.
As Gibbs said: "There's definitely a totally different look to it. Little nuances. The way they're being coached, it's all different. The coaching is just different. You can tell. I think Bud Carson and the staff there are definitely putting their own kind of print on the defense."
Opponent: Philadelphia Eagles
Site: RFK Stadium, Washington
Radio: WCAO (600 AM), WMAL (630 AM)
TV: Channels 13, 7