Gibbs' quiet confidence keeps Redskins from panic

Coach seeks input from his players

November 22, 1992|By Vito Stellino | By Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

The football coaching profession doesn't attract too many Alan Alda types. Football coaches tend to be autocrats, My Way or the Highway type of' guys.

But Joe Gibbs takes a somewhat different it approach.

The Washington Redskins coach has given a perfect illustration of that approach the past few weeks, as his injury-riddled team has lost two of its past three games.

As he prepares for the Monday night game against the New Orleans Saints, Gibbs hasn't ranted or raved or blamed any of his players.

Instead he's gone to them looking for answers. It might be called the My Way Unless You've Got A Better Idea approach.

It doesn't mean that Gibbs wouldn't like to lash out.

"I've always said that for coaches, I don't think it's burnout as much as it is not being able to flght back," he said. "Most of us are competitive. When somebody says something to you or to your family, you feel, kind of trapped. You can't fight back. Frustration builds up in coaches. They want to lash back and they can't. You've got to understand that's part of what we do."

After 12 years and four Super Bowl trips, it would be easy for Gibbs to think he has all the answers. Instead, he's always trying to learn.

'I've learned a lot the last couple of weeks. I've learned the players' perception [of Gibbs] is not what I think it would be. I'm having conversations with guys about the way the players would expect to be treated. I've changed some things in practice. You've been here a long time and you think they have a certain feeling of you, and you sit down and talk to somebody and after a while, you figure out that's not the case," he said.

Veteran wide receiver Art Monk was one of the players he has chatted with recently.

"That just shows you the type of person he is." Monk said. "I guess we're somewhat like his children and if we're not doing well, he brings us in to encourage us. If we're down, he says, 'Hey, we still believe in you. Were still going to count on you.' That's the reason why we've been so successful. He's not the kind of coach who's just going to point fingers or holler at you."

Gibbs, though, will tell a player when he has to pick it up.

'I may go to a guy and say, 'We have to have more than this.' I don't think you stand up and make a big deal and threaten everybody. There's always that there. I know it drives me. One of the things that drives people is fear," he said.

Gibbs also said he doesn't have to tell players, "Do it my way or get out." He said the players know it's a matter of production. 'If you lose your production you're not going to be anywhere very long," he said.

Gibbs said that one key is keeping the lines of communication open.

"I wind up running by guys all day long and I don't sit down arid talk to them," he said. "What we have here is Cool Hand Luke. a breakdown of communication. What'd the guy say, a failure to communicate. I think some guys have heard me say things for 12 years. How excited can a guy get to be hearing Joc going on this again?"

Monk said, "He's always been the kind of person you could approach and make suggestions and he would always listen. He's never been the kind of coach [to say], 'Well, this is the way it's going to be done and that's it.' He's always open to trying to make things better."

Gibbs insists he has a stubborn streak, though.

He is sticking with the veterans who have produced in the past. That's why young players such as Cary Conklin and Desmond Howard aren't seeing a lot of time.

Gibbs was vague on specifics about what the players told him, but Monk said that the defensive players told him that since he concentrates on offense, he's "always more critical" of the defcnse.

Gibbs said, 'If you're not around something, you're always a little more critical. I get so caught up with the X's and 0's that sometimes I miss some of the other things."

Gibbs, though, has the quiet self-confidence of a successful man. He has pulled teams out of tailspins in the past and he obviously thinks he'll do it again.

"Sooner or later I'm going to get it [done]." he said. 'At least, I hope so. I have in the past."

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