One month ago, with the Redskins on the verge of another lost season, the notion of Joe Gibbs stepping down was a popular one. He had lost it, fans said. Couldn’t do it anymore.
“No one has done less with more coaching and playing talent than Joe Gibbs,” a fan with the screen name ScottySkin said in a comment on washingtontimes.com. “I love the Redskins and Joe, but the game has passed him by.”
That attitude was strongest after Dec. 2, when Gibbs incurred a 15-yard penalty by calling back-to-back timeouts in an effort to ice Buffalo Bills kicker Ryan Lindell. The blunder turned a 51-yard field goal into a 36-yard attempt that sent the Redskins to 5-7 with four games to play.
For the next week, newspapers, talk radio and Internet message boards were rife with Gibbs-must-go sentiment.
“It’s time to turn the page on Gibbs 2.0,” a fan identified as “roybus14” wrote on thehogs.net Dec 3. “The ending of yesterday’s game summed it all up.”
But yesterday, fan reaction to Gibbs‘ resignation reflected a fresh respect for the Hall of Fame coach, who overcame the murder of safety Sean Taylor to lead the Redskins to four consecutive wins and a playoff berth.
“Obviously, there were some tough times,” said Scott Mandir, a senior at the University of Maryland. “I think everyone had their doubts after the Buffalo game. But this is the second time in three years we’ve rallied in the last four weeks to make the playoffs. So I’m kind of disappointed.”
Jan Power, a Redskins season ticket holder who moderates a Redskins message board at Scout.com, said she witnessed a smattering of anti-Gibbs comments in the days following the Buffalo game.
“It was all those comments you’d expect, that the game passed him by and so forth,” Power said. “As things turned around, those people didn’t have the guts to show up.”
Gibbs, for his part, said he will cherish supportive words from fans he encountered during his morning stops at the local 7-Eleven and Starbucks.
“They might have been calling me some nasty names on TV, but they were always nice to me in person,” he said. “I was always treated better than I deserved in Washington.”
For some fans, however, support of Gibbs never wavered. His three Super Bowl victories during his previous stint in Washington carried heavy weight.
“It made me sick, the things that people were saying about Coach Gibbs,” said Ted Abela, an information technology engineer for the government who has organized several Redskins fan events. “These last few seasons don’t tarnish his legacy at all. I think two playoff appearances in three years is a pretty good start. He has righted the ship, and I hope that Gregg Williams or another first mate can build on that.”
But even yesterday, there were still a few fans left who saw Gibbs‘ resignation as the best thing for the Redskins.
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