There are lots of sad songs that Washington Redskins fans can play on the jukebox while drowning their sorrows over the woes of their team — all sorts of lyrics they could sing to bemoan the pain of Redskins fandom.
“I’d trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday,” Kris Kristofferson once sang, and that might seem like a good tradeoff, given the soap opera that is taking place at Redskins Park and the accompanying pathetic results on the field this year.
Like Elton John sang, “Sad songs, they say so much.”
Here’s one that comes to mind during the bitter battle royal seemingly taking place among owner Daniel Snyder, coach Mike Shanahan, his son and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Robert “SuperBob” Griffin III:
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
Joni Mitchell was talking about paving over paradise and putting up a parking lot, but it applies in this case to a new appreciation of a former Redskins coach who, given what we’ve seen since he left, we should all have a new appreciation for.
This franchise desperately misses Joe Gibbs.
Not Gibbs the first act — the coach who won four NFC championships and three Super Bowls from 1981 to 1992. That was paradise, and of course these are the days that the fans who were fortunate enough to live through it long for, and for the ones who missed those days, dream in jealousy of what they never had.
No, I’m talking about the second act of Joe Gibbs here in Washington — the one that quite didn’t live up to the hype and the expectations, the one that resulted in two playoff appearances in four years and a 30-34 record.
Who knew these would be the good old days?
When you see the dysfunction that has turned Redskins Park into a battlefield of bickering, and the record nearing the end of Shanahan’s four-year tenure in Washington, mixed in with the two bizarre years of Jim Zorn, you have to come to a new appreciation for what Gibbs managed to do in those four years running this organization.
He made mistakes, plenty of them — trading for aging quarterback Mark Brunell when he was on the brink of being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the signing of such free agent flops as Adam Archuleta. It’s a long list of personnel blunders, some of which helped dig the hole the Redskins found themselves in when Shanahan arrived in 2010.
Then again, he was working with the village idiot, Vinny Cerrato, as vice president of football operations, and it is subject to debate who was responsible for what mistakes. But maybe we’ve been looking at this all wrong. The fact that Gibbs was able to coach two teams to playoff appearances with Cerrato in the building may be like mountain climbing while carrying a sack of potatoes on your back.
But here’s what you didn’t see from Gibbs — you never saw the sort of shameful shenanigans that have taken place at Redskins Park. You never saw Gibbs plant stories in the media to undercut a player or the owner. You never heard anything from Gibbs about a loss except to take responsibility for that loss, never heard him hang a player out to dry.
We made fun it, and it seemed corny at times, but Gibbs went out of his way to court and connect with Redskins fans. Given the cold distance of Shanahan, it doesn’t seem so corny now. It seems more like humanity now.
Clinton Portis practiced when he wanted, wore funny costumes and counted the owner as a friend, but come Sunday Portis gave everything he had for Gibbs and speaks of him today in respectful terms.
Behind the scenes, it may have been frustrating, maddening, chaotic — all trademarks of the 21st century Washington Redskins — but Gibbs never took it to the streets like Shanahan has at times over his tenure.
And during this organization’s darkest time — the death of Sean Taylor — Gibbs kept the team together and wound up leading them to the playoffs in his final season here in 2007.
Obviously, Gibbs can’t come back and coach the Redskins again. But he may still be a “special adviser.” This organization could use a taste of Joe Gibbs class right now.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com
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