Joe Gibbs would also spend time as an assistant coach in the NFL before he got a head coaching position. His college coach, Don Coryell, would play a key role in Gibbs’s career movements. As he developed his own approach, Gibbs was a tireless coach who expected everyone around him to work until the job was done regardless of the hours. In his coaching rooms, there would be no clocks. Gibbs’s assistant coach Joe Brugel once said, "It's like Las Vegas. Time doesn't matter."
St. Louis Cardinals
After Coryell had moved to the St. Louis Cardinals in the pros, he hired Gibbs in 1973, this time as offensive backfield coach. Gibbs stayed in St. Louis through 1977. The Cardinals record for those years was 42–27–1. During this time, Gibbs became engrossed in competitive racquetball and won the nationals senior title in 1976.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Gibbs moved on to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach, John McKay, in 1978. Gibbs and McKay had worked together at USC. Gibbs served as offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers.
San Diego Chargers
Once again, Gibbs met up with Don Coryell who had moved to the San Diego Chargers. Gibbs was set to take up the job of backfield coach in 1979, but Ray Perkins, the current offensive coordinator, left for the Giants so Gibbs was given the coordinator position. The Chargers won the AFC West in 1979 and 1980 with Gibbs as offensive coordinator and Coryell as head coach. They lost the AFC Championship in 1980 to the Oakland Raiders who were on their way to win the Super Bowl.
Gibbs left San Diego for the head coaching job for the Washington Redskins in 1981. The legendary Washington Redskins’ General Manager, Bobby Beathard, supported Gibbs as a candidate when the Redskins were looking for a new coach. Washington Redskins’ majority owner, Jack Kent Cooke, considered to be an excellent judge of talent himself, signed Gibbs. Cooke worked out a fairly general contract that Gibbs shook on without counsel and in time Cooke generously rewarded Gibbs financially in a way that perhaps no formal written contact would have stipulated.
In Gibbs’s first 12-season stretch as Redskins’ coach, he led his team to three Super Bowl victories and four NFC Championships. His Redskins made the playoffs an incredible 8 times in 12 years. His .683 winning percentage was third best behind Vince Lombardi and John Madden. Gibbs holds an overall NFL head coaching record of 171–101–0. Gibbs was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996. He was named AP Coach of the Year twice, Sporting News Coach of the Year three times, Pro Football Weekly Coach of the Year twice, and UPI Coach of the Year once.
Gibbs took stock of his talent and put together a program to win that was based on existing personnel. His high-energy, tireless approach to creating game plans consumed long hours well into the night, but the effort was visible on the playing field. And regardless of his lofty success, Gibbs always respected and appreciated his players, his coaches, his fans, and his owners.
Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships a book that examines the football lives of the top ten NFL coaches and much of the history of the NFL.