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Jewish World Review Jan. 9, 2004 / 15 Teves, 5764

Cal Thomas

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Lord of the gridiron: The return of the King | Forget the presidential election. Forget terrorism. Joe Gibbs is coming back to coach the Washington Redskins.

Just when we thought the glory days were passed. Just when we thought excuses for losing, not explanations about winning, were going to be the norm for years to come (as they have been for too many years in the recent past), Gibbs has agreed to rescue us from our doldrums.

The man who not only took us to four Super Bowls (and won three), but who sent our spirits soaring as no Washington sports coach has ever done, will be back where he belongs. Racing is great, but football is greater.

President Bush says he's a "uniter, not a divider." Gibbs really is a uniter. No one doesn't like him. When you look up "leadership" in the dictionary, his picture should be there. Gibbs makes people want to follow him, not by coercion but by example. He inspires. He rarely gets angry. He has a winning attitude that is infectious. He makes people want to work for him and with each other, which is the key to any winner - in sports, the military and life.

I once called him "the Calvin Coolidge of the NFL." He resigned in 1992 just before the crash and our great football depression set in.

Washington is a peculiar sports town. Having been robbed of its baseball team (twice) and only once rising to the top in basketball and with only a fair hockey team, this city of transients looked to its football team for diversion worthy of its name. In Gibbs' Redskins we got it with plenty left over.

Gibbs returns to a different kind of football. It is the era of free agency, and the teams he built before - with such great players as Darrell Green, Art Monk, Charles Mann, Jeff Bostic, Russ Grimm and John Riggins and quarterbacks Doug Williams, Joe Theismann and the occasionally excellent Mark Rypien (not to mention the Hogs, Smurfs and Fun Bunch) - are no more. His challenge will be to put together a team in more than name only and then hold on to them for more than only a season. But who wouldn't want to play for Joe Gibbs?

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Whatever owner Daniel Snyder is going to pay Gibbs is worth it to a city eager to return to the winning seasons and winning attitudes it had thought was its right. Snyder, who has disappointed loyal Redskins fans since buying the team from the estate of the late Jack Kent Cooke, could redeem himself in the eyes of fans if Gibbs again produces a winner.

The Washington Post's Michael Wilbon was right when he observed that Gibbs' 11-year absence from professional football has only enhanced his reputation. That's what leaving while you're on top can do. He is now, says Wilbon, almost a "god-like" figure. Fans should be careful not to expect too much, too soon, but maybe not. Perhaps the excitement felt by the nation's capital where loyal but disappointed fans have had to put up with terrorism (not to mention high prices for low performance), along with its normal diet of political insecurities, is primed for a Lord of the Rings-type "final act."

The moment could not be more dramatic. The choice of Gibbs could not be more exciting. One hopes that excitement will trickle down to the players, the ones who will remain and the ones to be added.

Call this moment: the return of the king!

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JWR contributor Cal Thomas is the author of, among others, The Wit and Wisdom of Cal Thomas Comment by clicking here.

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