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Gibbs' legacy will always be difficult for Redskins to replace

Joe Gibbs serves as a model of a forgotten lesson from a forgotten time.

Back in 1981, when a 40-year-old Gibbs took office in Washington, he opened with five consecutive losses.

He started much in the way that Tom Landry did in Dallas in 1960, when Landry went 0-11-1 in his first year with the Cowboys; the way Bill Parcells did in New York in 1983, when he lost seven straight games during his first season with the Giants; the way Bill Walsh did with the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, when Walsh lost his first seven games; the way Tony Dungy did in Tampa Bay in 1996, when Dungy lost his first five games.

At a different time, in a different era, head coaches such as Gibbs were given time. Head coaches today -- see Cameron, Cam; Shell, Art -- are not. They can be one and done.

But with time, with faith, with trust, Gibbs evolved into a Washington monument.

He might have invented, and certainly popularized, the two and three tight-end sets to ward off beasts such as the Giants' Lawrence Taylor. He created the Trips formation, lining up three receivers on one side of the field and allowing his Smurfs to run free.

His thinking, and his style, helped the Redskins win three Super Bowls with three different starting quarterbacks -- Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien.

When Gibbs left the Redskins the first time, his memory lingered. No matter who tried to replace him -– from Richie Petitbon to Norv Turner to Terry Robiskie to Marty Schottenheimer to Steve Spurrier -– nobody could.

Finally, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder convinced Gibbs that he was the coach that could restore the franchise's luster.

But now, after a sporadic and challenging four-year run, the 67-year-old Gibbs has re-retired.

Snyder is back to sifting through head coaching candidates, searching for another Redskins leader, trying to decide what is best for a Washington franchise that lost its wild-card game Saturday and its monument three days later.

Gibbs' specter still looms over the Redskins; it always will.

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