And Rex Ryan did just that. According to what the New York Jets' coach recently shared with an audience of prospective business partners in Manhattan, Gibbs advised Ryan that he and his staff should use their considerable down time during the lockout "to get better" and "gain an advantage on your opponents."
That's all well and good. But it's also wise for Ryan and his coaching peers to not get too caught up in thinking there's any sort of tried-and-true formula for winning a championship after football operations come to a screeching halt. There isn't, and Gibbs would be the first to admit as much.
Gibbs had a whole lot going for him with both teams, not the least of which was talented players who would have performed well under any circumstances or who, in a couple of cases, rose to the occasion at the absolute perfect time.
It also helped that, in 1982, his players, led by quarterback Joe Theismann, did an excellent job of staying together and practicing with a sense of purpose during a 57-day strike that shortened the season to nine games. And it helped that, in 1987, when teams used replacements for striking regulars, the Redskins didn't lose sight of the fact that their three replacement games still counted in the standings and won them all.
The '82 Redskins had an outstanding running back named John Riggins, who eventually entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Riggins was an ideal player for a team that pounded the football, relying on a scheme that its players mastered so well through repetitive drilling that its effectiveness couldn't be eroded by the work stoppage. In four playoff games, Riggins ran for 610 yards on 136 carries (an average of 4.5 yards per rush), and he trampled the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII to the tune of 166 yards.
Five years later, in Super Bowl XXII, Doug Williams did much more than make history as the first black quarterback to play in the NFL title game. He also earned MVP honors by shredding the Denver Broncos for 340 yards and four touchdowns. Timmy Smith ran for a Super Bowl-record 204 yards that day, and, ironically, neither he nor Williams ever played that well again.
Is it a good idea for Ryan and other coaches to heed Gibbs' words? Absolutely. But they'll be much better off if they develop talented players to perform at the levels that Riggins, Williams and Smith reached when the Redskins needed it the most.