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Posted at 8:11 AM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Joe Gibbs discusses 'real mistake' he made before Super Bowl XVIII

By Cindy Boren

No matter how many Super Bowls they win, it's the losses that stick with great coaches and players. And the mistakes that lead to the losses. Joe Gibbs talked about that, and a mistake he made before the Washington Redskins' Super Bowl XVIII loss, on "Mike and Mike in the Morning" today.

Gibbs (who used the word "supersmart" twice in the interview; I know you'd want to know that), said he was too lax with players, who enjoyed themselves in Tampa. And probably St. Pete, too.

"Well, I've got to tell you guys that I made a real mistake [in] the one Super Bowl we lost. This is a true statement. In the other three Super Bowls, the ones that we won, I told the guys, 'Look, we need to be in early'. I kind of enforced that even though their families were there. And always the night before the game we moved to another site, where I could have a good night with them, we could be in meetings and keep everything quiet.

"But in Tampa, it's well documented that Russ Grimm [chuckle] decided that he would turn the guys loose on the town. ... I think you need to have a bed check. I told the guys enjoy all the things you're going to get to enjoy about the Super Bowl, but there's times that you need to be totally isolated, studying the game plan. Practices were very important. I told them that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"And I've got to tell you, the hurt that we had in the one that we lost ... You would think that if you got to the Super Bowl, you'd feel pretty good. Not the case. I think that's one of the toughest losses that I've ever experienced in sports."

Gibbs also tried to keep his players from giving other teams bulletin-board material.

"Now they didn't always listen to me. I had Dexter Manley, John Riggins and a few guys, but ... here's what I tried to say, Mike. I tried to say, look, do not say something negative. That's generally the rule I used. If you've got to say something negative, keep it to yourself. The one thing I used to tell our players, I said, 'Listen, what's the one thing that you can do to a great competitor to make sure that you got his absolute best? Say something negative about him. All great competitors, they're gonna give you everything they've got. You do that, you're gonna ensure that you're gonna get 100 percent from him.' And I told 'em: 'Hey, let's take 90 if we can get it.' ... I probably went overboard on that, but that was kind of my approach to things."

By Cindy Boren  | February 1, 2011; 8:11 AM ET
Categories:  Redskins, Super Bowl XLV  
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Social networking and Gibbs would experience some trying times.

Posted by: MHEDRLT | February 1, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Did you tell them to make sure to tackle Marcus Allen when he gets the ball.

Posted by: AllDCSports | February 1, 2011 9:05 AM | Report abuse

@AllDCSports: he did not. Apparently. And then Jack Squirek became momentarily famous.

Posted by: info_stuporhighway | February 1, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

NOW he tells us. I was at that game with a friend. Spent darn-near our last dime on tickets, only had enough money left for ONE beer. After it was gone I sat there among mostly Raiders fans, suffering. That run my Allen just before halftime was unbearable. It was a long bus ride back to DC.

Posted by: TerpInTime | February 1, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

This is new? Gibbs said this years ago.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | February 1, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Gibbs said many times that he learned his lessons from the experience. He obviously prepared his teams differently in the next two experiences because his teams blew the doors off of their oppenents from Denver and Buffalo.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | February 1, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I do agree with what Gibbs said about the toughest loss. As a fan I remember that day and will never forget the feeling. We had the BEST team in the NFL that year and had a chance to go down in history as a dynasty but that loss eliminated all of that.

Posted by: jerod1 | February 1, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure the Redskins over-partied prior to the game and it hurt them as Gibbs states. That was a much better and more dominant team than the one that won the SB the previous year, they demoralized teams that year. The Raiders played over their head that day and were either more diligent and got the rest they needed, unlike the Redskins, or they had some undisclosed advantage such as a supplement of some kind(or both), substance abuses were not tracked well in those days and Al Davis is very well known for crossing lines that Joe Gibbs would never consider. One thing for sure, the Raiders looked a step ahead of the Redskins everywhere on the field that day. We will never know. The Raiders were a great team that year but certainly not better than that Redskins team. The Redskins likely would have won 4 of 5 games played between those teams but not on that day. Hail Redskins!

Posted by: hotwirehenry | February 1, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Gibbs is the best coach we ever had in Washington. Another few years the 2nd time around and there is no doubt the Redskins would have went to the top. That is the Gibbs way.

Posted by: onealethia | February 1, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse


This is an old saw redskins fans like myself have brought up, before closely studying the facts and we were wrong.

#1: We would not beat them 4 times out of 5 and we weren't substantially better than them, in fact we might not have been better at all. In a meeting earlier that year at RFK the Redskins needed a late TD to pull out a comeback 37-35 win against a raiders team that was missing Marcus Allen and Haynes (who with Hayes, shut down our passing game), and had an injured Branch playing. In the Super Bowl the Raiders were largly healthy. And it showed.

#2: We had a horrible pass defense that year. Everyone and their mother exploited it, we gave up a ton of points many times.

#3: Riggo was slowing down. Mosely was playing worse and worse.

#4: The Raiders matched up very well with us.

#5: In agreement with your point, I will say that this game encapsulated Bill Simmons Achilles Heel, and Rabbits Foot concepts to a T, as well as his Level VI and Level V ways of losing (both involve, "What the??? looks on one's face, exactly what all of us had that day): Essentially every single thing that could go wrong, in terms of a bad play, did that day:

1. Blocked Punt returned for a TD-Check

2. Blocked Extra Point or Field Goal: Check

3. Pick 6 given up on pointless play right before half that the cardinals would duplicate 25 years later: Check

4. Crazy demoralizing miracle TD run that should have resulted in a great defensive play but was the opposite: Check (and of course its a momentum play as one play before the redskins went for it on 4th and 1 while driving and were stuffed)

5. Blown opportunities on acquired turnovers: Check

The Only thing missing was a LT style strip sack, resulting fumble returned for a TD.

I guess the Raiders decided to pass on that out of pity.

I don't believe we normally would have been crushed like that in a typical meeting. It was the penultimate "everything that could go wrong, went wrong" game. That being said, they did match up well with us, and it was always going to be at best a 50/50 or 55/45 proposition.

Also disagree on Gibbs idea about being too loose. If there was a problem, maybe it was we didnt behave in keeping with our identity. The Raiders in 80 were crazy loose, the Eagles were all business, and the Eagles got stomped. Vermeil took that as a lesson and made sure his '99 Rams were loose.

Max Mcgee, Joe Namath, all the Raiders winners, the '85 Bears, the Cowboy teams in the 90's etc, all these guys had fun, were loose and handled business. It's not a seriousness-loose thing, maybe its just a team identity thing. I just don't see the correlation, and just dont see it as a valid explanation.

Posted by: graywolfe81 | February 1, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Sad we have to go back 27 years to get news of a winning Redskins team!!!!!!!!

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 1, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

That was the only SB I ever went to. What isn't usually mentioned is that the wind was ferocious that day and Thiesman's arm wasn't really strong enough to pass effectively in it. Flores put everyone including his sister-in-law in the box to control Riggins and made Theisman beat him deep, he couldn't. As far as Gibbs' mistakes, do the phrase "Rocket Screen" ring a familiar note?

Posted by: giscone | February 1, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

One of my first Redskins memories. I cried that night.

Posted by: Barno1 | February 1, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I forgot about the wind, that's a good point.

Posted by: graywolfe81 | February 1, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

The Redskins offense basically was "lay back and take away the downfield passes and we will pound you to death or press us to take away the run and we will throw over the top and blow by you". On that day we were pressed as the Raiders had 2 great corners and that wind kept knocking down our over the top throws. That team was a machine. I still think I would take the 91 team but the 83 team was dominate. That game probably made Joe Gibbs what he was because his teams were never unprepared again.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | February 1, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

The Skins threw the "Rocket Screen" to Joe Washington in the Raiders game earlier in the year and he went for about a 70 yard score.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | February 1, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I admit I am biased. St. Joe, the greatest NFL coach ever.

Posted by: burbworks | February 1, 2011 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Joe Washington was held by Lyle Alzado on Rocket Screen Right before half time. Calling it might have changed the game although I doubt it.

Posted by: dzins69 | February 2, 2011 12:13 AM | Report abuse

I always thought the Skins lost to the Raiders in 84 SB because they COMPLETELY opened their playbook to beat them at RFK during 83 regular season. Now, Raiders knew everything that was coming - as some Raiders mentioned after the game.

Maybe winning was so important for homefield playoff advantage and/or winning the NFC East.

Skins trailed 35-20 with 7:02 left in game.

A very exciting comeback 37-35 win with 6 seconds left in game! Half of RFK sounded like a FULL RFK!

But, I would have gladly taken the RFK loss and a SB win!

Posted by: artsnsportz | February 2, 2011 6:24 AM | Report abuse

Nice to see the smart posts this morning. Thanks graywolfe81. Completely agree. I also seem to remember George Starke with at least one (but probably two) key holding penalties. That was the last time we saw him in a Redskins uniform.

Posted by: Overtime58 | February 2, 2011 9:10 AM | Report abuse


I agree with some of your analysis but I strongly disagree with your statement that the Redskins in the 83 season may not have been better than the Raiders. Riggo was not "slowing down" that season. He set an NFL record for touchdowns that year and was an All-Pro. He ran for over 1300 yards that year. Also Moseley wasn't really "getting worse and worse". He was the MVP of the league the year before and in 1983 he set what was then an NFL record for scoring, although admittedly his accuracy was down from the year before.

The Redskins set a then NFL record for points in 1983 and if Gibbs had a "run up the score" mentality like Belichick that record would still stand. That team demolished virtually every team it played and lost two games by a total of two points before the Super Bowl! Theismann was NFL MVP that year too. I believe that team may have been the best Redskins team ever although I certainly wouldn't argue with anyone who believes the 91 team was better.

Unfortunately none of this really matters. The Skins got throttled in the Super Bowl. I will always believe though that they would have won 80% of the time if they played the Raiders ten times. We'll never know though.

Posted by: mypasswordistaco | February 2, 2011 1:41 PM | Report abuse

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