To: Joe Gibbs
Subject: Your team, and you
Because you seem comfortable with memos of late, I thought it useful to borrow that format for the helpful advice always available here after that annual anguish known as the season opener.
Perhaps you should phone the New Orleans Saints offices this morning and ask for Bum Phillips. When he comes on the line, you might urge him to search the premises for George Rogers' hands. They did not seem to be included in the trade.
Also, next year con the players into thinking that the third game of the preseason is really the regular-season opener. That way, you can win by losing. Get those first-game blahs out of the way before the first game.
After the Debacle in Dallas, Dave Butz sounded disappointed that the Redskins had won all four exhibitions this year.
"A little bit of false confidence," he said. "For us to win, we've got to scrap on every down. It's not that way yet. Myself, I haven't got that way yet. But I will try."
I was sad to see the memo you distributed to several newspapers about the letter that appeared in the Dallas Cowboy version of Pravda, their weekly newspaper, for it suggests misplaced priorities and a touch of paranoia that could be quite damaging as the season progresses.
The letter was from a "Mr. Tom Whidby" of "Vienna, Va." and alleged that Joe Theismann badmouthed the Cowboys at the opening of a new restaurant earlier in the summer.
This Whidby fellow quotes Theismann as saying: "You could see in their eyes that they were choking (during the Redskins' come-from-behind victory last season in Dallas)--and they did. . . .
"I don't mind getting hit by Randy White. When he tackles you, he rolls off you instead of driving you into the ground like others do. . . .
"(Coach Tom) Landry said the Cowboys would finish fourth in the Eastern Divison. He's right. I'll go one step further and say that they'll finish fifth--behind the Eagles. . . . "
Sounds like a setup. A familiar setup. Sounds to me as though the person who sent a wreath to Harvey Martin, from Washington, suggesting the Cowboys were "dead" before the '79 game in Dallas has struck again.
This "Mr. Whidby" succeeded beyond his wildest imagination. He wanted to rile White and the other Cowboys, a feat Theismann is more than capable of doing with his mouth taped shut.
The letter distracted you, coach, in a way similar to how George Allen used to get one of your former bosses, Don Coryell, on edge.
Any sort of suspicious-looking character, Redskins' spy or not, would drive Coryell up a wall in St. Louis. Former Cardinals quarterback Jim Hart has talked about it at length.
Yours seemed a Coryell-like reaction. Hell, Theismann hot-dogging it in the end zone in the final moments of the 9-5 Redskins' victory in Washington in '78 surely rankles White more than any bile this Whidby character concocts.
Your memo was well-researched and logical, pointing out that "official police records can find no such Mr. Tom Whidby residing in Vienna, Va., or the D.C. metropolitan area."
It also was a monumental waste of time.
You defended the memo by saying: "I didn't think it (the Cowboys Weekly use of the letter) was right. No one on the team even knew about it. I was the only one who knew anything about it."
Unfortunately, some around you have noticed a pattern of snappishness and uncommon rigidity of late. Calling a meeting, for instance, the night before the game, then starting it a few minutes early and shutting the door on some players who actually arrived on time.
They hope it was the pressures of Dallas Week, and that you will resume the sort of calm and confident behavior that turned an 0-5 start to 8-8 your first season with the Redskins.
To paraphrase your fullback: loosen up, Joe, baby.
I wouldn't get too upset over Theismann's performance, a stunning contrast to a brilliant preseason. He was awful, of course, with five interceptions and another stupid pass a startled Victor Scott dropped with nobody between him and the end zone.
It was one of those games when Theismann could do little right and every Cowboy could do little wrong. Had he passed the salt during your pregame meal, Everson Walls likely would have dashed in and grabbed it.
"I still want Joe behind me," guard Russ Grimm insisted.
The crowd in Dallas was uncommonly loud, to the point, Butz said, where Redskins linemen could not hear stunt calls.
Fans usually have enough sense to stay quiet when their offense is on the field, to keep communication from the quarterback to his distant receivers as uncluttered as possible.
Normally, such screaming would have hampered Cowboys attackers more than Redskins defenders. Last Monday was no normal night. Once, one the slowest players in football, Mike Renfro, outmaneuvered one of the fastest, Darrell Green, to catch a pass that floated as though a parachute were attached.
You said after the game: "We can't put more emphasis (on the opener) than we did. We tried to do lots of different things in camp to do better. And this is what happens."
Much was made of Theismann losing on his 36th birthday. Well, the Redskins suffered their second straight loss the day after his 35th birthday--and won the NFC East; they lost four days before his 34th birthday--and made the Super Bowl.
Theismann also has thrown four interceptions in a game four times, yet he has the lowest career interception percentage in Redskin history--by a lot. So worry, coach, but do not panic. You reminded the players and fans that it's a long season, that 15 games remain before the playoffs. Keep that in mind yourself.