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A 'Second Coming' for Gibbs

Doug Williams is happy to see coach back with Redskins, but he's on the Buccaneers' side now.

September 12, 2004|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

LANDOVER, Md. — Doug Williams has a lot of love and respect for Joe Gibbs. It was Gibbs, after all, who helped transform Williams from a discarded Tampa Bay quarterback into a Washington Redskin star and a Super Bowl legend.

So when Gibbs makes his return to coaching today, facing the franchise that once gave Williams the boot, his old quarterback will be there too -- pulling for the Buccaneers all the way.

"I've got a lot of admiration for Joe, for the opportunity that he gave me, and for what he's done in his career," said Williams, now a Buccaneer personnel executive. "But at the same time, I've also got a lot of admiration for what Jon Gruden has done and what he's meant to me. I've known him since he was about 15. So we've both got long relationships and I just happen to be working on the side of Jon Gruden."

The return of Gibbs was the biggest story in the NFL this off-season and a huge story in Washington. He retired 11 years ago after three Super Bowl victories and focused his efforts on building a successful car-racing team. His return, replacing Steve Spurrier, has been treated, Williams said, "like the second coming of Moses."

Gibbs recently told reporters he isn't entirely comfortable being at the center of this storm. "I've been embarrassed a little bit by all the attention," he said. "But the good thing about sports, that quickly goes away if you don't do well. So I'm going to get mine pretty quick, I would imagine."

Tampa Bay has beaten the Redskins in five of the last seven meetings, including a 14-13 victory in a 1999 divisional playoff game.

Both teams are hoping to change their fortunes. The Redskins are coming off a 5-11 season and have spent a lot of money adding players such as quarterback Mark Brunell and running back Clinton Portis to improve their 29th-ranked offense. Owner Dan Snyder has invested an NFL-record $110 million in assembling the current roster.

Tampa Bay, less than two years removed from winning the Super Bowl, signed 26 free agents in the off-season, among them 12 who are 30 years or older. On the roster are several former Oakland Raiders -- receiver Tim Brown, running back Charlie Garner, tackle Matt Stinchcomb and tight end Rickey Dudley -- and Gruden, who coached the Raiders to the Super Bowl in the 2002 season, this year added former Oakland executive Bruce Allen as general manager.

It was Allen -- son of the Redskins' late Hall of Fame coach George Allen -- who brought Williams on board in Tampa. Williams used to play for the Buccaneers when Gruden's father, Jim, coached their running backs. Williams later played for the Redskins and was the star of Super Bowl XXII, a 42-10 victory over Denver.

Returning to Washington is nostalgic for Williams, who still gets the royal treatment from Redskin fans.

"It's a throwback," he said. "I've been there twice this season for preseason games, and it gives you chill bumps to walk through the crowd and people say, 'Doug Williams we still love you!' And you look in the stands and see No. 17 with Williams on the back. That's a great feeling."

No matter who's signing your checks.

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