(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Marty Hurney interview log on to the following audio: Ep 28: A Conversation With Marty Hurney | The Eye Test for Two | Spreaker).
When talk gets around to the greatest NFL coaches of all time, you rarely hear Joe Gibbs’ name mentioned … and that’s a shame. Because you should.
He won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks – none of whom is on the Hall-of-Fame radar. So what? So tell me another head coach who did.
Yet, for some reason, Gibbs’ accomplishments with Washington – where he went to four Super Bowls in 10 years and was 154-94 (.621) during the regular season (including 124-60 in his first stint there) and 17-7 in the playoffs – don’t seem to resonate with people who put these all-time lists together.
I don’t get it.
Neither does former Carolina GM Marty Hurney, now vice president of football operations with the Washington football team. As a reporter for the Washington Times in the 1980s, Hurney covered Gibbs. Then, after the club hired him as its public-relations director, he worked with him.
So he saw him from inside and outside the huddle, and he saw enough to credit Gibbs as one of the game’s greats.
“Number one,” he said on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com,” (he was) just a natural leader. I mean, the way he would present himself in front of the team and the players ... he had command of that locker room every day.
“We always use words like ‘organized’ and ‘detailed,’ but he had a way to translate his message and bring that locker room together. There were a lot of different personalities in that locker room that he had to bring together as one, and he did it every day. He could laugh and joke around with people. But then when he needed to put the hammer down, he put the hammer down.”
Gibbs had to drop it his rookie season in Washington when, in 1981, the team lost its first five games. After then-team owner Jack Kent Cooke expressed confidence in him, saying the team would finish 8-8, Gibbs somehow pulled his players together to finish .500 – just as Cooke promised.
One year later, he won the first of his three Lombardi Trophies.
That was just the beginning. In his first 12 years with the club (1981-92), he had only one losing season (7-9 in 1988), qualified for the playoffs eight times and won five NFC East championships. He was also 16-5 in the playoffs and a two-time NFL Coach of the Year.
But it was more than winning games, titles and Super Bowls that made Gibbs no ordinary Joe. It was the impact he had on the game, Hurney said.
“I think the other thing that he really doesn’t get enough credit for,” he said, “is that he was such an innovative offensive-minded head coach. The one-back ... and utilizing his personnel ... and having the H-(back) with Clint Didier and the one-back with John Riggins.
“Everything he did offensively (like) utilizing the offensive line, the counter-trey … I mean, there were things that weren’t done at that time that now are phrases that are kinda used pretty regularly. But Joe Gibbs came up with all that stuff.”
Gibbs was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996, three years after stepping down from the Redskins (he returned in 2004 for four years). And he should have been. He was one of the best there was, a sentiment Hurney seconded.
“I think he was one of the most innovative offensive coaches of his time,” he said. “Couple that with just his leadership ability, and he’s one of the most special coaches in NFL history.”