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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / A case can be made for Joe Gibbs as the Greatest Coach in NFL history

A case can be made for Joe Gibbs as the Greatest Coach in NFL history

Publish Date: 12/31/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis


Many great coaches have played a role in the Super Bowl era, including Chuck Noll and Don Shula, Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Bill Belichick and Bill Walsh. These men have all created dynasties, resulting in multiple Super Bowl wins and countless Hall of Famers.

Joe Gibbs led the Super Bowl with just as many teams. Bill Belichick and Chuck Noll are the only Super Bowl coaches with more titles.

Gibbs’s path is what separates him from all the rest.

Even if you don’t think he is the best coach, at the very least, you will understand that he was different from his peers.

The Difference?

One thing unites all the Super Bowl-winning coaches: They had the fortune to have a franchise quarterback guide them through their victories.

Every coach I mentioned had a quarterback either in the Hall of Fame or one that will soon be.

Vince Lombardi chose Bart Starr to be his field general. Terry Bradshaw was Noll’s field general. Shula had Griese. Landry had Roger Staubach. Walsh had Montana. And Belichick has a guy called Tom Brady, with whom some of you might be familiar.

History has proven that no matter how great a coach is, you still need a great quarterback to win championships.

Joe Gibbs differed from these great coaches because he didn’t have a marquee QB. Three different quarterbacks won him three Super Bowls. Only Bill Parcells won two Super Bowls with different quarterbacks.

Video: 1982 to 1991 Redskins Dynasty Highlights

1982 to 1991 Redskins Dynasty Highlights

Although I love Joe Theismann and Doug Williams, I must admit that I don’t think any of them will make it to the Hall of Fame. Even Theismann, who led Redskins in back-to-back Super Bowls, is unlikely to make it. He played in only seven seasons, and only three or four of those were at the pro bowl level.

This alone is enough to set Gibbs apart from his contemporaries. There’s more.

Video: Joe Theismann Battles to Become Redskins Starting Quarterback | A Football Life

Joe Theismann Battles to Become Redskins Starting Quarterback | A Football Life

It is possible to bring up the point that Starr and Bradshaw were game managers, but the running games propelled their teams towards greatness. That’s not true, though, as Bradshaw played his best in the second half of all four of his Super Bowls, throwing a TD pass in the fourth quarter of every game; he played on the biggest stage.

The Packers and Dolphins had Hall of Fame running backs to carry it.

Gibbs was again successful with three running backs in different Super Bowls.

John Riggins, a Hall of Fame running back and two Super Bowl Redskins teams, is unquestionably a Hall of Fame back. He retired from the NFL in 1985.

Gibbs built on his relationship with Riggins through clever drafting and great line play. Many NFL players are considered past their prime. Earnest Byner, the starting running back for the 1991/92 championship teams, was a great running back. He was labelled a fumbler and hounded out of Cleveland. His untimely fumble cost them a Super Bowl spot against (guess what) the Redskins. That lost fumble against Denver in the 1987 AFC Championship game would have ended many running backs’ careers.

The most impressive Super Bowl rushing performance was by Timmy Smith, who ran for 204 yards that day, breaking the record held by Franco Harris, Larry Csonka and John Riggins. After his Super Bowl victory, Smith was quickly forgotten.

Video: Joe Gibbs: A Football Life Extended Trailer | NFL Films

Joe Gibbs: A Football Life Extended Trailer | NFL Films

Many great old dynasties had outstanding receivers who helped them win their championships. Although the Redskins had a great receiving corps, Art Monk was the only one to make it into the Hall of Fame. This happened after years of being overlooked.

The Redskins actually have the lowest number of Hall of Fame inductees of all the teams and coaches I’ve mentioned. Only three of their Super Bowl-winning players are in the Hall. Art Monk and Darryl Green were the two who finally made it in, but they both got out last year. It was previously one (Riggo).

One final piece of evidence is what I want you to think about. Two strike-shortened Super Bowl seasons have occurred in the NFL’s history. Gibbs’ Redskins won both Super Bowls. Some may argue that Gibbs’ job was easier because of the strikes. I disagree.

Although the 1982 team only played nine regular-season games, the NFL increased the number of playoff teams to allow for more. The top-seed Redskins were forced to play four playoff games. A top seed normally only plays in three games, including the Super Bowl.

Four games were replaced by replacement players in 1987. Joe Gibbs guided these players into a cohesive unit, winning three of the four replacement games.

The 1987 Redskins were the only team not to have any player cross the picket lines before the strike was over. The Redskins were faced with more legitimate NFL players in the last weeks of the replacement season, and they still won.

Video: Doug Williams & Joe Gibbs: Quarterbacking History

Doug Williams & Joe Gibbs: Quarterbacking History

This was evident most during the final week of the strike. The Redskins were faced with a Dallas side that featured 11 players, including Tony Dorsett. In what must be one of the most remarkable upsets in sports history, the Redskins won the game.

Joe Gibbs was a coach who coached his teams to four Super Bowls in his time. In league history, Gibbs was the only coach to have had a different starting quarterback, running back, or leading receiver for each of his Super Bowl wins.

Gibbs is the only coach to win three Super Bowls without his team being considered a dynasty. This is a good thing. It is clear that the Redskins were not a dynasty. The length can see this of the Super Bowls and the personnel changes between them.

This is the main point.

Joe Gibbs created three championships with three different teams of players. What does each of these teams share in common?

Joe Gibbs is the answer.

Joe Gibbs is the Super Bowl’s greatest coach.

Joe Gibbs is the most resilient coach ever in the Super Bowl era.



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