You truly never know who you’ll find on Radio Row at the Super Bowl.
Over the last three days of working with the NFL public relations department, I’ve made it my mission to find any and all Redskins players, media, fans and exhibits. It’s been sparse at best, but today a legend finally showed up.
I spotted Coach Gibbs sitting with the midday hosts on “The Fan,” talking about his brand new book Game Plan: Your Personal Playbook For Success For Life, and of course reminiscing yesteryear along with NBC-4’s Jim Vance:
Coach Gibbs was only in town for today and was busy running the media circuit as one of the winning-est championship coaches of all time. But in between interview stops, he was kind enough to stop and share some of his Super Bowl memories, particularly of the 20th-anniversary 1991 Redskins squad.
“I have so many memories,” he said with a chuckle. “So many good memories. I remember John Madden was down at the practices that day, and I told him ‘Man, I gotta cut this thing short, or else they’re just gonna kill each other out there.'”
Gibbs attributed the intensity and ferocity of that team to a bond of trust that was forged between the offense and defense. As a coach that built his reputation on creating a united team culture, the 1991 squad was his final masterpiece.
“I feel like that group was really a close-knit group,” he explained. “The defense really did a great job, because Buffalo ran mostly from the no-huddle, and all of the complications that go along with that. The defensive staff prepared them well and the defense played great, so it was a great day.”
The Super Bowl has the reputation as one of the world’s largest productions; a single exhibition preceded by two weeks of partying and hoopla. In order to combat the obvious distractions of the Super Bowl week, Gibbs kept his team focused by letting them have their fun, and then buckling down for work.
“I think what we tried to do is to lay out a two-week plan with our players, and say, ‘Look, that first week, get all of the ticket stuff done. Get all of your shoe deals out of the way, all of the friends that are going to come with you–get all of that ironed out in advance.'”
After allowing for his players to enjoy the ‘bye week’ in Washington, it was back to business as usual once the team flew out to the host city.
“I asked them when we got to the site, ‘Just make sure that the time we have as far as practice and meetings, you really can concentrate and spend your time on football. Enjoy it, but we really need to be seriously preparing for this thing like we normally do.”
Gibbs and his coaching staff worked meticulously to prepare the teams in the same way that they had prepared for each of the regular season and playoff games. After going 14-2 in the 1991 regular season, clearly it was a formula that worked.
Then, as the countdown to kickoff clock hit 24 hours, Gibbs would pack his team up on the bus and drive them out of the city. Even in icy, frozen Minneapolis.
“We moved the team the night before, to a place that was 50 minutes outside of town,” he said with a grin. “I remember the players asking, ‘Where are we going?’
“The snow was piled up 10-feet high, but the nice thing about being out there was that it was totally isolated. We went out there in the evening, so the nice thing was the players could finally get some good sleep. I remember I got 12 hours.”
With a unified front and a good night’s sleep, the Redskins put the final touches on a magical season, beating the Bills, 37-24.
That team and that season will go down as the standard for Redskins football, and a goal that all future teams must aspire to. And for those of us that were around to remember it, the magic still lives on.