When Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells were part of a 2004 marquee Redskins-Cowboys game on Monday Night Football, the matchup was hyped as two long-time coaching rivals doing battle on the gridiron once again.
That game, it turned out, was inconsequential, as both teams went on to finish 6-10.
This Sunday, it's a whole new ballgame.
The Redskins and Cowboys meet at FedExField with a whole lot more on the line than two coaching legends competing against each other. Both teams still harbor playoff hopes--the Redskins at 7-6 and the Cowboys at 8-5--and a win on Sunday should go a long way toward keeping those hopes alive. A loss? It makes the road a lot harder.
Still, when Gibbs and Parcells meet, it is a renewal of two coaching legends. On Sunday, their coaching maneuvers will be scrutinized, just as any on-field matchup will be scrutinized.
Gibbs is 7-13 against Parcells-coached teams, with the bulk of those games coming in the 1980s during Gibbs' first stint with the Redskins. Parcells coached the New York Giants at that time and won six consecutive games against Gibbs's Redskins from 1988-90.
Gibbs is 1-2 against Parcells since his return to the coaching sidelines in 2004, with the win coming in Week 2 earlier this year. In dramatic fashion, the Redskins came back from a 13-0 deficit late in the fourth quarter to win 14-13.
Their comments this week about the impending game reveal how different both men are when it comes to coaching in a football game.
Gibbs admitted that he gets so nervous before and during games that he sometimes feels sick. He occasionally reminds himself to stay calm in the heat of battle. He has famously turned to prayer during key moments in games.
"I get nervous for our players, our owner, our coaching staff and everybody here," Gibbs said. "It all means so much for them. When you come back to coach, one of the things you come to realize is, 'Well I have this opportunity, if I do it, I do it.' But that's not the case. You come to realize that everybody is depending on you. That's the feeling I get. You want to play great for the fans."
"Bill probably loves these types of games more than I do. It's kind of a scramble, as in, 'Why am I doing this?' I don't think I ever relax. I get more nervous and uptight about it."
Gibbs has always overcome his nerves by hard work and preparation.
"I just work and work and work, so I don't have a lot of time to think about it beings such a big game," Gibbs said. "I can feel it because I get nervous about it--that's my nature. You're working so hard that it takes your mind off it. You're not just sitting around waiting."
Parcells told Washington, D.C., reporters during a conference call on Wednesday that he maintains focus during big games.
"I'm a little bit of a 'Type A' personality, but while it's going on, I can keep a clear head," Parcells said. "It's after the games that I have problems. I don't know whether that's internalizing it or not. While the game is going on, it's competition, so you're more calculating to try to be on top of the game.
"When it's over and you're by yourself, that's when I don't sleep well--win or lose. I don't think many coaches do. No matter whether you win or lose, there are always about five or six things that happen in a game that are very upsetting to you, whether it be injuries, execution or dumb decisions that you made as a coach. If it's a dumb decision, you say to yourself, 'Why would you do that?' Those are the things that get me-the retrospective, second-guessing that you do with yourself."
Are big games like this Sunday's fun for Parcells?
"For sure," Parcells said. "That's why I'm still doing it. Win or lose, it's exciting. I've told my players a bunch of times that I hope when they are 64 years old, they'll have something that gets them as excited as this gets me. There's some grief that comes with the excitement, but I wish that all people could have something that's exciting."
What about Gibbs?
"I enjoy the camaraderie of everybody being together and putting a game plan together from a team standpoint. I think I enjoy all of the little personality things that happen in practice, the funny things that happen in practice. It's more of the team feeling I like, and being part of a team. The fact that it's so hard is a challenge, too. So there's a lot I do enjoy."