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In Second Stint, Gibbs Restored Respect

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On Dec. 14, 2003, the Dallas Cowboys paid a visit to FedExField.

They would basically proceed as if they owned the very facility, trouncing the Redskins 27-0 in something of a mismatch.

In that mid-December game five years, Cowboys running back Troy Hambrick rushed for 189 yards, third most in franchise history. He met very little opposition from a Redskin team that was ousted from playoff contention painfully early.

It was the low point for a 2003 Redskin that sunk to just about the far reaches of the NFL map.

The Redskins-Cowboys "rivalry" had become anything but a rivalry. Dallas had become dominant, winning 12 of the previous 13 contests.

In essence, that was the state of the franchise when Joe Gibbs returned to the Redskins for his second stint.

In the past four years, Gibbs was not successful in helping the Redskins return to the Super Bowl or even deep into the playoffs.

But he was successful in regaining for the franchise a measure of respect, something that was missing when he took over in 2004.

Gibbs' Redskins teams made the postseason in 2005 and 2007. Even more significantly, the Redskins once again play the game as aggressively as any team in the NFC East and Washington-Dallas is once again a bona fide rivalry.

Gibbs, who stepped down as Redskins head coach on Tuesday, called his time in Washington, "15 years at the greatest job in the world."

"I've always been treated better than I deserved in Washington," maintained Gibbs. He added: "I hope my heart comes across when I talk about the Redskins, this city and our fans."

As he stepped down a second time, Gibbs said he felt confident that the franchise was headed in a positive direction.

"I don't want to go out and try to paint a picture here that is going to get the next coach in trouble, but I definitely feel like we have the things in place here to do what we want to do," he said.

"I talked about some of the mistakes that I made. I think we learned from those mistakes. As a group, we crafted a plan. We said this is what we need to do. We turned it around.

"And I felt like last year--sometimes in life you make big comebacks and I think we did that. I think we have a lot of the pieces in place."

Once before, Gibbs resurrected this franchise, winning three Super Bowls in four tries between 1981 and 1992. Even if he couldn't duplicate that feat in the current NFL climate, he once again lifted the Redskins into a position of prominence league-wide.

It's always the case that Redskins seasons are measured, at least in part, on head-to-head meetings versus Dallas.

Gibbs restored the rivalry to the point where it's now an even fight again. Overall, he went 4-4 in his eight games versus Dallas the last four years, but he won four of the last six in the series.

If he did nothing else in his second tenure with the Redskins, Gibbs at least made Washington-Dallas games meaningful again.

After the Redskins beat up on Dallas 27-6 on Week 17 at FedExField, Gibbs took a long look at the stadium and the fans before departing.

At the time, he wasn't sure if it was his last Redskins-Cowboys game as head coach.

But he could rest assured that the rivalry once again had meaning. And that's a vital part of his coaching legacy.

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