WASHINGTON (AP) When Joe Gibbs announced his return to the Washington Redskins, Bill Parcells sent a congratulatory fax.
"It said something like 'Does this mean we can't talk for the next five years?"' Gibbs said.
Gibbs didn't bother to send a reply. It was his way of giving the obvious answer.
"Yeah," Gibbs said, recalling his thoughts upon seeing the message. "We'll wind up hating each other again."
Yes, the old adversaries are back at it, a pair of 63-year-old workaholics who just couldn't leave well enough alone despite five Super Bowl titles
between them. They have spent this week plotting for their first meeting in 14 years, when the Washington Redskins (1-1) host the Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
on Monday night.
"If you're a fan, what you want to see is a big game, where a lot's on the line, and there's a lot of history behind it," Gibbs said. "And certainly
this game has all that."
Gibbs isn't know for his hyperbole, but he's got this one pegged. Cowboys-Redskins alone usually makes for a big game, but how can anyone not be
excited about a new chapter in a coaching rivalry that produced classic chess matches between Gibbs' Redskins and Parcells' Giants from 1983-90?
"Anybody who's been in football knows how I feel about this guy," Parcells said. "I think he's outstanding. I like him personally. I think he's one of
the great coaches that ever coached the game."
Parcells, who ended his second NFL retirement a year ago, is second among active coaches with 160 victories. Gibbs, who spent 11 seasons away in
NASCAR until the Redskins lured him back in January, is fifth with 141.
But when they went head-to-head two decades ago, Parcells usually prevailed, winning 11 of 17 games, including the last six. No wonder, when asked
whether he was looking forward to facing his old foe, Gibbs quickly answered: "No."
"You don't want to go up against somebody that you consider is real good," Gibbs said. "I'd say he's definitely done the best job when I coach a team
and he coaches a team, so hopefully we can find a way to overcome that."
Parcells responded by saying most of the games were close, and that he isn't exactly rubbing his hands with glee over facing Gibbs.
"I feel the same way - he's a very, very worthy opponent," Parcells said.
Gibbs has tried this week to deflect attention from the coaches to the players. If history is any indication, he has a point. Neither Gibbs nor
Parcells had anything to do with the defining moment of their 1980s matchups - the Monday night game on Nov. 18, 1985, when Joe Theismann's leg was
broken on a sack by Lawrence Taylor.
Gibbs spent the next few seasons shuffling quarterbacks, while Phil Simms kept plugging along for the Giants. Gibbs won just one non-strike game
against Parcells after Theismann's injury, prevailing only during the Redskins' 1987 run to the Super Bowl title.
"Tremendous rivalry," Parcells said. "It was just such a good division at the time. Both teams were very talented with Hall of Fame players."
Gibbs rarely socialized with opposing coaches, and Parcells was no exception. Although the coaches' philosophies and meticulous work patterns are
similar, Gibbs' soft-spoken humbleness doesn't mesh at all with Parcells' entertaining prickliness. The pair's one lengthy interaction came when they
played a round of golf a few years ago, when both were out of the NFL.
"When we saw each other when we weren't coaching, we were very friendly," Parcells said. "It's just like having a lot of respect for the enemy. Now
he's not my enemy, he's a friend, but he happens to be my enemy on (Monday), and I'm sure he feels the same way."
While all the attention is on the coaches, there are some potentially major subplots that could determine the winner Monday night.
The Redskins are expected to start Patrick Ramsey at quarterback because Mark Brunell is hurt, and three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington is
out with a knee injury. The Cowboys have lost rookie running back Julius Jones to a shoulder injury, so 40-year-old Vinny Testaverde should have a
The Cowboys have won 12 of the last 13 meetings, a source of frustration for Redskins owner Dan Snyder. But Gibbs-Parcells is overshadowing the usual
comparisons between hands-on owners Snyder and Jerry Jones.
Both teams have playoff aspirations, but both also show signs of major problems. Or, as Parcells told his team this week: "There's a heck of a
difference between a good team and what we are right now."
In other words, it might be a stretch to expect another Gibbs-Parcells classic. These coaches need more time with their teams before they can mold
them into perennial contenders, as they did all those years ago.
"This is a different time. It's a different place. It's a different cast of characters. It's not the same. It'll never be the same," Parcells said.
"It's a new generation. It's a new stadium. It's a new everything. You can't try and make it the same."