IRVING, Texas -- Joe Gibbs will envy his old rival Tom Landr just a bit tonight, even though Landry, the Dallas Cowboys coach for their first 29 years, won't be on the opposite sideline or even in Texas Stadium tonight.
Landry, who was fired by new owner Jerry Jones in 1989, doesn't go to Texas Stadium anymore, but he said he'll be watching on television tonight.
After all, the Dallas Cowboys will be playing the Washington Redskins on "Monday Night Football."
"These games . . ." Landry said. "I think the things you miss when you move out of football are these games."
Gibbs said: "I don't think anybody will miss this one. Monday night. The whole world watching against Dallas in Dallas. That's about as big as you get. Hopefully, we'll take our best shot," Gibbs said.
The memories add so much zest to this rivalry -- the Ken Houston tackle of Walt Garrison (1973), the Clint Longley game (1974), Joe Theismann holding the ball aloft as he ran out of the end zone after a 9-5 victory (1978), the Cowboys fans mocking Theismann by singing "Happy Birthday" to him after a 44-14 Dallas victory (1985).
The man who made the rivalry was the late Redskins coach George Allen, who made needling the Cowboys an art form. Things changed when Gibbs became coach. "He's such a nice guy, I could never even get mad at him," Landry said.
Gibbs, though, has had his problems with the Cowboys with or without Landry. He's only 12-11 against them and was the loser when Landry posted his last victory in a 3-13 season in 1988 and when Jimmy Johnson posted his first victory in a 1-15 season in 1989.
If you just glance at the two teams, you'd wonder why the Redskins are only favored by two points. The last time they played games that meant anything, the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI and the Cowboys were beaten by Erik Kramer and the Detroit Lions, who knocked them out of the playoffs, 38-6.
The Cowboys, though, have a knack of matching up well against the Redskins. They spoiled their bid for a perfect season last year.
Another factor that added some spice to the rivalry has been the arrival of Johnson as Cowboys coach. Johnson is brash and outspoken.
Johnson has said the Cowboys now have to take the "next step" (NFC title game or Super Bowl) after last year's 11-5 season.
Johnson isn't the only person on the Cowboys' bandwagon. Sports Illustrated last week not only picked the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl this year, but also named them as the likely Team of the '90s.
Gibbs also is likely to have a few wrinkles for the Cowboys on the field. The Cowboys are wondering whether he'll use the no-huddle offense, so maybe he'll cross them up and stress the running game.
Gibbs, though, has had trouble getting things to work against the Cowboys, and quarterback Mark Rypien hasn't had much success against them. He's never passed for more than 267 yards against the Cowboys and, in 1990, was knocked out for six weeks with a knee injury.
As Rypien put it: "As long as you don't bloody somebody's nose, they're going to get back up. We haven't put a good licking on them, and that's one thing we'd like to do."
NOTES The Redskins should have an edge in field-goal kicking, because the Cowboys are going with rookie free agent Len Elliott, while the Redskins have Chip Lohmiller, who kicked four long ones in Texas Stadium last year. . . . The Redskins, though, are concerned about long snapper John Brandes, because he's coming back from a knee injury. . . . The last time the Redskins were defending champions, they opened up on Monday night at a division rival (New York Giants). The Giants turned a blocked punt into a touchdown and went on to win, 27-20.
Site: Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas
Time: 9 p.m.
TV: Channels 13, 7
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTEM (570 AM)
Line: Redskins by 2
Last week: The Redskins were beaten by the Minnesota Vikings, 30-0, in their final exhibition game. The Cowboys lost to the Chicago Bears, 20-13.
Last meeting: The Redskins were 11-0 and shooting for a perfect season when the Cowboys upset them, 24-21, even though Troy Aikman was knocked out of the game. Michael Irvin burned Darrell Green, catching nine passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
The series: The Cowboys hold a 35-25-2 regular-season edge, although the Redskins have won both playoff games the teams have played. The Redskins have won seven out of the last 11 games and four of the past five at Texas Stadium, but the Cowboys have won four of the last seven.
On the sidelines: Joe Gibbs opens his 12th season as Redskins coach with a 130-57-0 record. Jimmy Johnson brings a 20-30 record into his fourth season as Cowboys coach.
What the Redskins have to do to win: Stop Emmitt Smith and Irvin. Smith has rushed for more than 100 yards against the Redskins for three straight games and is attempting to become the first running back to do it four straight games in the Gibbs era. Irvin just signed over the weekend so he's rusty, but the Cowboys will rush him into action to see if he can exploit Green the way he did last year.
What the Cowboys have to do to win: Contain Mark Rypien. He was still struggling last week after his holdout, getting intercepted three times by the Vikings. The Cowboys won't be surprised if Rypien tries to run the no-huddle against them because he had some success with it at the end of their second game last season. Rypien didn't have a big day in either game last year, passing for 203 and 212 yards.
Injury report: Redskins: TE John Brandes (knee) is probable. Cowboys: WR Jimmy Smith (leg), DE Tony Hill (hamstring) are out; G Melvin Evans (ankle), DT Tony Casillas (knee), RB Curvin Richards (kidney) are doubtful; DT Russell Maryland (foot) is questionable; S Darren Woodson (leg) is probable.
Outlook: The key question is which Redskins team is going to show up tonight? The one that went 1-4 in the exhibition season or the one that went 17-2 last year? If last year's team shows up, the Redskins should have the edge.