ASHBURN, VA. — ASHBURN, Va. -- Joe Gibbs and Jay Schroeder seem to be living proof that time does heal all wounds.
Five years ago, the coach and the quarterback of the Washington Redskins were locked in a personality conflict that was the stuff of soap opera.
"I got more stubborn and he got more stubborn, and the only way to resolve that was to get one of us to go and it certainly wasn't going to be him," Schroeder said yesterday.
Schroeder, who had raised sulking virtually to an art form when Gibbs benched him twice during the 1987 season and then demoted him to third string before the final preseason game in 1988, was traded on the eve of the 1988 opener to the Los Angeles Raiders.
Schroeder, who bruised his shoulder last week but said he'll be ** ready to play, will return to RFK Stadium tomorrow for the first time since that trade when the Raiders close out their season against the Redskins.
But the Schroeder who's coming back doesn't sound like the bitter, defiant man who left more than four years ago.
"I look forward to coming back there and playing," he said. "I have a lot of very good memories playing in that stadium. It'll be fun to go back there and play."
Gibbs, meanwhile, speaks fondly of Schroeder's days with the Redskins.
"Jay did a lot for us," he said. "He took us to a championship game and everything. This is where he started his career. We owe a lot to him."
They certainly did during that memorable Monday night game Nov. 18, 1985, when Joe Theismann's career was ended early in the second quarter when Lawrence Taylor's tackle broke his leg.
Theismann, the only starting quarterback in Gibbs' first five years, had taken the team to two Super Bowls. Gibbs stuck with Theismann even after he began showing signs at age 36 of losing it.
With Theismann out, Gibbs had no choice but to try the untested Schroeder. When you ask Schroeder his best memory in Washington, he mentions that first night.
"That's something I'm never going to forget," he said.
On his second play, he threw a long pass to Art Monk.
"It was one of those ooh-and-aah balls. It goes up in the air and everybody goes ooh and then when he finally made the great catch, everybody went aah and got behind you," Schroeder said.
The Redskins went on to beat the New York Giants, 23-21, and Schroeder led them to a 4-1 finish and a 14-5 mark that included a trip to the NFC title game the next season before they lost for the third time to the Giants, 17-0.
After a fast start like that, Schroeder seemed destined to be the team's quarterback for the next decade, but what happened next was a matter of much debate.
"It's rare that somebody has that kind of success [early] and then it kind of falls apart," Gibbs said.
How and why it fell apart is something that Gibbs and Schroeder will never agree on, but they've decided to put it behind them.
Schroeder hurt his shoulder in the 1987 opener and later was benched twice, but still started all but two regular-season games. Doug Williams started those two and lost both. After Schroeder's second benching in the final regular-season game, Williams took the team to the Super Bowl.
Schroeder said: "I played most of that season. That's kind of got lost in the shuffle."
It's now remembered as Williams' year.
Schroeder viewed his benching as unfair and sulked openly. Gibbs saw Schroeder's play as inconsistent.
Meanwhile, the Schroeder-Williams relationship wasn't good, either.
Williams later said he played the whole second half of the 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl on a bad knee to keep Schroeder off the field.
If Schroeder had been more patient, he still could have been the team's quarterback of the future. Williams was 33 and had bad knees. He was destined to play only two more years. Schroeder was then 27 and had time on his side.
But Schroeder didn't get over the bitterness about his benching.
was just a conflict of interest. There were two stubborn people trying to battle it out, myself and Coach Gibbs," Schroeder said.
Schroeder got himself traded to the Raiders in a deal that worked out better for the Redskins than it did for Schroeder. The Redskins got offensive tackle Jim Lachey and went back to the Super Bowl last year.
Schroeder wound up on a losing team and has been benched on occasion. He was benched for the final two games last year and when the team started out 0-2 this year, it didn't matter that he had passed for 385 yards in the second game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He got the hook for young Todd Marinovich a second time.
Now, though, Schroeder takes it all in stride. "At the time, we were 0-2 and they needed someway, somehow to try to find a way to win football games," he said.
Why does Schroeder accept his fate now?
"You kind of grow up a little bit. It's just a matter of maturity and time," he said.
When he was benched, he told coach Art Shell, "Whenever you need me back, I'm going to be ready."
Marinovich lasted seven games before he got the hook (he's now third string behind Vince Evans) and Schroeder got the job back.
Schroeder can handle the ups and downs now.
"I'm not going to let this game kill me mentally and physically. I'm not going to let it cause me to have an ulcer and a heart attack, so I just roll with it and when it comes time to play, I play hard. As far as making it a life-and-death situation, I want to win every game, but when it's over, it's over," he said.
Schroeder also said he has no regrets about the way things worked out in Washington.
"I enjoyed my time there," he said. "It was just a situation where I had to move on and go with what I thought was right."
He said if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't change a thing.
Gibbs said: "He got a new fresh lease on life. He's starting out there. It's back where his parents live. It's worked out great for him."
Not exactly. Schroeder's never fulfilled that early promise and now he's mired on a team in turmoil. Even Schroeder said the offense has been "very inconsistent."
"It seems like we can't put a total game together. It's just a mystery. There's no explanation for it. It's just something that happens," he said.
He said the 6-9 Raiders, two-touchdown underdogs, won't just play out the string against the Redskins.
"Any time you have as much turmoil as we went through on and off the field and everything else, you'd like to finish on a positive note," he said.
The last time he left RFK, it wasn't on a positive note, but that now seems a long time ago.