By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 15, 2005
RICHMOND, May 14 -- Given the demands of a struggling NFL team, Joe Gibbs is an infrequent visitor to the NASCAR garage on race day, despite the fact that much of his life's savings and his children's inheritance is wrapped up in his three Nextel Cup teams.
But with Richmond International Raceway just a short hop from Redskins Park, Gibbs flew in for Saturday's Chevy American Revolution 400 to squire around his corporate sponsors and, ideally, boost the spirits of his flagging teams. In between, Gibbs joined Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer for a mid-afternoon news conference in which they professed their mutual admiration for each other, stock-car racing and football, the sport that has served as their respective calling cards.
Despite Gibbs's insistence that he felt "great," he looked drawn and haggard, his eyes shielded by dark glasses throughout the interview in a well-lit room. But the tone was classic Gibbs, marked by a self-deprecating wit and punctuated by squeals of laughter and moments of seriousness, in which he voiced resolve and confidence that he could get the fortunes of both the Redskins and his NASCAR teams turned around.
"I've been through some tough times," Gibbs said. "The two things that challenge us are real success and real adversity."
Gibbs is certainly acquainted with both. The NFL Hall of Fame coach returned last season to the Redskins, who then finished tied for last in the NFC East. With two NASCAR championships, Gibbs has watched his three race teams get off to a miserable start in 2005, currently seventh, 33rd and 36th in the standings and winless after 10 races.
Gibbs touched on a little of everything in the session. He insisted his health was fine following what he described as a precautionary procedure to insert a stent in a blocked artery last month.
"I probably have the most looked-at heart in the world," he said. "I feel great. I've never had really a problem. It was just a precautionary-type thing."
He conceded that he thought his first-year driver, Jason Leffler (in 36th place), would have gotten off to a far better start than he has. And he voiced unqualified support for the strongest possible drug-testing policy in professional sports -- from NFL to NASCAR and every sport in between.
Regarding the Redskins, Gibbs conceded the team's selection of a quarterback in the first round was "kind of wild." He added, "But we have a philosophy of never passing up a quarterback who you think has talent."
He talked about the thrill he gets from coaching the Redskins. "People treat you great," he said with a chuckle, " if you win!"
And he alluded to the possibility of hiring former Redskins tight end Don Warren to work in the team's front office, though he wouldn't elaborate on Warren's potential role. Perhaps it's to impart his signature work ethic.
Said Gibbs, hinting at his frustration dealing with players who failed to show up for voluntary minicamp this springs: "It's non-mandatory, which means you're always sweating. I was calling [players] all week: 'Are you coming Tuesday?' Somehow we pay 'em millions of dollars and then beg 'em to come!"