Gibbs Reflects on Past, Pressure, Future

"The only time you have fun is when you win," Joe Gibbs says. "Lots of changes in the game, but human nature stays the same. You have to get the right people. I think we do." (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By George Solomon
Sunday, July 29, 2007

The practice fields outside the office building at Redskins Park in Ashburn were empty Thursday afternoon on the eve of the opening of training camp. Joe Gibbs, 66, sat easily in his chair and talked about the pressure of trying to reverse the worst season (5-11) in his 15 years (1981-92, 2004-present) as Redskins' head coach.

"There's pressure for sure," Gibbs said. "The first year [2004] we just wanted to get it all lined up, the second year we were on pace, making the playoffs. But last year was both a disappointment and shock. It was awful. We took a hard look and tried to fill spots that needed help."

In Gibbs I, his record was 124-60, with three Super Bowl titles. In Gibbs II he is 21-27, hardly befitting a Hall of Fame coach. Changing that course began in the final six games last season when the team reverted to a Gibbs-style "grind-it-out offense" from the wide-open attack installed by associate head coach-offense, Al Saunders. "A philosophical decision to fit our personnel that we'll stay with," Gibbs said.

This means that Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts will earn their pay, Jason Campbell ("I like him," Gibbs said) will lead the offense and the pace of training camp will be faster and tougher. "I always start the season a little nervous because I see all the gremlins," Gibbs said.

But is he having fun the second time around? "I had fun five times last year," he said. "The only time you have fun is when you win. Lots of changes in the game, but human nature stays the same. You have to get the right people. I think we do."

With two years left on his five-year, $25 million contract, Gibbs says "we'll play it out" -- knowing there are no sure things in a town where sports-talk radio show hosts discuss every out-of-work football coach from Bill Cowher to Bill Parcells. "Cowher? He's pretty good," Gibbs said with a chuckle.

A Week to Forget

It's usually a pretty good deal to be the commissioner of a major professional sports league in this country. Great salary, mucho perks, good hours, important friends, terrific seats to games, sweet parking and first-class transportation.

But this week, in the memorable words of my late mother, "Oy vey."

David Stern of the NBA, Roger Goodell of the NFL and Bud Selig of Major League Baseball all had weeks they'd like to forget.

So did Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, the Super Bowl of cycling, who exclaimed "the [testing] system doesn't work" when a Tour favorite, Alexander Vinokurov of Kazakhstan, tested positive for a banned blood transfusion and on Tuesday withdrew from competition, along with his entire team. The next day the Tour's leader, Michael ("I know nothing") Rasmussen, was booted by his own team for violating team rules.

After Vinokurov's departure, the New York Times reported the sport was plunged "into a doping crisis that has eroded the legitimacy of its most prestigious event." That apparently leaves a couple dozen 4-year-olds on training wheels to finish this year's classic.

Stern, Goodell and Selig were not as fatalistic as Prudhomme. But all three had major concerns this week. Consider their plight:

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