Rarin' to Go, Gibbs Is Not the Tiring Type
Since his detractors are already carting him off into the sunset, let's start with the most obvious question:
"It's understandable," Joe Gibbs said, earnestly. "He's a great coach. He's had a great history."
"But you're Joe Gibbs, the only active coach in the Hall of Fame. And they're talking about Bill Cowher replacing you next season if things don't go well. That doesn't bother you?"
"I gotta tell you the truth: If I was an owner, I'd sure be considerin' him," he said, adding that high-pitched cackle of his. "If it was me, I'd sure be thinking that way. He's a pretty impressive guy. He's done some good stuff."
The coach of the Washington Redskins cleaned his wire-rimmed spectacles with his shirt tail and sat back in a chair in front of his desk, where he receives visitors to his office in Ashburn. Burgundy-and-gold mementos compete for time and space on the wall. A stair-step fitness machine, which he uses daily, sits in one corner. He also says he gets on an elliptical machine regularly and a treadmill occasionally.
Gibbs is a diabetic and almost 2 1/2 years ago underwent a precautionary procedure in which a stent was placed in a clogged coronary artery. He's not the young coach of 40 who parlayed an 0-5 start in 1981 into three Super Bowl titles and immortality over the next 12 years. Oh, his thick forearms still look as if they could do damage to a split end crossing the middle on a look-in pattern, but Joe Gibbs has jowls now, like Joe Bugel, Don Breaux and the rest of the Space Cowboys he brought back to coach with him in 2004. He's not getting any younger and, at the moment, his team has much to prove after last season.
"I guess, if I had to be truthful about it, I'm 66," Gibbs said. "So that probably has something to do with [questions about retirement]. If you're up in years, most coaches probably get that."
Especially ones who go 5-11 and are knee-jerkingly described as out-of-touch with the NFL of the new millennium. The speculation whether he will coach the fifth and final year of his contract next season hovers over him like the muggy, hot air in training camp.
"I've tried to answer that as honestly as I can," Gibbs said. "Matter of fact, I asked the press guys, 'What should my answer be?' " Indeed, Gibbs threw his hands up in the air after the cameras went home one night last season, wandered back into the media room at the team's training facility and sought help from the people used to asking the questions.
"Basically, they said to me: 'You need to say, 'I have every intention of fulfilling my contract.' I said, 'Okay, that's good. I'll go along with whatever you guys said. That's the answer.' It doesn't stop the questions, but that's the answer."