Coaching Is Not for Gibbs These Days

By Leonard Shapiro
Special to
Wednesday, October 31, 2007; 1:57 PM

Painful as it may be to type the following words, it's time for Joe Gibbs to walk away from the Redskins' head coaching job.

Not today. Not tomorrow. But when the 2007 season is over, he would be wise to seriously consider getting out of the maelstrom of day-to-day NFL competition four years after coming out of football retirement in a noble effort to save Washington's favorite franchise.

This is a true Hall of Fame head coach who has given blood, sweat and tears trying to resurrect a team that once won three Super Bowls on his first watch. But anyone who saw the listless Redskins roll over and play dead Sunday in New England surely must admit that his second go-round only has the potential to get even uglier.

By no means is this a knee-jerk response to the worst loss in Gibbs' career, the fourth worst in team history. I truly hoped he would walk away after 5-11 last year, but anyone who knows this most competitive of coaches also had to know there was no way he'd go out without trying one more time to get it right.

Now, one more time is here. And while it looks as if he'll get to the halfway mark of the 2007 season at 5-3 with a win Sunday against the woebegone New York Jets and a quarterback making his second career start, the second half of the season has all the makings of a 7-9 or 8-8 finish.

And please don't talk about the injuries. Every team in the NFL has them. You move on, and you try to succeed with what you've got. If you've planned accordingly, drafted properly, you can still win and go deep into the postseason.

Even if the Redskins somehow manage to slip into the playoffs out of a vastly inferior NFC field, if nothing else, such a lopsided loss to the best team in football had to be a clear reality check for Gibbs. Surely he knows the Redskins still have a very long way to go -- maybe two or three more years as his quarterback matures into a consistent performer -- before they can even begin to think about becoming an elite team like the Patriots or Colts.

I say all of this as a man who presented Gibbs' impeccable credentials to Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors when he was voted in to Canton in 1996. And any notion that his inability to replicate any of those earlier achievments over the last 3? seasons somehow tarnishes his bronze bust or mars his legacy is just plain foolishness.

He's a Hall of Fame coach, period. He was then, always will be, and remains an even better person -- arguably as decent a human being as ever walked an NFL sideline.

But by now, it should be fairly obvious that he may not be the right man to turn this team around from the sidelines, at least not the way the Redskins organization is currently structured, and certainly not the way he now approaches his job as he nears his 67th birthday in November.

There was a time when Gibbs was considered the best offensive signal-caller in professional football; an Xs and Os wizard whose game plans and gameday decisions -- particularly his perceptive halftime adjustments -- produced more victories and more championships than any head coach in team history.

He also was a far younger man, arriving here as a hungry, 41-year-old dynamo willing to put in 18-hour days, sacrifice family time and later, his own health -- the main reason he stopped after the 1992 season. He also worked for an owner, the late Jack Kent Cooke, who provided all the financial and emotional support Gibbs needed to succeed, but almost never got in the way.

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