Gibbs Leaves With His Reputation and Humanity Intact

"The family situation had changed," Joe Gibbs said about leaving with a year left on his contract. "It was time to be with them."
"The family situation had changed," Joe Gibbs said about leaving with a year left on his contract. "It was time to be with them." (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By George Solomon
Sunday, January 13, 2008

In the early years of Joe Gibbs's first tour as head coach of the Redskins, he had a reputation as someone who was all business, without much humor. Until, for me, when he related a story of how he'd cut a very large lineman, and the player began throwing furniture around Joe's office.

"If I'd known he was going to wreck my office, I wouldn't have cut him," Gibbs said with that high-pitched giggle that became more common the past few years at Redskins Park, even as justification for frivolity declined.

So now Gibbs, 67, can giggle all he wants without worrying about the next opponent, keeping self-indulged players happy and tending to an ever-demanding media that might be satisfied for a half-hour (at best) after a playoff-clinching victory over Dallas.

Gibbs's resignation Tuesday -- with one year left on his five-year contract that paid him more than $5 million annually -- was both reasoned and not totally beyond the realm of possibility these past two weeks.

When you have a 3-year-old grandson with leukemia, as Gibbs does, you want to help the child's parents, as well as the child. That was a major factor in his decision.

But as much as any coach of any sport, Gibbs, to me, was a realist. He always seemed to know where he stood -- and if he wanted, could lighten most situations.

Such was a case following the first game after he had retired in 1993, when the Redskins crushed the Dallas Cowboys and one of the stories in The Post began with a question: "Joe, Who?"

"Hey," Gibbs said on the telephone the next morning, "I thought you guys liked me."

And before the 2007 season, he wondered, "Another 5-11 record, my bust might be flying out of the Hall of Fame."

So last week, after losing a playoff game in Seattle, he visited with his family in Charlotte and listened.

"The family situation had changed," Gibbs said Tuesday. "It was time to be with them."

On Monday night he told team owner Daniel Snyder he was done.


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