Before Joe Gibbs got roasted Thursday night during a benefit for the DC-College Access Program (which helps get D.C. high school students in and out of college), many people said many nice things about the Hall of Fame coach.
“We could point to the man on the sidelines, and say this is a man who’s a good coach, but he’s also a truly good man,” said WaPo honcho Don Graham, speaking of Gibbs’s time in D.C.
“One of our city’s true legends,” event co-host Michael Wilbon said.
“I don’t know how you roast Coach Joe Gibbs,” James Brown added.
“You know, it’s like taking on Moses,” agreed John Riggins, when I spoke with him before the roast began. “I don’t think that’s going to turn out too well.”
“Enough of the nice stuff, let’s get on with it!” requested Gibbs with a giggle, while everyone was saying nice things.
But even when they got on with it, everyone kept talking about how hard this task was.
“Roasting Joe Gibbs is kind of like roasting Jesus in the Holy Land,” said Jeff Bostic.
“He’s like Darrell Green with better hair,” Tony Kornheiser said.
“I’m the luckiest man in the world, because of Joe Gibbs,” Doug Williams said.
“Like everybody said before me, when you’re roasting Joe Gibbs, how do you do that?” Riggins asked the crowd. “You know, he’s wired in pretty good Up There. Guy makes a mistake, it can cost him pretty big.”
Dexter Manley opted not even to attempt a roast, instead talking with great emotion about when Gibbs once visited him in prison, and how they prayed together. That’s not what one usually expects to hear during a roast.
Still, there were jokes. Many of them were about Gibbs’s ridiculously clean mouth. I collected those.
“It’s hard to imagine a coach not swearing,” Williams said.
“When I first came to the Redskins, I just said this man got to curse, he got to say it, he got to say it, cmon,” Clinton Portis recalled. “He would get right there — and we’re gonna….” and then Portis dropped off and sadly shook his head.
“It’s like coach, give me that oomph,” Portis lamented. “He would always [say] ‘Give ’em the reds, we’re gonna put the reds on them, we’re gonna give it to them.’ I’m like, ok.”
“Joe used to talk about ‘[when] that guy comes out there, stick his buns, stick his buns!!” Riggins recalled.
But Bostic took this theme the furthest, so let me quote him at length.
“We’re gonna go kick their buns!” he said, in his squeaky-voiced Gibbs impersonation. “He would get up in these meetings, and his voice would get higher, and it was almost like someone was choking a rooster – we’re gonna go kick their buns!!!! And I’m thinking, I’m going to go over to the offensive line room and get the X-rated version from Joe Bugel, because I’m getting the G-rated from Coach Gibbs.
“For football coaches, his restraint was unbelievable,” Bostic continued. “It was UNreal. I was with him for 12 years; in my humble opinion, he blew his gasket twice. Joe didn’t like Buddy Ryan. Have you gotten over it?” he asked Gibbs, who shook his head and giggled.
“He would go, [Ryan’s] got that fat mouth, it gives me the reds. I’m like, I’m really motivated now, wow. What are reds?” Bostic asked. “So anyway, we stunk the joint up one year in Philly. Now understand something: Joe thought that the other teams were amateurs, they didn’t get paid. Philadelphia had Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown — these were grown men. And we stunk it up, we were down 14-6 or something….
“It was in the Vet. First of all, that place was nasty, I’m glad they tore it down. [Gibbs] was the first one in that locker room, and anybody who’s ever been in the locker room at the Vet, that’s a long, narrow dressing room. He was running up and down the locker room, screaming, like someone was choking him – They’re kicking our buns!!!!!! They’re kicking our buns!!!! And I’m like, what in the world has happened to him?
“Then he went into the coach’s office. It was kind of a blocked-in area, and you could hear chairs flying. Somebody was trying to calm him. Then he came back out: Act II. And he literally came out of the coach’s area and he flipped the juice table over. So I’m watching a big wave of juice land on my street clothes. After he did that I said we’re kicking somebody’s ass tonight, ok?
“So we did. And after the game, we’re going up to get the bus. And I looked at Coach Gibbs and said That. Was. Awesome. I said, you need to do that more often.”
(That story aside, earlier in the night, Grant Paulsen had asked Bostic how a goody-two-shoes gentleman like Gibbs could motivate a room full of testosterone-crazed football players.
“Joe was not a motivator,” Bostic said, being serious. “I mean, that’s the thing that people maybe misunderstood about how Joe Gibbs coached. He was not a motivator. He was an information-provider. He gave all the information: what was going to happen, the probability of this happening. You were always prepared beyond description. And if Joe Gibbs had two weeks or more to plan a game plan for you, watch out. His biggest ability, in my opinion, was being able to make adjustments at halftime. Being able to see what has happened, come in at halftime and make changes to make it work.”)