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Joe Gibbs's Weekly Spiritual Game Plan

A lot of folks around the country look forward to Thursdays, because that's when Clinton Portis dresses up, or at least, when he used to dress up. I look forward to Thursdays, because that's when we get the next installment of Joe Gibbs's Weekly Spiritual Game Plan. All season, Gibbs has been posting video spiritual messages on his personal Web site, often linked to the state of the Redskins. I was all ready to rib him for this, but it turns out that his spiritual messages require real thought, ranging from ancient arguments about the existence of God to his own personal travails to the temptations of doubt. Give the man credit; Bill Parcells does not, to the best of my knowledge, explore classic theological debates on any Web sites. If you haven't been watching, here are my executive summaries.

Week One: The Game of Life

Key point: Gibbs attempts to prove, through "common sense," that God exists. He uses the classic watchmaker argument posited by 18th century theologian William Paley (and by many before and after Paley, including Voltaire and Cicero): that a watch (for example) is too complicated an object to have been created randomly, and that that all humans would therefore agree that every watch has its watchmaker. And similarly with the infinitely more complex world in which we live.

Key quote: "I was nine years old, and I was in the third grade, and I can remember what I was being told in school. I was being told that two amoeba happened to hit in a muddy puddle of water two billion years ago and I was the result. I've got to tell you I'm not real sharp--you know, I was a physical education major, that's ballroom dancing and handball--but when I heard that at nine years old I didn't like the sound of that--I'm an accident and two things happened to hit someplace a couple of billion years ago. That didn't make a lot of sense to me."

Week Two: The Game Plan for Life

Key point: God is our head coach. The game plan is the key to any football game. Would God put us on earth without a game plan? Of course not. The Bible was written by 35 authors over more than a thousand years, and it has proved a perfect predictor of world events. The Bible is our game plan.

Key quote: "This Book told us that the world was a globe when everybody thought it was flat, this Book told us that there was gonna be an Israel when there was no Israel. This Book has been perfect from the beginning to the end....Can anybody deny, over the past 1,900 years when we talk about just Israel and what the Bible said was going to happen to Israel, over the past 1,900 years, can anybody deny this? Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, the Jews were exiled, Israel did become a wasteland, the Jews were and still are scattered worldwide, the Jews have a tremendous worldwide impact, can anybody deny that? The Jews and their national identity have been

preserved, the Jews are returning to their ancient homeland, enemies of the Jews are residing in their homeland, is that being played out today? And the Jews do have Israel again as their own country."

Week Three: Life is a Team Sport

Key point: In 1983, as the Redskins were preparing for the Cowboys, Gibbs was feeling full of himself, incredulous when his wife asked him to do house chores. Hours later, he realized that what she was doing for their family was more important than winning football games. Similarly, the influence we have on others is more important than money or status or wins and losses.

Key quote: "I'm firmly convinced, you know, 15 to 20 years from now I'll be sitting in an old-aged home someplace and I'll be going with a bunch of other old guys sitting there, and I'll be going [old man voice] 'I I I I coached the Washington Redskins,' and these guys will be telling the nurse, 'Hey, get this nut out of here, he thinks he coached the Washington Redskins.' How important are those football wins gonna be? Not nearly as important as the influence I'm having on other people's lives."

Week Four: The Key to Success in Our Occupation

Key point: Lean on Christ in your occupation.

Key quote: "The reason for [today's topic] is I'm struggling in my occupation. Most of you probably know the Redskins are off to a horrible start right now, we're 0-3 [in the preseason] and have not played well, and so when I go through times like that what I say to myself is, 'Hey, what can I do?'"

Week Five: Getting on the Right Team

Key point: Football games are 60 minutes long; when you walk off the field, it's over. In the game of life, you never know when the final whistle will sound, as evidenced by friends and relatives who have died suddenly. When that happens and the end arrives, you sure as heck want to be on the right team.

Key quote: "The last tick can come at any time for any of us at any age."

Week Six: Letting God Handle Our Messes

Key point: Sometimes we need extra help. In the early '80s, Gibbs thought he'd use his platform as the Redskins coach to get rich, and so he invested heavily in real estate in Norman, Okla. But the economy went south, and his partners bailed and declared bankruptcy. Gibbs was left with mounting debt, but he didn't want to declare bankruptcy. He needed to borrow tens of thousands of dollars from former Mavericks owner Don Carter, and he and his wife spent four and a half years paying off the notes. Rely on God when you're in a mess.

Key quote: "If we're on God's team, he's our head coach, he can fix any mess. Now, having said that, right now I'm in a little bit of a mess. Think about the Washington Redskins, we're 0-4 in preseason, we're now 0-1, we lose a close game to the Minnesota Vikings, so you could say what? I'm in a vocational mess right now, yes I am."

Week Seven: Finding Strength in Our Struggles

Key point: When you're struggling, in work or in relationships or in other ways, rely on God and your spiritual mentors, and they will remind you what's really important.

Key quote: "I've got to tell you right now, we're 0-6. Do you realize what that means in the football world? We've lost every one of our preseason games, four of 'em, and now two of our preseason games. I've got to tell you right now for me, that's a real struggle."

Week Eight: Victory Guaranteed

Key point: In the game of life, we can be guaranteed victory, and we can live forever. Coy Gibbs once confided in his father that he wasn't sure he'd like heaven, if it was all harp-playing and laying around, but Joe Gibbs has since learned that it's actually more like real life. It's up to each individual to choose if they want to be on God's team and live forever.

Key quote: "You know what I think heaven might be? One thousand-year football games, one thousand-year races, all the competitive things and everything that we love to do."

Week Nine: Suiting Up for Battle

Key point: While preparing for the Jaguars, Gibbs momentarily felt doubt. When you doubt, rely on these tools: shod your feet with the gospel of peace, gird your loins with the belt of truth, and take hold of the shield of faith, the breast plate of righteousness, God's word the sword and the helmet of salvation. Remember those things before you get out of bed.

Key quote: "I get mad at our players, because believe it or not they won't wear thigh pads, a lot of them. I said, 'You're crazy, you're going to battle without a lot of the armor that you need.' So if a football player needs to be prepared and dressed for battle, how about you and I as we go forward during the day?"

Week 10: Stepping Out of the Boat

Key point: It's easy to lose faith when circumstances look grim. Peter faced that issue when he walked on water toward Jesus, and Joe Gibbs faces that situation when the Redskins struggle. But you need to have faith--to step out of the boat--in order to accomplish something substantial.

Key quote: "I'm seeing a lot of the problems right now. We've got players hurt from time to time, we had a very tough loss in New York, and it kind of gets you to say what? Man, I'm looking around at the circumstances and I'm saying 'Hey, I can't control all this.'...I'm at a point right now where I really have to say to the Lord, 'Hey look, I'm gonna try to not look at my circumstances. We're 2-3 right now, we've had three tough losses. I don't want to look at those circumstances, Lord, I just want to look at you and I want to stay focused on you and I want to say to you, save me.'"

And that was before the Titans game.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 18, 2006; 3:53 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Next: Gary Williams: "Go Eagles"

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