Gary Clark Guarantees a Winning Record (Sorry Joe)
Gary Clark was at practice last night, signing autographs, talking about mortgage rates (he's a mortgage broker now) and generally amusing the crowd with a series of one-liners. The inevitable question when the former Super Bowl winning star shows up at training camp is, what the heck happened last year?
"I mean, we had our off years too," Clark said. "After we won the '87 Super Bowl, we came back, we didn't make the playoffs the next year. I mean, it happens. You get satisfied or you get certain key injuries or players had an off year. In '88, I sucked. That was my worst year ever.
"I think they'll go at least 10-6 if not better," he continued. "The defense will play better this year; they just happened to have an off year....It happens. It happens. But to Joe, on a Joe Gibbs team? It doesn't happen that often....
"This year, Joe's not going to lose. He's not going to lose back-to-back seasons. It just doesn't happen. It won't happen."
"We're hoping," one of the fans called out.
"I'm telling you, you ain't got to hope," Clark said. "It won't happen."
Apparently former players are freed from the bonds of the low-expectations mandate. Joe Gibbs will need a defibrillator if he ever sees that quote. Anyhow, at one point, a fan (David Shearer) asked if he could see Clark's Super Bowl ring. Clark passed it to Shearer, who handed it to his 5 year-old daughter, Victoria. Then it went down the line to Marta Barahona, who posed for pictures and tried it on and the rest. Other fans got their grubby mitts on the ring as Clark continued to sign autographs.
Now I have no idea whether that's standard practice--the passing of the Super Bowl ring into the autograph mosh pit--but I asked Clark about this, too.
"I mean, the way I look at is, I get to take it home at the end of the day, but if you take the fans away there's no ring to have," he said. "Without these people we never would have had a ring to compete for. I mean, I appreciate these people giving me a job all these years. Quite honestly, let's face it, who's going to give a quick-tempered guy who doesn't really want to work that hard a job other than these great fans?"
"Doesn't really want to work that hard?" I asked.
"Well, we did an 8-6 job here, but the regular 9-5, I'm not really good at taking orders," he said. "So it probably would have been hard for me to make it in a world where I had to take orders and not give my input."
He was allowed to give input? See, I thought modern spoiled players were the only ones who wanted to give input, that old-school guys just kept their mouths shut and did as they were told. I thought when I was a kid, athletes never got in trouble, never spoke back, never demanded the ball and went to church every Sunday, if they hadn't gone to synagogue on Saturday.
"The best thing about the football field, once the play starts, it's kind of on you," Clark said. "Joe was great about that, he listened to his players as well. We were very fortunate that he put together a game plan that was [almost] always successful, but that one percent, sometimes you would have to change things up and make that decision on the field. But you've got to feel confident that the coach is not going to bench you if you make a decision on that field that he didn't agree with, and Joe was great about that, he was great about respecting that you knew the game and understood the game."
"Plus I spent a lot of time in his office," he said, "being punished for something I said, unfortunately."
I asked which player on the Redskins he most identified with, and again, he had the gall to suggest that maybe modern players weren't uniquely selfish.
"I mean, the biggest comparison to me has been Santana, of course," he said. "Only thing that's different between us is, he's a really, really, really nice guy."
Fans, who were listening to our conversation, insisted that Gary Clark was a nice guy too.
"I'm a nice guy, but I'm talking in terms of football," he said. "If I didn't get the ball, I was going to ask for it, I was going to complain about it. I was like, 'I'm a competitor and I want to win. I think if I got the ball, we have a chance to win.'
"That's just the way I was, and that's not because I was trying to be greedy or I wanted the ball because of stats. I felt I could help the team win, that was the biggest part about it. Santana, he just kind of sits back and waits. I'm hoping that he changes that...because you need playmakers to win games."
Hold up, I said. New players are all selfish. They all complain about not getting the ball. Old school Super Bowl-winning guys didn't do that.
"We all did," he said. "It just didn't get out. We had three guys: Art [Monk], Ricky [Sanders] and myself, and each week there was somebody pouting in a meeting. Trust me. The bottom line is we're all competitors and we all want to win, and you want to feel like you earn your paycheck. We come from an industry where you're supposed to earn what you make. If we go out there and you don't earn what you make, you're cheating. You're cheating the system."
He later talked about how Gibbs instilled a group mentality, and how the winning teams were built off blue-collar guys, and the sort of stuff you'd expect from an old-schooler, but still.
Posted by: James | August 1, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: onside kick | August 1, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse
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