When Gibbs Retired, the First Time
The first wave of "Joe Gibbs Retires" stories makes you wistful over the March 6, 1993 media as much as it does over Joe Gibbs. For example, the news was first broken by WTTG's Steve Buckhantz. Daggggggerrrrrr! But the group of people writing for this paper back then....amazing.
A1 story, by Richard Justice:
Joe Gibbs, who combined innovation on the field and integrity off it to lead the Washington Redskins to three Super Bowl victories and eight playoff appearances in 12 National Football League seasons, resigned yesterday and was replaced by his longtime assistant, Richie Petitbon.
In an emotional news conference at Redskin Park, Gibbs, 52, near tears, described his decision "as a family one" and "not health, my [auto] racing team, the Redskins or any other reason." He said he'd had a medical scare during the last few weeks of last season when he was unable to sleep and developed a nervous twitch. But a battery of postseason tests failed to detect anything more serious than exhaustion. Gibbs said when the season ended he was able to sleep again and listed one of the first goals of his new life "to get in great shape and run a marathon."...
While leaving open the possibility that he might coach again, Gibbs said he was quitting to spend more time with his wife, Pat, and two sons, J.D. and Coy. His voice cracked as he talked about the pain of having a son "2,000 miles away playing at Stanford," referring to his younger son, Coy.
"I've seen him play twice," Gibbs said. "I want to be there for him. I want to be a regular dad."
YOU HAVE to be a winner to hold down a coaching job in pro football, but you don't necessarily have to be a gentleman. Joe Gibbs is both, however, to a degree few coaches in the National Football League attain. The combination assured him of a place as the Redskins' head coach for as long as he wanted it, but it also probably had a lot to do with the fact that now he doesn't want it anymore.
Petitbon column, by Michael Wilbon:
Suppose Richie Petitbon had been hired to coach the Chicago Bears eight weeks ago, to take the job for which he seemed so perfectly suited, a job he dearly wanted? Suppose he had reported to work Thursday morning at Halas Hall in suburban Chicago and heard the news that his old boss, Joe Gibbs, was abdicating the throne? It crossed Petitbon's mind at least once on his first full day as head coach of the Redskins, and reminded him that a man should be careful about what he asks for. "Somebody must have been looking after me on that Chicago deal," he said, "because right now, you'd have a suicide on your hands."
Because the Bears hired Dave Wannstedt, a man who isn't yet half as accomplished as Petitbon, the Redskins found themselves on a rather dramatic day simply reaching out to probably the most deserving assistant coach in the NFL. It was a day that seemed to move farther and farther from Petitbon's reach each season. In April, he'll be 55. Asked yesterday if he thought being passed over for the Bears job hurt most because it might have been his last shot, Petitbon said: "Let's face it, time was running out for me."
Poetry column, by Thomas Boswell:
Millions of people face the problem, not just Joe Gibbs. It's so basic that William Butler Yeats just called his poem "The Choice."
"The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life or of the work," wrote the Irish poet.
The best poet of the 20th century knew that the idea of "having it all" was nonsense before anybody ever dreamed up such a fatuous phrase. If you want to win the Super Bowl or write "The Tower," it doesn't just happen. You slave for decades at your craft. And hope you get lucky too. Coaches call it "sacrifice" and "dedication." What they mean is that for every ounce of excellence that you want to add to your professional life, you have to rip a pound's worth of soul out of the quality of your private life.
NFL scene story, by Christine Brennan and Mark Asher:
Other than a joke or two, the scene at the White House was reminiscent of hundreds around the metropolitan area yesterday. Everyone wanted to talk about Gibbs. Everyone.
"I think Joe Gibbs is a very great football coach, and, in my lifetime, one of the best I ever saw," [Bill] Clinton said after the Cowboys ceremony. "I'm kind of sad because I just moved here, you know, and I was looking forward to going to the games and I'm a big football fan and I think he's a very gifted man. I wish him well."
Baseball story, by Mark Maske:
[Johnny] Oates says he also has learned a thing or two about leading a group of athletes from a man not even involved in his sport -- Joe Gibbs. Oates describes himself as an ardent Gibbs admirer, and the third-year Orioles manager seemed stunned to learn today that Gibbs had stepped down as the Washington Redskins' coach.
The games may be different, Oates said. What Gibbs did for a football team doesn't always translate into a lesson for Oates as a baseball manager. The environments are vastly different. But Oates said he believes the basics of leadership are the same.
Appreciation, by Leonard Shaprio and Ken Denlinger:
Among Washington Redskins coaches, Joe Gibbs ranks at the top of nearly every significant category. His three NFL championships are one more than Ray Flaherty's; his 140 victories are 71 more than George Allen's. And his 12 seasons are 11 more than Vince Lombardi's.
Reaching higher, center Jeff Bostic said of Gibbs: "He may be the best that's ever coached the game." Without doubt, Gibbs will be the 12th man with predominantly Redskins ties to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That could happen next year.
"Coaching against him was the ultimate in competition for me," said Bill Parcells of the New England Patriots, who, while with the New York Giants, coached against Gibbs when both were at the top of their games in the mid-1980s. Gibbs and Parcells each won two Super Bowls in the '80s.
"As a rule, I'm not big on coaches," said former Redskins middle linebacker Matt Millen. "Players play and coaches wish they could. But Gibbs was one guy who made a big difference. We didn't have the best players two years ago -- and we still went 17-2 and won the Super Bowl."
Media story, by Leonard Shapiro:
Almost everywhere Steve Buckhantz went at Redskin Park yesterday, fellow members of the media made it a point to come up to the Channel 5 sportscaster, shake his hand and offer grudging congratulations for being the first to report the Washington sports story of the decade -- Joe Gibbs's resignation and the ascension of Richie Petitbon to the head coaching job of the Washington Redskins.
Never mind that Buckhantz got the original tip sitting in a bar in Fairfax at 2 o'clock on Friday morning. Never mind that he'd spent a sleepless night dreaming he'd been beaten to the punch by a competitor. Never mind that he'd only been able to confirm the tip about 15 minutes before he went on the air shortly after 7 a.m. yesterday on the "Fox Morning News," breaking a story that would lead to a feeding frenzy by the media hungry for more information as the day wore on.
Fan story, by William Gildea:
After watching the news conference on one of four television sets during lunch at Petitbon's restaurant, Doris Ann Rosenfield, of Potomac, said: "It's sad; he's been wonderful. We're thrilled about Petitbon; he's going to make a wonderful coach. I understand, I think, why Gibbs is doing it and I don't blame him at all. I have family and I understand that's important."
Nine-year-old Max Hankin, of Arlington, who was wearing his Redskins jacket in Pizzeria Uno in Georgetown, also was sad to hear of Gibbs's departure.
"I don't like it," he said. "I think he was a good coach. The Redskins won't do as good [without him], but they'll still do good."
Players story, by Leonard Shapiro:
Just like team owner Jack Kent Cooke, who admitted, "No, I didn't have the foggiest notion," most of Joe Gibbs's players woke up yesterday to jolting telephone calls from friends, relatives and reporters wondering if they'd heard the stunning news that Gibbs had resigned.
Quarterback Mark Rypien said he "almost drove off the road" heading to Redskin Park when he heard for certain that Gibbs, the only head coach he's had as a professional, the man who stood by him in good times and bad, had decided to resign after 12 years as coach of the Washington Redskins and would be replaced by assistant coach Richie Petitbon.
"Everyone was just shocked when we heard," said defensive tackle Eric Williams. "I'm still shocked. Jim Lachey called me from Ohio and I told him it was true. He thought it was an April Fools' joke. I said 'Jimmy, it's March.' "
I'll bet we beat 'em in word count tomorrow, though. Plus, no they didn't have any fan-pineapple tales.
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