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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Farewell to Coach Gibbs

Joe Gibbs surprised many in the Washington area by resigning as the coach of the Washington Redskins football team. I am not sure why he could not bring the magic back to Washington during his second time around as the Redskins' coach, but according to his press conference, he felt like at this point in his life, he needed to spend more time with his family. I don’t mean to be cynical, but let’s keep an eye on his NASCAR race team to see if he resumes the day-to-day operations.

I believe that part of the underlying motivation for Gibbs’ departure was that he knew he had not met the standard that Owner, Dan Snyder had set for the team. There is something about Dan that has prevented me from warming up to him, but I have to give him credit for proving that he will spend any amount of money to bring a winning football team to Washington, D.C. And when you have an owner who will open his wallet the way Snyder has, a top-shelf coach must produce more than what Gibbs has.

Coach Gibbs certainly has nothing to be ashamed about when viewing his entire career as a head coach in the NFL. However, I wonder if his undoing has more to do with the modern athlete whose thirst and desire to win has been trumped by a lack of discipline and the lust for lucrative contracts; aka Latrell Sprewell not being able to feed his family on $10 million.

My son, David, Jr., and I often have these little friendly arguments, and one of them is which sport’s rivalry is the greatest of all time. He argues that it is the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, but I believe that the greatest sports’ rivalry of all time was Muhammad Ali and “Smokin” Joe Frazier.

Ali and Frazier fought three of the greatest heavy weight battles in boxing history, during a time when boxing matches were scheduled for 15 rounds. Although Frazier won the first bout and Ali evened the score in their second fight and won on a technical knockout in the third fight, one could argue that either fighter won all three bouts. Ali-Frazier III certainly is one of the greatest heavyweight fights of all time and is one of my personal favorites because of the determination of each opponent: Frazier could not answer the bell for round 15 and when Ali got word that Frazier could not continue, all he could do was lift his hand in complete exhaustion.

At the end of that bout on that October morning in 1975, in what was known as “The Thrilla in Manila,” each fighter could barely look across the ring at his opponent after a brutal 14 round performance. They gave everything that they had, and left it all in the ring. That era may have been the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Sports; a time when athletes made no consideration for pain or the need for rest. Unlike today’s carefully scripted sports’ contests, where a starting pitcher only goes 6 or 7 innings, or a star football player is rested during the last game of the season if there is nothing to play for, the athletes of the Golden Age took their sport much more seriously than many of the athletes today.

Could any serious fan who remembers the 1960s imagine Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Bob Seaver, Vida Blue, Phil Neikro or Dave McNally not pitching a full game if they were still able to throw strikes after the 6th or 7th inning? Or who would imagine Dave Butz, Jim Brown, Deacon Jones, Paul Warfield, or Johnny Unitas sitting out the last game of a season so they can rest for the subsequent playoffs? These men had enormous pride about what they did, and they also understood that the fans wanted to see the best players on the field all the time.

I do not mean to suggest that the Redskins lacked the type of pride that wins championships, because I’m sure that some of the players did, but the team as a whole did not match the skill, discipline and motivation that we see with some of the other teams in the NFL. I’ve often wondered why a professional sports’ franchise does not hire motivational coaches to inspire those on the team who are not self-motivated. I mean the Redskins have a $118 million payroll, so what is another $million for a respected motivational coach to spend 12 or so hours per week to help shepherd the week links.

Lance Armstrong completely dominated the Tour De France for seven years. During his training, he weighed every ounce of food in a perfectly calibrated diet; stuck to an unimaginably strict training regiment, where he rode 25,000 miles per year; and spent hours upon hours studying his competition. This is what it took to be the best in his field. I can only imagine how many players on the Redskins, or on any modern sports' team, could embrace Lance’s disciplined approach to winning. This is what I see a motivational coach doing for the franchise: demonstrating real results in other’s lives who pay the ultimate price; urging the team to flee fast food in exchange for a more balanced diet; showing the benefits of proper rest and the hazards of poor lifestyle choices; and of course, inspiring them to give 110 percent on the practice field. I think it's that simple. And by the way, if anyone's interested, I'm available for far less than $1 million.

I believe if each player on the Redskins team had a slightly higher devotion to his job; Gibbs would still be coaching with many more wins under his belt and the team would probably be in the second round of the playoffs. Anyway, despite a lackluster record over the last four years, I enthusiastically say, “God Bless you,” to Coach Gibbs and "may you find contentment in your senior years."


Mike Lindsey said...

Wow, David! I'm motivated by your blog. Perhaps, you do have another career as a motivational coach!

reggie said...

Excellent article and insight as always. Coach Gibbs demonstrated christian character as a coach and man despite any critisms by fans or opposition .