When Joe Gibbs was a young lad he moved with his family from North Carolina to California. Little did he know that his days of moving had only just begun. After college Joe went into a life long coaching career, beginning at San Diego State University. In the ensuing years he criss-crossed the country until becoming head coach of the Washington Redskins. For twelve years he was their head coach, compiling one of the most impressive records in the history of the game. Joe led his team to the Super Bowl four times. Three times they were world champions. But the life of this NFL coach has not just been filled with Super Bowls. In this recording Joe Gibbs frankly shares his life in pro football. More important you will hear how his faith in God has made him able to cope with both the stress and success of a coaching career. So let’s bring in the coach. Here’s Joe Gibbs.
How did I get this opportunity? Sometimes do you ever stop and say, “How in the world did I get someplace?” You’re talking about a guy who went to school and got a bunch of C’s. Sat on the front row and pointed at my lettermen jacket and said, “I need a C. I need to be eligible.” Many people ask, “Joe, how did you get to be the head coach of the Washington Redskins?” It’s not like you get a PhD in coaching or something. I have to tell them, “I don’t know”
I wound up in San Diego State and I got to be about a junior or senior out there and used to kid my mother because I was trying to make up my mind. Do I want to be a neurosurgeon, a physicist, or a football coach. I said what the heck I’ll be a football coach.
I got on that staff there at San Diego State coaching. I wasn’t good enough to play pro sports. I’ll tell you a trivia question for all those sports fans. That original coaching staff at San Diego State had a guy on it by the name of Don Corielle who went on to coach in pro ball in two different places and did a fantastic job. Some people graded him as the best ever and then there was the guy by the name of John Madden. That’s who I worked under. I went in and volunteered for that job and I said, “Hey I’ll work for nothing.” That’s how I got started coaching. The most important job I had was to go to the local Jack in the Box and get the tacos and hamburgers and bring them back and the only time I really got in trouble was if I left something off John Madden’s taco.
I wind up moving on and coaching a bunch of places and of all things got an opportunity to go the Washington Redskins to coach their football team as the head coach. I started out 0 and 5. Now 0 and 5 in Washington is a big deal. I was looking for different ways home at night. I didn’t want anyone to know where I was. I told Pat to please get rid of the dog because it’s no telling what’s going to happen. But of all things we get this thing turned around and got to go to some Super Bowls and, I tell you, it was one of the greatest experiences anyone could ever have.
Then about a year ago several things had happened in my life and I made up my mind I was going to step down and try to get a little closer to my family and enjoy some of those things. Some people used the word retired and I said I’m not old enough to retire. To illustrate that, we were getting ready to play out in Seattle and I was walking down the hall in this hotel and I heard this music coming out of the ballroom. I said, “Man, that’s my year. That’s the fifties. That’s some fifties’ music.” I went down there and I asked them, “What’s going on?” They said, “It’s a reunion.” I said, “What year?”" and they said, “1959″ and I said, “That’s my year.” I was all excited and I go charging down there and I threw open the doors of this place and I looked in there and I went, “Good Gosh, these people are old.”
I don’t feel old enough to retire but I did wind up retiring and of all things I had a dream about getting into auto racing. I had one big challenge there and that was to talk my wife, who could care less about auto racing, into coming in and spending some of her money on race cars. My wife is very tight. I asked somebody in the racing world, “What’s the best race to bring my wife to. I can’t bring her to some of those long things and bring her out in the heat. We’ll be dead.” They said, “OK, I’ll tell you what, bring her to Charlotte. We’ve got a beautiful racetrack there. They’ve got these two hundred and fifty thousand dollar suites. We’ll put her up into one of the suites. We’ll get a lot of food and people to talk to. There’s going to be three races in this particular race. She won’t get bored.” I said,” Man, that’s great.” What a great game plan. Sure enough, it turned out perfect. The day was just right. The people, the box, everything’s great. I got Pat up there trying to persuade her with all that stuff. We got down there and this first race starts and twenty laps into the first race and I looked and Pat was totally asleep. I knew we were in trouble. I said, “Good Gosh, what are we going to do here?”
I kept talking and I got my two sons to talk and we eventually persuade my wife to make an investment in a race car team. Now in Nascar they start out with the Super Bowl. Our first race was the Daytona 500. Our car started thirty-first in this race because we got in a wreck qualifying so we’re way at the back. Well, Pat’s up in this box now and she’s got money in this car and they said every time that car came by she was on her toes and she’s watching her money go by. We started thirty-first and we go right to the front. We’re seventh after two hundred miles. They said Pat was up there saying this is a piece of cake. We’re going to win our very first race. At about three hundred and fifty miles three cars decide to go abreast on the back straight away and there’s a fourteen car wreck and guess who’s car is right in the middle of it? Our car gets tore all to pieces. It’s the only one that we’ve ever lost. Now I’m in the back and I’m all dejected and I said, “I better go find Pat.” I went to the box and she wasn’t in the box. They said she’d left. She’d gone to the motorhome. I beat it down to the motorhome and go inside and there’s Pat laying on the bed in the motorhome and she looked at me and the first thing she said was, “I don’t think I like this.” The second thing she said was, “How much did that cost?” I told her no problem, it’s in the budget.
Somehow we’ve managed to survive our years in racing. We love that. My one son’s working there and we’re having a ball with that. Pat doesn’t quite understand that though, either. The one son that’s working in racing always wanted to get into racing and after five years of college he’s changing left side tires on race day. Pat goes, “Five years of college and he’s changing tires?”
The other thing I’m doing is a little TV analysis. You’ve heard all those guys. Now those guys are the biggest critics of the coaches on the sideline. I’ve moved about two hundred yards up in the box up there and I tell you I’m getting a lot smarter. I’m second guessing these guys like mad. We’re having fun doing that. I’m enjoying the TV part of it.
I tell you the last three years though have been kind of a trying time for me. About three years I lost my father who was somebody I really, really loved. He was cop and a tough guy and somebody that was really close to me. I had the chance to stand at the foot of his bed and see him kind of be sorry for some of things that he had passed by in life. About two and one half years ago I lost my spiritual father. He was a little Sunday School teacher who came really close to me at the University of Arkansas. We were probably at opposite ends of the world. He, I don’t think, had ever played a sport of any kind in his life. He was a businessman, yet that guy just took me to heart. He prayed over me and brought me back to where I should be. I had a chance to talk to George and realized in his last days there were some things that he’d looked at and wished that he had done better job.
At the same time I lost a real good friend of mine named Glen Brenner. Maybe some of you know that he was a sportscaster in the Washington area. Here’s a guy who was totally different than the other two. My dad was seventy-two and George was in his seventies. Here’s a guy who was forty-four years old and had just run a marathon. Within two weeks after that marathon he had an inoperable brain tumor and passed away. I had a chance to stand at the foot of his bed. You know what that caused me to do after losing all three of those guys? I started doing a little analysis myself. I’m fifty-two years old and my dad passed away at seventy-two. How much longer do I have? How am I investing my life? What are some of the things that I might be sorry for when it comes to that time when I realize that I don’t have much longer to live myself. It’s caused me to really think. It’s been a good time but a sad time. It’s caused me to really evaluate my life. I got to tell you guys, I’ve wasted some of the years of my life. I think the question becomes what am I going to do with the rest of the years I have.
Let me back up and tell you a little bit about my life. I grew up in the hills of North Carolina. My grandmother and mother had me go to church there. I can remember some of the first big decisions I had to make in life because in school I was being taught that two amoeba happened to hit in a muddy puddle of water a couple million years ago and we evolved into man and woman. Or I was being taught in my church by my pastor and my grandmother and in Bible school that, no, that wasn’t the case at all. God looked down and loved me and made me special and put me on this earth with special abilities. That was the two things I was weighing. I started searching for some truth in that because you know you like to have proof that it’s truth. Those were the things that I was really searching for. I started looking around at the world. If you want proof look at this world. The way this thing is put together. Ain’t it marvelous? We’ve got trees, we’ve got men and women with the ability to love each other. Could that be an accident? Think about it. Sometimes I use my watch as an example. I’m not real smart but I know this is a complicated piece of machinery here. I know where there’s a watch there’s a watch maker. I can figure that out. I tell you what, you look at this world and the way this thing is put together and I tell you what, I’m not very smart, but where there’s a world there’s a world maker. I think that is real proof.
I think the Bible is the second bit of proof to all of us that God exists. When you think about this thing, it was written by thirty-five authors over a period of fifteen hundred years and so far everything from the beginning to the end has been perfect. Do you know how hard that is. I tell you how hard that is. I went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be the offensive coordinator down there. Now in football language offensive coordinators are the guys that make the calls on the sidelines. I went down there and I was so excited because, man, I wanted to be a head coach and I knew my next step up was going to be a head coach as soon as I went down there and put the Tampa Bay Bucs in the Super Bowl. I made up my mind that was what I was going to do and I went down there and the first thing that the head coach said was, “Joe, why don’t you go out and work out the quarterbacks.” I said, “OK” and I went out and did that. I came back in and he said, “What do you think?” I said, “I don’t think we have one.” He goes, “I agree with you. I don’t think we do either and so let’s go try and find one.”
We went out and worked out some quarterbacks and we came across a guy named Doug Williams. We drafted that guy in the first round and I was all set. I’m on the sidelines and I’m calling plays and you can see them wave guys signals on the sideline and we kind of developed that, and that was the way I was calling plays to Doug. It was a short quick way to get things into the quarterback. We took off and won a game or two and then we lost a couple of games and Coach came to me and said, “Joe, listen. I’m not real comfortable using those signals. I want to know what plays you’re calling . I want you to tell a player on the sideline who will go in and tell Doug Williams who will tell the team.” Now have you ever tried calling a play like this play? Trips right zoom, liz nine eighty-nine F cross snake. Now you want to try and call that to a receiver that’s been hit in the head about three times that’s going to go in and tell Doug Williams.
They go in and tell Doug and Doug looks back and goes, “What was that?” I’m here to tell you we went about another two games and we lost another couple. Coach came to me and said, “Listen Joe, I’ve figured this out. I don’t think you’re real comfortable on the sideline so I want you to go up in the press box where you’re used to calling those plays and you call the play down to an assistant coach on the sidelines who will tell a player on the sideline who will go in and tell Doug Williams who will tell the team.”
Do you realize a lot of people call plays like that? What’s wrong with that? It’s just like at the party where you passed the sentence around the room and when you get to the other side what? It’s never the same sentence. That’s too complicated. That’s too hard to do. Stop and thing about it. Thirty-five over a period of about fifteen hundred years. Now how hard is that? What’s that tell you? This book (The Bible) is a miracle. This book was put here by God. This book is our game plan. When you go to play a game you’ve got to have a game plan. When we go and play a game we know what we’re going to try and do. We got about seven running plays. We got about twelve passing plays on first down and we know what we’re going after. This book is our game plan. If you want to study the way to succeed in life, God left this for us and this book is a miracle.