Redskins' coach Gibbs expected to retire Health reasons reportedly are cited

March 05, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

Joe Gibbs is expected to announce his retirement as head coach of the Washington Redskins today because of health reasons.

Mr. Gibbs, 52, is expected to be replaced by Richie Petitbon, the team's assistant head coach for defense.

Mr. Gibbs' retirement was first reported by a Washington television station, WTTG, and confirmed by a team source. Team officials had no immediate comment, but were expected to hold a news conference later today.

Mr. Gibbs attended a prayer breakfast in Richmond, Va., this morning. He told the congregation that he had "some decisions to make" and asked the people to pray for him. Mr. Gibbs is a born-again Christian.

There were no details released on his health problems, except that they are not life-threatening. Mr. Gibbs is known for working long hours with the Redskins and sleeping in his office three nights a week during the season.

Mr. Gibbs was named Redskins' head coach in 1981 by owner Jack Kent Cooke at the recommendation of then-general manager Bobby Beathard. Mr. Gibbs coached the team to four Super Bowl appearances in the past 12 years, winning three of them. His overall record is 140-65.

The Redskins struggled to a 9-7 regular-season record last year and were eliminated in the playoffs by the San Francisco 49ers. But it was generally considered to be one of Mr. Gibbs' best coaching jobs because the team was beset by injuries.

A year ago, Mr. Gibbs started sponsoring a NASCAR racing team with Dale Jarrett as his driver. That endeavor sparked much speculation that Mr. Gibbs might retire to devote full time to the venture. But even after Mr. Jarrett won NASCAR's biggest event, the Daytona 500, last month, Mr. Gibbs said he had no plans to quit coaching.

When the Redskins won the Super Bowl a year ago, Mr. Gibbs said he wouldn't coach for 20 years, but put no timetable on his future.

He suffered severe financial reverses early in his career when some real estate investments failed. Mr. Gibbs refused to declare bankruptcy and eventually paid the money back.

Mr. Gibbs and Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins have been the two highest-paid coaches in the National Football League, earning in the range of $1.6 million to $1.7 million a year.

Mr. Petitbon, 54, is one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the league. He was responsible for the Redskins' defensive schemes and Mr. Gibbs rarely interfered on defense. But Mr. Petitbon has never been a head coach.

The Redskins will have to find an assistant coach to run their offense with Mr. Gibbs' departure. Rod Dowhower, a former head coach with the Indianapolis Colts, has been Mr. Gibbs' top assistant on offense, but Mr. Gibbs usually runs the offense.

Mr. Gibbs and his wife, Pat, have two sons, one playing linebacker at Stanford and the other involved in his racing team. Mr. Gibbs has often said he talks with his family every year about whether they want him to continue coaching.

Mr. Gibbs has seemed to thrive on the fast-paced lifestyle, though. He has said that even when he takes a vacation, he is usually bored by about the third day and wants to go home on the fourth day.

When Mr. Gibbs' car-racing team won the Daytona 500, he said, "In football, I'm more responsible, but the thrill of winning the Super Bowl and of winning the Daytona 500 are exactly the same. I'm one of the most fortunate individuals in the world. I'm blessed."

Mr. Gibbs' departure could have an immediate impact on the Redskins' ability to attract free agents and bring their unsigned players under contract.

One of the team's selling points was that with Mr. Gibbs as the head coach.

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