Gibbs bids farewell to Redskins Coach cites health, family as reasons for his retirement JOE GIBBS RETIRES

March 06, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer The New York Times contributed to this article.

ASHBURN, Va. -- Fighting back tears, Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls in 12 years as coach of the Washington Redskins, resigned yesterday because of health and family reasons.

"I want to sit in the stands and just be a dad," Gibbs said as he explained how he'll now get a chance to watch his son Coy play linebacker at Stanford.

Gibbs was replaced by Richie Petitbon, the team's assistant head coach/defense, who told the players at the news conference that "nothing is going to change" and later added, "We'll win."

Gibbs, 52, who overcame an 0-5 start in 1981 to established himself as one of the best coaches in NFL history while joining Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh as the only coaches to win more than two NFL titles in the past three decades, said he was examined in the best hospitals around the country after becoming ill late last season.

Gibbs said his illness was diagnosed as "migraine equivalent," a neurological condition that includes everything but the headaches associated with migraines.

"I don't think it's any big deal," Gibbs said. "It's normally caused by being run-down. I've been checked by the best and this body has been torn inside out and the doctors have assured me I'm going to be fine. It's just going to take awhile."

Even though Gibbs was ill late in the season, he never showed any sign of it in public and his decision to retire even shocked most Redskins insiders. Owner Jack Kent Cooke said he didn't have the "foggiest notion" Gibbs was thinking of quitting until Gibbs told him last Friday, and Petitbon said he was "absolutely flabbergasted" when he was offered the job Thursday.

Only general manager Charley Casserly seemed to have an inkling of how worn out Gibbs was at the end of the season.

"It's like an actor who can walk on stage and give an award-winning performance and then walk off stage and be sitting there totally exhausted and fatigued and look like two different people," Casserly said. "It was the most courageous performance I've ever seen with the Redskins."

Gibbs, who slept in his office three nights a week during the season, said he didn't feel he was burned out, but added he started to have trouble sleeping at night late in the year.

"I developed something that made me feel uneasy at night. It was kind of hard to rest. You have other nervous reactions set off," he said.

Of the diagnosis, he said, "That means they don't know what it is."

He said he is on medication and a special diet, and hopes to feel well again in a few months.

Gibbs, who is 10th on the all-time NFL winning list with a 140-65 record, said he decided to take a long look at his life when he became ill.

He sounded like a man suffering from a combination of a mid-life crisis and the empty-nest syndrome now that younger son Coy is a sophomore at Stanford and his older son J. D., a graduate of William & Mary, is working with the Gibbs racing team in Charlotte, N.C.

When Gibbs became the Redskins' coach in 1981, he said, his sons came to camp with him.

"Pat [his wife] would come to visit on weekends. That was family. That was what we knew. That was what we lived," he said.

That has all changed now that his sons have grown. "I really started thinking about that," he said. "I think there's a window of opportunity right now with my family. I want to try a different kind of life for a while. I want to stay closer to them. I need to spend some time kind of catching up with them to spend some time with my mother, my brother. I want to do all that."

Gibbs always has said in the off-season that he talks with his family about whether he wants to continue. In the past, he always decided to continue. This time, he reached a different conclusion.

"I think when we did get away this time, it was just a little different. I sense some things happening with my boys and this )) could be a great time for me to be with them," he said.

From Stanford, Calif., Coy Gibbs said that his father broached the subject of retirement with his family two weekends ago during a Colorado ski trip. He later called the family together to say he was retiring.

"I was happy for him," Coy said. "I'm still happy. I'm a little sad, too, but I don't really know why. What he's done has been so much a part of our lives -- my life -- for so long. Maybe the word's not sad but different. It's going to be different."

Joe Gibbs said he wasn't sure what he's going to do now.

"I've got to get a job. I've never had a real job," he said. "This is an act of faith on my part. It's a little scary."

In walking away from a job that pays him about $1.65 million a year (he and Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins were the two highest-paid coaches in the NFL), Gibbs said he would like to spend time working in the inner city and spend more time with the youngsters at his youth home in suburban Virginia.

Gibbs said he has cleared the bad debts he rang up in some real estate investments a year ago, but he's not independently wealthy and his racing team isn't a moneymaker.

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