Gibbs seems to be on a permanent vacation from NFL's rat race

ON THE NFL

August 21, 1994|By VITO STELLINO

The list of coaches who walked away from pro football and never came back is a short one.

It pretty much starts with John Madden and ends with Dick Vermeil.

It may be time to add a third name to the list: Joe Gibbs.

When Gibbs turned down the Carolina Panthers last spring, a lot of people weren't convinced that no meant no.

The Panthers haven't hired a head coach yet and still seem to hope Gibbs might change his mind since his son, Coy, plays his final year at Stanford this fall and Gibbs' Washington Redskins contract runs out after this season.

But as Gibbs approaches his second season away from the sidelines, he doesn't sound like a man who's coming back next year.

"I'd never say never, but I made my decision last year," he said.

He's now busy running his NASCAR team and making speeches, and he will be a regular on the NBC pre-game show trading quips with Mike Ditka. He'll watch Coy's games this fall before Coy leaves Stanford in February to join the family racing team for the start of the new season. His other son, J.D., already is part of the team.

Gibbs seems set for a life without football, although he still misses the game at times and jokes about the seasons when he slept in the office three nights a week.

"I miss my old couch with the rats scampering across the floor," he said. "I miss that old building; a lot of wins came out of that thing."

In Gibbs' last year, 1992, the Redskins moved to a plush new facility, but they haven't had the success they had in the old building.

Gibbs paid a big price, though, for his success in that old building. He was exhausted after 12 years of round-the-clock attention to detail. His health is fine now and he doesn't seem ready to get back into that meat grinder again.

Gibbs now follows the Redskins from a distance and hasn't seen them play this year, but he knows they might start a rookie quarterback -- Heath Shuler. That's a foreign concept to Gibbs.

Laughing about the way he did things, Gibbs said, "You guys used to get on my case, but I liked having those guys [rookie quarterbacks] on the injured reserve list for a couple of years throwing on the sidelines. But, then, I never had the third pick in the draft."

Now that Gibbs doesn't have football to worry about, he worries about his racing team, which has dropped from fourth last year to 19th this year in the standings.

"We've got to get back up there," he said.

Don't be surprised if he does.

Hex on the move?

With all the TV specials coming up on the NFL's 75th anniversary, one memorable moment the NFL is likely to overlook is the famous scene of the Mayflower moving vans pulling out of Owings Mills on March 28, 1984. For Baltimore football fans, it's ,, still an unforgettable scene.

That's why when an ESPN producer saw a routine show of the Colts moving from training camp in Mayflower moving vans last week, he couldn't resist coupling it with a shot of those vans leaving Owings Mills on "SportsCenter".

The Colts, meanwhile, have to start wondering if those vans didn't carry some hex or jinx with them out of Baltimore.

Two years ago, they drafted Steve Emtman with the first pick in the draft, only to watch him spend most of his first two years injured.

This week, the Colts found out that Trev Alberts, the linebacker they selected with the fifth pick in the draft over quarterback Trent Dilfer (remember the Mel Kiper-Bill Tobin exchange?) is out for the season with an elbow injury.

In the Fox's den

The baseball strike may be a boon to the NFL this fall.

The Cowboys-Oilers rating (percentage of all TV sets) on Monday night -- the first without competing local baseball telecasts -- was a 12.3. It was the network's highest rating for an exhibition game in six years and a 26 percent increase over the 9.8 rating the Buffalo-Washington game got the previous Monday before the baseball strike started.

The first national telecast after the strike was Fox's game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos last Friday night. It drew only a 6.5 rating.

Fox is insisting it will attract a new younger audience. Maybe they were all at Woodstock last week.

The entry pass

The zoning hearings for the proposed Redskins stadium in Laurel came to an end Friday amid signs the Redskins are worried they're not going to get the site approved. That's because on the last day they came up with a proposal that's so bizarre you have to wonder if they're serious.

To quiet the fears of Laurel residents about fans parking in their neighborhoods, they proposed that each fan arriving at the stadium parking lots or by bus or train be given an entry pass into the stadium. Fans parking in the neighborhood wouldn't be given an entry pass and wouldn't be allowed in the stadium without one.

But can you imagine the logistical nightmare each Sunday of handing out 78,000 entry passes? Imagine the lines that would create.

A Redskins spokesman compared the entry pass to a boarding pass on an airplane. But most flights involve 100 or 200 people.

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