Gibbs to join greats in Hall of Fame today Former Redskins coach was single-minded in pursuit of excellence

July 27, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

When Joe Gibbs wasn't seeing eye-to-eye with Jay Schroeder before he benched the quarterback in 1987, the late Pete Axthelm said on ESPN that Gibbs and Schroeder were getting along about as well as Sean Penn and Madonna.

Gibbs then was asked his reaction to the comments and he said, "What's this? Another Oliver North?"

It wasn't surprising that Gibbs had never heard of Sean Penn or Madonna, just as he hadn't heard of North during the Iran-contra scandal.

For 12 years, from 1981 to 1992, Gibbs paid little attention to the outside world while posting a 140-65 record -- including a 16-5 mark in the postseason, with three Super Bowl titles -- as the Washington Redskins' head coach.

Gibbs' single-minded focus -- he slept in his office three nights a week while drawing up game plans -- produced a .683 winning percentage that is highest in league history for any coach with more than 120 victories.

Gibbs, 55, will be honored today for that record when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, along with wide receiver Charlie Joiner, defensive back Mel Renfro and offensive linemen Dan Dierdorf and Lou Creekmur.

Gibbs' success transcended X's and O's. He bonded the players together and paid attention to their lives.

As cornerback Darrell Green said, "I can tell my children that if they work for someone like Joe, they'll be blessed. He was more than a boss. He was a friend.

"Joe and I talked about marriage before I got married. Joe explained to me about postpartum depression syndrome when my wife had our first child. I was able to cry in front of him when my grandfather passed away."

Gibbs, though, never tried to take any credit for his team's success. When he was honored last month at a gala in Washington, he said, "I made sure they called it a celebration of an era."

"When the coach is chosen, the owner, the front office, the assistants, the players and fans all had a part of it," he said.

What Gibbs meant to the Redskins became obvious when they collapsed after he walked out the door, going 4-12, 3-13 and 6-10 in three seasons without him.

Although Gibbs was forced to quit because of ill health, it's often been said he left because he saw the collapse coming. The truth is that Gibbs thought he had a team that was going to win a Super Bowl in 1993, the year after he left. They weren't the same without Gibbs, though.

It took four years for Gibbs to be inducted only because it was uncertain if Gibbs would return to the sidelines once his health improved. But Gibbs found an outlet for his competitive juices running a race car team and turned down a lucrative head coaching offer from the Carolina Panthers last year.

"My burning desire from the time I was a young kid was to compete and beat somebody," Gibbs has said.

Pub Date: 7/27/96

The inductees

Lou Creekmur: Tackle, guard, 10 seasons (1950-59 Lions). Played in 165 straight games (preseason, regular-season, postseason) in first nine seasons. Eight Pro Bowls.

Dan Dierdorf: Tackle, center, 13 seasons (1971-83 Cardinals). Anchored line that led NFL three straight years and NFC five straight years in fewest sacks allowed. Six Pro Bowls.

Joe Gibbs: Coach, 12 seasons (1981-92 Redskins). Combined .683 winning percentage best all-time for a coach with more than 120 wins. Only coach to win three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks.

Charlie Joiner: Wide receiver, 18 seasons (1969-72 Oilers; 1972-75 Bengals, 1976-86 Chargers). Played more seasons as receiver than any other player. No. 5 all-time with 750 catches.

Mel Renfro: Cornerback, safety, 14 seasons (1964-1977 Cowboys). Tied for 16th in career interceptions with 52. Ten Pro Bowls.

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