- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 18, 2004

When Pat Gibbs learned her husband was going to come out of retirement and coach the Washington Redskins again, she made him promise to abide by just one rule.

“I have to go home every night that she’s here,” Joe Gibbs said this week. “I will live up to that, or she’s going to beat the slop out of me.”

So is Pat in town this week?

“No,” Gibbs said with a cackle. “So I’m off the hook.”

Yes, the cot is back in Gibbs’ office at Redskin Park, and he concedes he still uses it on occasion, just like in the old days.

Not that the Hall of Fame coach prefers army green vinyl to a down comforter. He just wants to maximize every last minute of his busy work schedule. Why waste time battling bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Dulles Toll Road when you can roll out of bed in the morning and make it to your desk in five paces?

“I’m like everybody else, working extremely hard,” Gibbs said. “It makes more sense to me [to sleep in the office] sometimes. I don’t want to drive an hour.”

With the excitement and jitters of his first game — a 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay — finally behind him, Gibbs has settled into a weekly work routine that hasn’t changed much in the 12 years since he last coached the Redskins. Neither age (63) nor medical limitations (diabetes) has kept him from resuming the all-consuming lifestyle required of NFL coaches.

Even on days when Pat is up from their permanent home in Charlotte, N.C., Gibbs is one of the first to arrive at Redskin Park and one of the last to leave. Assistant head coach for offense Joe Bugel jokes that Gibbs and his fellow “Space Cowboys” just try to make sure they’re home in time for breakfast.

“If I ever got home at 2 [a.m.], my wife would think I’d been fired,” Bugel said.

Nonetheless, Gibbs is making a conscious effort to devote more attention to family than during his previous stint. For all his success over the years on the football field and the NASCAR track, Gibbs acknowledges he has had more than his share of failures.

He put himself in dire financial troubles during his early years with the Redskins, making a string of bad investment and decisions he once said cost him $1.2million.

He also blames his diabetes on his own poor eating habits during his younger days, saying, “I wound up diabetic mainly because of my own fault, so physically I’m a bit stupid.”

Although in some ways Gibbs remains the same as he was 12 years ago, in others he has become a new man. His finances have long since been back in order, he carefully monitors what he eats and he has vowed to spend more time with his family.

“The thing you miss more than anything with coaching, for me it’s grandbabies and Pat and getting to see [son] J.D., the T-ball games,” he said. “I think that as much as anything is the toughest thing about working seven days a week for a period of time.”

Gibbs also remains a deeply religious man, and though he doesn’t often discuss the subject publicly, it’s clear it has a profound influence on his coaching life.

“There’s a game plan for life. God left it, and we need to study it,” he said. “Every time I get outside that game plan, I get squashed.”

Despite his sometimes serious nature, deep down Gibbs is a lighthearted person. The way he rattles off lines from “Young Frankenstein,” it’s obvious he has seen the classic Mel Brooks comedy a couple dozen times.

Gibbs also is never short on football stories. Rarely a day goes by when he doesn’t recall some notable tale involving ex-players or coaches — even if his current players have no idea who he’s talking about, as with a recent story he tried to tell about Conrad Dobler (an offensive lineman from his days in the 1970s as an assistant coach in St. Louis). Gibbs’ son, Coy, a first-year assistant coach, had to inform his father that his reference might have been a little dated.

“Coy says, ‘Dad, shut up on that stuff,’” Gibbs said. “Every now and then I slip back and tell a story. I’ve got to watch that. I’ve got to make sure they understand who the people are. Most of them are still trying to figure out who I am.”

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