Sports Outside the Beltway

Joe Gibbs More CEO than Coach

Jason La Canfora writes in today’s WaPo that coach Joe Gibbs has stepped away from the everyday duties of coaching, now that former Kansas City offensive coordinator has been brought on to handle the Redskins’ offense.

Gibbs will seek a fourth Super Bowl title as the football equivalent of a CEO: managing the team at the macro level with ample time to interact with employees of every level and deal with other clubs, the NFL office, agents and reporters, while maintaining a hand in the oversight of the offense. It’s a role in which Gibbs grew comfortable with his Joe Gibbs Racing team in NASCAR, but it remains rare in the NFL.

“There are so many things that come up around here, whether it’s personnel issues or injuries, and certainly that [illness] was something that none of us counted on,” Gibbs said. “So when something like that happens, it probably gives you more freedom. Before I could have done the same thing, but then the problem would have been that the offensive coaches normally were waiting, and I think now it’s full speed ahead and Al handles everything. So I feel good about that, and I can definitely say that this year I would have held them up a lot.”

Gibbs, 65, was willing to divest himself of the offense, though his scheme was the envy of the league during his first stint with the Redskins (1981-92). The playbook, practice routines and play-calling are all Saunders’s domain, with Gibbs sitting in on meetings but no longer leading them, and no longer sequestered solely with the offense. Now he roams Redskins Park, and is more accessible to handle the minutiae of personnel matters, believing he will have a better feel for the entire team this season.

It was a shocking decision for a Hall of Fame coach and an admission that perhaps Saunders was better equipped to complete the evolution of an offense that went from horrid in 2004 to solid in 2005. Those associated with the team say the turnover already is paying off in ways both tangible and subtle, in everything from enhanced camaraderie to Gibbs’s improved well-being after two straight years of juggling so much responsibility with so little downtime.

A very interesting move and, indeed, quite stunning for a guy who made his bones as an offensive guru. In the modern NFL, though, with its incredible range of responsibilities, it may well be the smarter system.

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