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Gibbs: NFL, NASCAR not much different

Posted: Sunday, March 27, 2005

KAPALUA, Hawaii — There's not a whole lot of difference between running an NFL team and a NASCAR operation.

At least that's how Joe Gibbs sees it after returning to pro football to coach the Washington Redskins a year ago.

He spent the previous decade at Joe Gibbs Racing, overseeing two Winston Cup champions, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.

''They're exactly the same, those two sports,'' Gibbs said during the NFL's annual meetings. ''Anybody from here who goes over there, I tell them: 'You won't believe it.'

''You're asking a 25-year-old, no, begging him, 'Please, Tony, take $6 million.'

''You have a quarterback and a driver, crew chiefs and coaches. There are 13 people who travel with a race team and 13 who are on your coaching staff. There are roughly 320 people in both. The numbers are pretty much the same.''

So was the success for Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls in his first stint coaching the Redskins, then started up his NASCAR operation and soon became a major player. He said many lessons he learned in football translated well to auto racing, and the same is true moving in the opposite direction.

''You have the car and the technology, and here you have the Xs and Os,'' Gibbs said. ''You have the people and the egos and all the guys winning championships wanting to come in and say, 'Hey, it was me, it was me. I won the games; I won the races.'

''And you can have the miscommunications the same way. The first year I was there, we lost a race because of the noise. Just like when you call a play and you thought someone said 'two' and it was 'blue.' We had someone in the crew who thought it was two pounds when it was two rounds.''

While Gibbs wasn't behind the wheel going 190 mph at Daytona or Talladega or trading paint at Bristol, he often went to driving schools with sponsors. He got up to 150 mph.

''It definitely gives you a deep appreciation for those drivers,'' he said.

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STORYTELLER: Andy Reid a great storyteller? Sometimes.

Reid told a pair of amusing stories at the NFL meetings.

When on vacation in the British Virgin Islands, he mused: ''We're away from the world right now.''

Not quite. Reid and his family went to a beachside restaurant.

''It's a great setting, and these boats come pulling in, yachts come pulling in, and a big catamaran, a four-bedroom catamaran, comes pulling in,'' he recalled, ''and the people get off and they come in, go to the restaurants, the spa, whatever, and this is one of those places where the people have shorts, and they have the cuffs on the shorts. It's one of those places that I don't quite fit into.

''So this dinghy comes pulling in, and all these people crammed into this dinghy ... and you get speed going, then cruise right up to the shore. So they cruise up and they're looking back at me and I'm like, 'Oh, Elvis sighting,' one of those deals. So they get out, and right in front of this whole restaurant they start going: 'E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!' And I'm going, 'Yeah!'

''It was classic. They were out of control. They're crazy. We were taking pictures. We were best friends. They wanted me to get on that yacht of theirs and go back with them.''

The other tale involved a trip to Manhattan to see the Broadway show ''Wicked.''

''We're up there, and the star of the show, the green witch, she falls down a trap door, breaks a rib, so she's down,'' Reid said. ''There was a lull in the action. And these people are staring at me. And I'm going OK, they're probably from Philly.

''So we get out of 'Wicked,' and we're walking out and getting a cab to go back to the hotel, and all of a sudden: 'E-A-G ...' they're going crazy. It was a bunch of people, a bunch of Philly people. They were awesome.''

———

LA STADIUM: The NFL hopes to have a Los Angeles-area stadium plan worth endorsing by its spring meetings in Washington on May 24-25.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, a strong proponent of getting a team back in Los Angeles as soon as possible, also said the owners could eliminate some candidates in May.

Currently, there are four sites bidding for a franchise: the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; a new LA Coliseum in downtown Los Angeles; a stadium in Anaheim; and a facility in Carson, Calif., near the Home Depot Center that is home to two Major League Soccer teams.

———

SOUNDING LIKE HIS MENTOR: If Dick Vermeil sounds like his mentor, George Allen, who can be surprised?

''To me, the future is now. I'm going to be 69 years old come this season. The future is now,'' the Chiefs coach said. ''I believe we did a lot of right things in rebuilding that football team. The Kansas City Chiefs have never done what they've done on offense. And if you look at the history of the Chiefs, they've never been able to put a great offense and a great defense on the field at the same time. It's either one or the other.

''We did it offensively with a good plan and good evaluation. You get Priest Holmes, who was not a highly sought after free agent. We get Trent Green, we give up a first-round pick for him — probably no one else would've — because I knew him. We bring Eddie Kennison off the street after he leaves Denver. We bring Willie Roaf there coming off major knee surgery. We bring Johnnie Morton there, who supposedly is at the end of his career. We didn't spend any huge dollars on them.''

It's a potent attack, for sure. And it's been undermined the last two seasons by a porous defense.

''Defensively, we tried to draft more. A couple of draft choices didn't work,'' Vermeil acknowledged. ''But we haven't done the kind of job that has to be done on defense to be an AFC champion. That's all there is to it. What went so well on offense has not gone equally well on defense and I have to be as responsible for that as everybody else in the organization.''



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