It's sad to see Joe Gibbs hang 'em up, but there's one nice thing about the legendary Washington coach's surprising retirement announcement Tuesday: For once, we can believe someone who says he's leaving his job to spend more time with his family.
Gibbs, 67, told a news conference at Washington's practice facility that he'd spoken late into the night with team owner Dan Snyder, who'd tried to persuade him to stay. Gibbs had one year remaining on his five-year contract.
"My family situation being what it is right now, I told him I couldn't make the kind of commitment I needed to make," Gibbs said. "I felt like they needed me."
Gibbs has a 2-year-old grandson with leukemia, and, as Thomas Boswell writes in the Washington Post, he's said that the November shooting death of 24-year-old Sean Taylor has made him rethink priorities.
It's safe to say Gibbs won't be campaigning for the hot NFL coaching vacancy in 2009.
In his four years at the helm this second time around, Gibbs brought a wandering franchise back to respectability. During his first tenure, from 1981 to '92, Washington went to the playoffs eight times and the Super Bowl four times, winning three. In the next 11 years, before he returned, the team went to the playoffs once and had only one other winning season.
Under Gibbs, Washington went to the playoffs two of the last three years. Despite that, I was among many who thought the game had passed him by. He often looked and acted befuddled on the sideline, and he made mistakes that the 1980s Joe Gibbs just wouldn't have made.
Washington ended the season on an emotional four-game winning streak that earned it a playoff spot. But that win streak might have been five, encompassing all of the games following Taylor's death, if Gibbs hadn't blundered at the end of the Buffalo game in Week 13. He illegally called two straight timeouts to try to ice Bills kicker Rian Lindell, turning his difficult 51-yard game-winning field-goal attempt into a near-chip-shot 36-yarder, which Lindell made.
Still, Gibbs may have done his finest work in those last four weeks, guiding a team through an experience few teams in any sport have had to deal with, the violent death of a young star player two-thirds of the way through the season. Washington was a middling club playing behind a career backup quarterback, and it won four in a row, all of them must-win games against at-least solid opponents. Players and assistant coaches were unanimous in crediting Gibbs' leadership.
Washington's run ended with a 35-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.
Hall of Famers are always a tough act to follow. Gibbs, already enshrined in Canton, will be that twice over.
Gossage to Cooperstown, Raines forgotten [PERMALINK]
This column officially does not care who is or is not in the Hall of Fame, but is still happy to offer congratulations to the newest member of baseball's version, Goose Gossage. He was the only player voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America in results released Tuesday.
Gossage was a dominant relief pitcher with an absolutely spectacular mustache. This column probably would have voted for him but is roughly agnostic about his qualifications -- he's a borderline type, though better than the last reliever to go in, Bruce Sutter. But it's thrilled whenever great facial hair is honored, and equally excited not to have to listen to Gossage whine anymore about how he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
No player who isn't clearly unqualified for the Hall of Fame and just horsing around should ever talk about how he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Getting friends to speak for you is OK. Write that down, players.
The news in certain circles from Tuesday's vote was the poor showing for Tim Raines, who managed to get 24.3 percent of the vote, less than a third of the 75 percent needed for enshrinement. One of those circles is the Web site Raines30.com, run by a small group of baseball writers and bloggers whose aim is to convince the world -- and more specifically the BBWAA members with Hall of Fame votes -- of Raines' qualifications.
Raines' candidacy is most likely damaged the most by three things. Throughout his career he played second fiddle as the game's best leadoff hitter to Rickey Henderson -- as anyone else, ever, would have. He spent his prime playing in the former baseball outpost of Montreal. And early in his career he entered treatment for cocaine addiction, having admitted he'd snorted the drug during games.
Those were the days when ballplayers took drugs honestly. They weren't trying to gain an advantage. They just wanted to screw up their lives.
Writer Tom Tango, known online as Tangotiger and a coauthor of "The Book," compares Raines' career as a leadoff hitter to 10 other leadoff hitters from the last half-century who are either in the Hall of Fame, will be soon or have had careers worthy of Hall consideration. You can see the nuts and bolts of the comparison at the Web site, but here's his conclusion:
"Take a big part of Rickey Henderson and Pete Rose, add a good size part of Lou Brock, Paul Molitor, and Craig Biggio, and stir in some Ichiro Suzuki, Wade Boggs, Joe Morgan, Derek Jeter, and Barry Bonds, and you get a composite that is a shade inferior to Tim Raines."
Emphasis mine. Raines also gets compared to Hall of Famers who hit third, as "Rock" did at times, and to contemporary Hall of Famers. Another conclusion: "Any time we compare Raines to a reasonable group of Hall of Famers, we always end up with the same thing: Raines is just like them."
Look, this column officially doesn't care, but 24 percent? That's a joke. Give the guy his due.
Previous column: Roger Clemens and that very strange phone call
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