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Surprising, Not Shocking

Jan 8, 2008, 9:26 PM EST

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An hour or so before the Chicago game, four days after Joe Gibbs had made what he called his worst coaching mistake, the double time out gaffe in the game against Buffalo, and three days after Sean Taylor’s funeral, I was sitting around in the press box with a few of the team’s beat writers, guys who are out at Redskins Park every day. The subject of Gibbs’ future with the team came up and the consensus of their collective reading of the tea leaves was that Gibbs could walk away at the end of the year. It seemed that the murder of Sean Taylor had Gibbs taking a look at his priorities in life. He had made a comment that nobody ever looked back on his life and wished that he’s spent more time at work. The regrets always centered on other things, like time with the family.

None of these writers thought it was likely that Gibbs would pack it in. One pegged it at about 50-50 and another said that a second retirement was possible but not probable.

Later that night the Redskins beat the Bears to start off a four-game winning streak that landed them in the playoffs. To a man, the players credited Gibbs for the turnaround. There seemed to be no question that he would be back in 2008 to try to take the team to the next level.

That was, of course, until Monday afternoon’s press conference when Gibbs was noncommittal when asked about next year. Even then, most observers didn’t think much of it. Probably just wanted to sit down with Dan Snyder and dot the i’s and cross the t’s on a contract extension, they said. Then this morning came the word of Gibbs’ retirement.

I’m not going to tell you that I wasn’t surprised when I heard the news. However, after thinking back to that Thursday night bull session at FedEx Field it made sense.

If you are indeed questioning your priorities in life, regretting how little time you spend with your family, facing your own mortality and if you come to the conclusion that you need to make some major changes, the results of four football games isn’t necessarily going to change your mind.

No question about it, that streak and making the playoffs meant a lot to Gibbs. But he talked recently about his priorities being his faith, his family, and his profession, in that order. It seems that he stayed true to these priorities in making his decision to retire.

I also wonder how much the back to back timeout blunder had to do with this decision. Although the team recovered from it, a goof like that sticks with you. Perhaps Gibbs had a conversation with himself and asked if he was absolutely certain that he would not make a similar mistake in the future. When the answer from his inner self came back that he was confident but not 100% sure, it was time to go.

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