Joe Gibbs is in the football Hall of Fame, has a Super Bowl ring, and a NASCAR Winston Cup. And, he’s now out as the president and coach of the Washington Redskins.
So, does that mean that Gibbs will start paying more attention to the race team? Or does he leave his son, J.D., in the place where he put him: in charge?
Gibbs’ strength has always been considered to be his people skills, his ability to make a team cohesive. This past year, many believe that it was Gibbs’ unique capabilities in dealing with the many personalities on a team that made it possible for the Redskins to weather the loss of star Sean Taylor.
One ESPN commentator, David Newton, is weighing in. According to Newton, Gibbs’ NASCAR team “needs its Coach Joe.”
Well, maybe Joe’s smarter than that.
Joe put J.D. in charge of the team when Gibbs returned to football. At the time, it seemed apparent that the move caused some internal disruption in the team, and that J.D. hadn’t been expecting to take on the level of responsibility being thrust upon him, at least not that soon. But, he had it handed to him, and he accepted it.
Implicit in the notion that the NASCAR team “needs its coach Joe” is the premise that Joe Gibbs would be better at running the team than his son.
That’s probably a false premise.
A great deal changed in NASCAR while Joe Gibbs was trying for a football comeback. The Car of Tomorrow arrived. The Chase was modified, again. The Hendrick team ascended to clear supremacy over everyone else. And, of course, the team itself switched to Toyota.
There is a lesson to be learned from Gibb’s own efforts to regain his form with the Redskins. Gibbs improved the Redskins, but he did not make them a winning team. Following his resignation, the talk was all about his legacy, whether he had diminished his previous Hall of Fame performance as Washington’s coach when it went to the Super Bowl.
But, the real question should have been, could another coach have done a better job? The answer is, “maybe.” Whether it is an NFL team or a NASCAR team, the person running the team can make only so much difference. Ultimately, that person must depend on others to execute the plan.
Making that plan a winning plan requires knowledge and expertise that comes only from daily immersion in the sport. That may not be enough, but it is certainly a necessity. It is that level of immersion in NASCAR which Joe Gibbs now lacks.
Joe Gibbs Racing may or may not be good enough to cope with the challenges that it faces this year. But, the only person who has what it takes in background and current experience to address those challenges is J.D. Gibbs, the man who’s been in charge of dealing with them ever since Joe went back to the Redskins.
If Joe Gibbs is half the manager he’s said to be, he knows that already.