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Gibbs' plan: Fare well in welfare work


POINT OF VIEW Apr 28, 2004


Joe Gibbs intends to find out.

With age, comes perspective. Gibbs, 63, is in his second tour of duty as the coach of the Washington Redskins, and he is approaching the job with a different perspective this time.

He wants to enjoy the ride more the second time around.

He still wants to win, make no mistake about that. He hasn't mellowed that much.

But he wants to try to make - sure that players who come through the Redskins' organization leave with something more than memories and aching joints.

When Gibbs was a young coach, his focus was almost entirely on winning. He had a family to support. And he had his pride. He wanted to prove he could coach.

This time around, Gibbs looks at the players a little differently. He is well aware of the pitfalls that come with being a young, not completely mature professional athlete.

The large majority of players who reach the NFL have spent their formative years hearing how wonderful they are. They receive college scholarships and tend to float through life.

"There is a trap, a huge trap there," Gibbs said. "They come out of college and make real good money. But how many of us can do a good job of planning finan cially for our futures when we're 20, 21, 22?

"They get all this money, then at 33, you tell them it's over. I've seen the look in their eyes when they hear that."

Gibbs was being optimistic. The average NFL career lasts about 3½ years. Some players have long, lucrative, glorious careers.

But the bottom quarter of players on every NFL roster are in danger of losing their jobs each season. When the Redskins bring in 15 new players, that means 15 players from the previous year have to go.

Even the players who receive fabulous signing bonuses and huge salaries can squander that money. Redskins players tell stories of watching card games where $10,000 to $15,000 has changed hands on a plane ride to Dallas.

The first time around, when Gibbs discovered that some of the players were getting too rowdy at a post-practice gathering on Redskins property, he discreetly found a way to calm things down.

It seems unlikely that Gibbs will countenance any high-stakes card games on team flights on his watch.

"What's the smart thing to do?" Gibbs said. "The smart thing to do is to work a job in the offseason that's going to prepare you for the future. But what does a good job pay? Fifty thousand? Eighty thousand, if you're lucky. And most of the players are in such a high tax bracket that they pay half that in taxes.

"So the tendency is to keep working out, enjoy life, enjoy football. My encouragement is going to be that you really do need to prepare for the future. Playing in the NFL is a great start in life, but to see guys mess that up, and as a consequence of that, their families are messed up, it's a nightmare."

Every NFL team has programs in place that encourage players to finish their college educations, work in internships and volunteer time in the community.

But playing in the NFL practically is a year-round job now. Two months after one season ends, the offseason conditioning programs begin. Attendance isn't mandatory, unless you want to keep your job.

Gibbs wants his players in top condition. If he wants them to prepare for life after football, he'll have to make that clear.

"I really want to make a push on that to try to help," Gibbs said. "I'll tell them, 'Get into this. Get prepared.' We all know an injury can take you out of this."

In the initial Gibbs era, he took four teams to the Super Bowl, won three of those games, and each victory came with a different quarterback.

Gibbs wants to win like that again. Only this time, he wants to do a little more than just win.

He's not making it easy on himself. But, if he wanted things to be easy, he wouldn't have come back in the first place.

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I've wondered.

Because the typical NFL carreer involves huge (compared to me, at least) income for a very short time frame, if somebody (the NFLPA, for example) would be trying to come up with some way of spreading that income out over more years (and saving on taxes).

I think, if I'm a player, I'd much rather receive $100K a year for ten years then $500K for two. Or, say, some guy's $8M signing bonus could be paid as 10 payments of $800K, begining the year he retires. I'd think the tough part would be figuring out how to handle the cap implications. (And, would the IRS try to pull some thing where, since the money was earned in one year, then he has to pay it as one year's taxes, even though he gets paid over several).

Shurely somebody (maybe one of those agents who actually reads contracts) has worked out some way of pushing income (and taxes) into later years. (At least, somebody who knows more about it than I do.)

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Originally posted by Fred Jones

It is my understanding that one of the financial planning things the players can do is invest more in their pension plan. The more you invest in the plan the more you get out of it. I believe that is what Riggins did and he is enjoying the benefits now.

...with every sip... :D


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