HAMPTON, Ga. -- Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs set his jaw a little harder when asked if he wants to coach the Carolina Panthers, as he made his way from his Interstate Batteries race car in the Atlanta Motor Speedway garage yesterday.
Gibbs stopped, turned and insisted he has no plans to return.
"I have no plans to get back into coaching," Gibbs said. "Gosh, the day Charlotte got their team, a reporter asked me about it and I was thrilled for them. I was bragging about what a great franchise it could be. I was bragging about the city, because I love it down here.
"Then I was asked if it would be a good coaching job, and I said it was going to be fantastic for someone.
"But the way it came out, it made it sound like I was applying for the job -- and I'm not."
He said he knew several writers in the Washington area had burned him in print, by saying he knew the Redskins were old and about to hit the wall and he knew a great job might be available in Charlotte.
"It was a downer," he said of those stories. "I really wasn't looking for a job."
Yesterday, he clarified his contract situation, saying he no longer is under contract to the Redskins, and has "not been paid a cent" by them in nine months.
"There is a non-compete clause," he said. "But a lot of coaches have had it and still they've gone on to other coaching jobs. Bill Parcells is a good example. So I don't think it is a factor.
"But I have no plans to get back in coaching."
Gibbs said, however, he has thought about it. "You stop and you look," he said. "But I know I won't coach on the field next year."
Of course, Charlotte's team won't be on the field until the 1995 season.
But Gibbs said he has had no contact with the Panthers and is loving living his life "day to day."
"I'm having a ball," he said.
He has lost 30 pounds and says he feels great, though he looks a little pale.
Last week he went sailing off the coast of San Diego. He has been able to watch his son, Coy, a junior linebacker for Stanford, play this season and he has promised to attend all his son's games next season.
Gibbs retired from the Redskins March 5 saying he wanted to spend more time with wife, Pat, and sons J. D., a member of Gibbs' Winston Cup team, and Coy.
He also said he found being with his Winston Cup team, established last year, more exciting at this stage in his life than football.
Recently, he and his sons attended a drivers school together in Texas.
Yesterday, he was here to watch his race team wrap up an impressive season. It started in February with victory in the Daytona 500 and it concluded here in the Hooters 500, with his driver, Dale Jarrett, finishing seventh in the race and fourth in the Winston Cup points race.
"Our two goals this season were to get a victory and finish in the Top 10 at the end of the year," said Jarrett. "And we've reached both our goals. It's been fun doing it and having Joe with us.
"We've heard all the stuff about football. If he were to decide to do that, it wouldn't affect our effort here. He lets Jimmy [crew chief Jimmy Makar] and me run the team pretty much anyway."