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Sacco Sez: Remembering the legendary Alex Gibbs


Alex Gibbs passed away a few days ago, evidently due to complications from an earlier stroke.

Alex was 80, and retired in Arizona, although it is hard to comprehend Alex actually being retired from anything.

He was one of the greatest offensive line coaches of all time, along with Bobb McKittrick of the San Francisco 49ers and, in my opinion, Howard Mudd of the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts. Each of these men had other employers, because that is how it works in the coaching world.

Alex came to the Broncos from the University of Georgia. He had coached in college for over a decade before coming to the National Football League, where he became a well-known proponent of the zone blocking scheme with the Denver Broncos.

I remember when he was hired he seemed very brash to me.

And he was. Alex did not mince words and was known for bluntness. I remember his quotes very well.

"Get good or get gone."

"Next man up."

But when Alex said it, he meant it and never swallowed hard.

He was passionate and vocal, and I do not ever recall seeing him on the practice field in anything besides a long-sleeve sweatshirt, even in the hottest days of summer.

It was Alex who was the strongest proponent of his offensive linemen not talking to the press. Of course, this created a weekly, and sometimes daily challenge for me, but that was not Alex's concern. His team was his concern.

His players did not defy him, but in 1997 and 1998 we went to the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons and there is a league mandate that everyone must speak in designated media sessions.

We did not tolerate distractions, so Alex had to speak. His sessions were greatly looked forward to by members of the press, who packed his table like he was a superstar. And, actually, he was.

"He was such an intelligent guy," recalled retired offensive lineman Mark Schlereth to Ben Swanson in a article.

His style was to naturally embrace the "bad cop" enforcer on the coaching staff, and he spoke his mind whether he was talking to Dan Reeves, Mike Shanahan or John Elway.

"Everybody is a part of the running game, including number 7," he once said.

A very bright guy, he just could not sit still. During his years coaching on the college level he took the time to get first a master's degree and then a doctorate.

He was a doctor known for a vocal and very colorful bedside manner.

He and his wife used to host dinner parties with one primary rule: One could not talk about his or her own occupation.

For example, a judge could not talk about the law, and Alex Gibbs could not talk about football.

He told me, "Jim, it is very stimulating to bring together a group of individuals and then listen to all their thoughts outside their most obvious comfort zones. It makes for an interesting evening and one in which my wife does not have to listen to me talking about the Broncos or zone-blocking schemes."

There are so many Alex Gibbs stories, on and off the field, but but using the concept that what happens or is said in Vegas stays in Vegas, we shall skip most of them.

But he was one of a kind, defined at once by his greatness, passion and bluntness.

At this time, I remember another quote he said to me upon his retirement.

I had expressed my surprise at his decision, and he said it was time.

"I can handle the 90, even 95 hours a week, but when it starts to tilt over to where I am spending over 100 hours a week there [at the Broncos offices], it is just time," he said.

"Jim, don't let them haul you out of here on a gurney."

Sooner or later, the gurney comes for all of us.

We have lost Alex Gibbs. Rest in peace, Coach.

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