Ex-Redskins Coach Teaches NFL Players About Money

Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs i

Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs has partnered with Strayer University to coach Redskins players in financial literacy. A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs

Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs has partnered with Strayer University to coach Redskins players in financial literacy.

A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

It's the preseason for the National Football League; pro players are running, snorting and knocking heads in preparation for the Sept. 9 start of the season. But former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs wants to give the players another kind of training: financial literacy.

This summer, Gibbs partnered with Strayer University to offer Redskins players a primer on financial basics, from credit cards to maintaining a household budget. He uses his own life as an example of the money troubles that can come with million-dollar contracts.

"The bottom line is it took me 4 1/2 years of our financial life to come back out of that,” Gibbs tells NPR's Scott Simon. "And the younger people in our society, particularly athletes that get large sums of money, it's just a little bit of a natural trap."

Young Money

The widely held notion that athletes are young, spoiled millionaires is untrue, he says.

"That was not what I saw in young people who played for me," he says. "I saw a lot of high-quality young people. I saw them totally dedicated, wanting to be the best football player that they could be."

Former Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell, for example, signed contracts for $52 million during his career. But he wound up filing for bankruptcy because he could no longer pay off a series of bad business loans when a housing investment backfired.

Gibbs, author of the book Game Plan for Life, says Brunell is "one of the neatest guys you'd ever want to be around."

"But all it takes is one mistake, and signing up for the wrong open-ended venture of some kind, and you would wind up in a mess like that," he says. "I think it highlighted the problems that are out there in this area."

A Game Plan For Life

Indeed, a Sports Illustrated story last year found that 78 percent of all NFL players go bankrupt or are in financial stress just two years into retirement.

"That was my motivation," Gibbs says. "I saw a lot of great young men ... play for me. One thing about football, you go through a lot of ups and downs and you see a lot of them kind of lay it on the line for the team."

"You admire them. And you're wanting that the fact they're getting a chance to play football [means] they're going to get a great financial reward for that, and you would hope that that would set them up for life. And yet in many cases, the opposite is true."

Gibbs says the plan was presented to the players at no cost. It was intended strictly to help them make good decisions. And, he says, he hopes the plan can spread beyond the Redskins to the rest of the league.

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