In a surprising move, Jack Pardee, who was fired 12 days ago as Redskin head coach, has been hired by the San Diego Chargers as their assistant head coach in charge of defense.

Pardee, 44, said last night he was excited about his new job, which he had all but turned down earlier in the week when first approached by Don Coryell, the Charger head coach.

"I left the door open just a little after the first phone call," Pardee said, "but I really was all set not to do anything but just rest and relax for a while. I wasn't interested in any job and I told them that.

"But we talked off and on all week. The main problem was moving 3,000 miles; we didn't know if we wanted to do that. Otherwise, I liked the idea. If you stay out of football too long, the way things are changing, you will have a harder time catching up.

"This is a way to do what I love, coach. I'm a coach, not a politician, and now I can concentrate on just coaching. I can learn something out there. I'm working with a good man with a good offense. I can offer them something, and they can offer me something."

Pardee said he would like another head coaching job but added: "I didn't see any opening up real soon. Anyway, there are only a few I would want. This is a chance for me to be with a team that could go to the Super Bowl soon." He said this was the only job offer he had received since being fired.

Pardee, who has been a head coach the last seven years, still has two years remaining on his Redskin contract, which pays him $125,000 a year. San Diego now will pay the bulk of that salary, with the Redskins making up the difference over the next two seasons. Ironically, Joe Gibbs, the new Redskin coach, was the Charger's offensive coordinator the last two seasons.

Pardee will be given almost total control over the San Diego defense, which was inconsistent all season before faltering in the AFC championship game against Oakland. The Raiders moved the ball almost at will during the final quarter of that contest, which they won, 34-27, to advance to the Super Bowl.

"I've played against his teams for seven years and he is one of the most outstanding defensive coaches in football," Coryell said. "I've always admired him as a fine person as well as a coach."

Jackie Simpson, who was the Chargers' defensive coordinator, will become the secondary coach. Larrye Weaver moves from secondary coach to offensive coordinator.

Pardee has gained a reputation as a fine defensive coach during his tenure in the NFL. The Redskins finished fourth in the NFCin total defense this season after a slow start. The Redskins did not allow more than 17 points in any of their last five games while playing three playoff clubs.

By taking the job, Pardee will keep his name active within the league. The Charger offense is one of the league's best, and if he can bolster the defense next year, it would improve his chances of getting another head coaching job. Former head coaches such as George Allen, Hank Stram and Ted Marchibroda, who have refused to take anything less than a head coaching job, have had difficulty getting jobs.

Critics knocked Coryell this season for the Chargers' lack of imagination on defense. When the Chargers lost to Pardee's Redskin team in December, 40-17, Pardee said San Diego's defense was easy to diagnose "because they use the same basic three or four formations and then try to overpower you."

In that Washington triumph, the Redskins riddled the Chargers by passing consistently to their backs, who were beating linebackers on short routes over the middle.

The Chargers have an outstanding front four and a decent secondary, but weak linebacking. However, their overall talent is considered better than the Redskin defenders Pardee coached this year.

"Don and I work a lot alike and he already uses a four-man front, which puts us on the same page," Pardee said. "I'll just add a few twists to what they've been doing. I have a few different ideas, things that we have done successfully in the past. They already have a fine front four, with three of them in the Pro Bowl, so that's a good way to start.

"We hope to keep the farm (in Middleburg). I won't be going out there (to San Diego) permanently until school is out. All of us need to take a little rest right now."

Pardee was fired by Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke after a 24-24 record in three seasons with the team. This season, Washington was 6-10, the team's worst record in 17 years. Pardee was released after losing a power struggle with General Manager Bobby Beathard for control of the front office.

Pardee was an all-pro linebacker with both Los Angeles and Washington, ending his career in 1972 after playing on the Redskins' Super Bowl team.

He then coached Washington's linebackers for a season before being named head coach of the Florida Blazers in the World Football League.

He became the youngest head coach in the NFL when he moved to the Chicago Bears in 1975. In three seasons there, he had teams of 4-10, 7-7 and 9-5. After George Allen and the Redskins parted company in 1978, Pardee took over the Washington job.

He was named coach of the year in 1976 with Chicago and in 1979 with the Redskins. He is married and has five children.