The hurt is gone now for Jack Pardee. He says he is not angry or bitter about his firing last winter as coach of the Washington Redskins.
"It's history, I don't even think about it any more," he insisted, sitting under a tree on the campus of the University of California-San Diego, the training camp site for the San Diego Chargers, for whom he is assistant head coach in charge of defense.
Still, Pardee will say he should have known his dismissal was coming all along, particularly as Redskin losses mounted last year.
"From a far distance," he said, "I know I wasn't fired because of my coaching or the record (24-24 over three years). I was fired because the owner wanted to take over control of the club. An owner can do what he wants to do. He doesn't need another reason, does he?
"It was no happy parting of the ways for me or the family. We loved Washington and we didn't want to have to move. But if you own something, you do what you want with it.
"Of course you can make changes, but it doesn't mean you'll better yourself. History will show whether they made the right move. From everything I've heard, Joe Gibbs is a fine guy, a fine coach. With (John) Riggins back, that will be a big help. I thought last year with Riggins we had a chance to win 10 games. If I was there now, I'd feel the same way."
Pardee says history also will show that the much-ballyhooed meetings with owner Jack Kent Cooke and General Manager Bobby Beathard at Cooke's Upperville, Va., estate at the end of the season were a charade.
"The Christmas discussions were stupid when I look back at it now," Pardee said. "I believe they already had a new coach picked out, even while we were having those meetings. At the time, I thought the discussions were pertinent. But knowing what I know now, well, they knew what they wanted to do and anything I said wouldn't have mattered anyway."
Pardee was asked if he had any bad feelings toward Beathard. Their so-called rift over philosophical differences on personnel has been given as the major reason for Pardee's dismissal.
"No, it wasn't the general manager who fired me," Pardee said. "We had differences all along, but the owner made that decision, not the general manager. It's funny. The year before things had really fallen into place so well. We had no injuries. We surprised a lot of people. We had no major problems. Last year everything went wrong that possibly could have gone wrong.
"The Riggins thing (the running back, who was trying to get his contract renegotiated, quit the team while it was in training camp) started it off badly for us. We went into some games without our two starting tackles or our two tight ends. If Riggins had been there, at least we would have had a running game to fall back on. Then Clarence Harmon got hurt and that became a problem. We never could get back real fancy because we were always scrambling to field a team.
"But I don't want to make excuses. Sure, it would have been hard for them to fire me if we had made the playoffs. But they (the Houston Oilers) fired Bum Phillips and he made the playoffs. If they want to fire you, they don't need a reason.
"When I first took the Redskin job I understood the situation. I didn't want to be judged on my performance over two or three years. I thought it would take longer than that to show what we could do. I accepted those conditions, but then to have the rug pulled out before the time was up, well, I wasn't crazy about that.
"But getting angry doesn't do any good. I didn't get down on myself. I knew I didn't go from a good coach to a bad coach in one year. I had confidence in myself."
Still, after the firing, Pardee did not plan to be coaching in the NFL this season. He owned a home and some land near Middleburg, Va., and "I'd planned to be a farmer for a year, and then get back in."
But Charger Coach Don Coryell had a better idea.
The day after the Chargers lost to the Oakland Raiders in the AFC championship game, Coryell called Pardee and asked him to consider heading west to become his top assistant.
The Chargers had lost to the Raiders by a touchdown. Even worse, they had lost because their defense could not stop the Raiders from controlling the ball for the last 6 minutes 52 seconds. Coryell's potent offense never got the one last chance it needed to tie or win the game.
"I told Don I really didn't have any interest in coaching," Pardee said. "But it really impressed me getting a call from him the Monday after a Sunday loss. He didn't go into hiding. That showed me something. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was a good opportunity. I decided to give it a try."
Now, Pardee has no regrets. The Chargers are picking up the difference in his contract as the Redskin head coach. And he almost has a free hand to shape the Charger defense.
He is using many of the defenses and substitution patterns he employed with the Redskins. He said he wants to make the Chargers less predictable than they were last year, particularly in defending against short-range passes to backs.
Coryell sees the difference already. "The defense has really taken to Jack," he said. "They know he's going to make them better.
"This is a class guy. He's honest, he's straightfoward and very conscientious. I feel very fortunate to have him on my staff. And I also know he's not going to be with us very long.
"It's ridiculous to think of Jack Pardee as anything other than a head coach in the NFL. I hope I can keep him more than a year, but I expect to lose him."
Pardee also is hoping he will get another chance to coach his own team.
"I can coach in this league," he said. "I think my record shows that. But the next time, I also want to be in a position with a chance to win. I thought for a while I had that in Washington. But in this business, you never really know."