Washington Redskins officials discussed the possibility of adding former defensive coordinator and head coach Richie Petitbon to the coaching staff before hiring Bill Arnsparger last week to assist defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, sources close to the situation said yesterday.
According to sources, Petitbon told club officials through an intermediary that he wasn't interested in working for the team again because the setup would be too awkward for him and Coach Norv Turner. Redskins officials never spoke to Petitbon directly and never offered him the job, sources said.
The Redskins never gave serious consideration last week to firing Nolan once the anger and frustration over the defense's performance in the club's 38-36 triumph over the Carolina Panthers nine days ago wore off, sources said. But owner Daniel Snyder made it clear that he wanted some action taken, sources said, and Arnsparger was hired from a list of candidates drawn up after a meeting involving Snyder, Turner and director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato over dinner the day after the Carolina game.
Snyder and Turner declined to comment yesterday on the deliberations that preceded the hiring of Arnsparger. Petitbon, reached at his home last night, also declined to comment.
ESPN first reported that Petitbon had been considered by the Redskins.
The 72-year-old Arnsparger, a widely respected defensive guru with nearly four decades of coaching experience, was scheduled to arrive in town last night. He has been given the title of defensive specialist, and is scheduled to be on hand for his first Redskins' practice on Wednesday at Redskin Park. It's unclear how much authority he will be given early on, but sources said yesterday it's possible that Arnsparger will have a great deal of say over how the defense is run once he gets familiar with the Redskins' players and schemes.
Turner said yesterday during his weekly news conference: "He'll bring, number one, his experience. Second of all, he's a guy who hasn't been totally wrapped up in what we're doing on a day-to-day basis. We sent the tapes of our first four games to Bill. . . . He's watched all the games. I've had a couple conversations with him. Mike's been on the phone over the weekend with him a number of times. There are some little things he's already looked at that we feel will help."
The Redskins have a 3-1 record but have the NFL's last-ranked defense. They have yielded 29.5 points and 433.5 yards per game this season, and Nolan has been under intense scrutiny. But Snyder, according to sources, has assured Turner that Turner won't be forced to fire any members of his coaching staff during the season.
Petitbon was a Redskins' assistant coach from 1978 to '92, and established himself as one of the league's best defensive minds. He succeeded Joe Gibbs as the team's head coach following Gibbs's abrupt retirement prior to the 1993 season. But he lasted only one season, in which the Redskins had a record of 4-12, before being fired and replaced by Turner.
Petitbon has received many overtures from NFL teams to serve as a defensive coordinator since his dismissal by the Redskins, but has rejected all of them and remains out of football.