That, of course, meant I was going into the archives for Petitbon nuggets. Not when he was the defensive coordinator, because that was a huge expanse of years when he was usually overshadowed by the workaholic Gibbs. Not during or after his one season as a head coach, because that was depressing.
But in the six months or so between when he was hired and when he coached his first game, there was some good stuff.
Including this quote in The Post: “I really believe football is the best game in the world,” Petitbon said. “It’s more like life than life itself....And the great thing about losing is that next week you get to roll the dice again.”
And this quote from Jack Kent Cooke:
“There’s no need for me to extol Richie’s capabilities,” Cooke said. “He’s the best defensive coach in the league. I wouldn’t trade him for any two.”
When Petitbon was asked what his reaction to getting the job was, he told The Post this: ““If I’d gotten one of those other jobs and this happened, you’d be looking at a suicide right now. This is the place I always wanted to be.”
Then there was this, from Wilbon, concerning Petitbon getting passed over in favor of Dave Wannstedt in Chicago:
“He should have been a coach long time ago. Thank God ‘Bone’ didn’t get the Chicago job,” Eric Williams, the Redskins defensive tackle said. “Bone still has those competitive juices, I know he wants to get out there and hit somebody even now. I love playing for him. He’s old-school, but with modern-day twists. I know this: For people trying to make up their minds if they want to play here, if you’re borderline, having Bone here is like a $ 100,000 difference.”
Petitbon will do just fine because all the support systems that were in place for Gibbs presumably will be in operation for him too. “There are so many teams in this league that have absolutely no chance to win because of their ownership,” he said.
From Richard Justice, in May of 1993 as mini-camp got underway:
In his first two months on the job, Petitbon has challenged his quarterback, Mark Rypien, to play better or find himself on the bench next season. He has relegated wide receiver Art Monk to a backup. He made it clear he wasn’t sorry to see wide receiver Gary Clark sign with the Phoenix Cardinals and seemingly feels the same way about linebacker Wilber Marshall possibly winding up with the Houston Oilers. Oh, yes. The Redskins also have changed from a one-back offense to several backs, meaning Earnest Byner will split time with Brian Mitchell, Ricky Ervins, Reggie Brooks and perhaps Marcus Allen, if the free agent is signed.
And Petitbon has been typically blunt. When defensive end Fred Stokes signed with the Los Angeles Rams, Petitbon said: “We’ll find a better guy.” Two weeks ago, when veteran Al Noga was signed as a replacement, Petitbon said: “We won that trade.”
After free agent cornerback Martin Mayhew telephoned Petitbon to say he was having second thoughts about an offer from the Phoenix Cardinals, Petitbon encouraged him to remain with the Redskins. But when Mayhew suggested that Petitbon ask General Manager Charley Casserly to telephone his agent and reopen negotiations, Petitbon got mad.
Mayhew said he was stung by the coach’s angry tone, and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that night.
Also from Justice, concerning Petitbon’s personality:
While putting new touches on his football team, he also has been putting them on his new office a bit at a time, replacing the leather and glass that Gibbs preferred to classic sitting room chairs with colorful fabrics. John Grisham’s new novel, “The Client,” sits on one side of his desk, and a photo of Cooke, Petitbon and Gibbs — autographed by Cooke — occupies a prominent place.
Gibbs was legendary for his 20-hour work days and a single-mindedness that seemed comical at times. Petitbon is different. He’s a voracious reader, loves politics and the ponies, is a connoisseur of food and drink and can offer an opinion on anything from the Department of the Interior to the pennant race in the National League East.
In training camp, it was said, meetings were shorter because Petitbon didn’t have as much to say.
“It’s more relaxed around here,” a veteran Redskin told our paper then . “Joe would begin to get nervous around this time of the season and that rubbed off. Richie has let us known that he believes in us. He’ll chew you out when you do something wrong, but he’ll also tell you what you’ve done right. He’s a guy that played the game and he knows that little things like days off are important to break up the grind of camp.”
And then there was this quote he gave to Ken Denlinger during training camp.
“A lot of people choke,” Petitbon said. “The excitement doesn’t bother me at all. I think the bigger the excitement, the more other people have problems with it. I know it helped me as a player. I feel the same way as a coach.
“A lot of people put too much pressure on themselves. ‘Gotta win. Gotta win.’ What they’re saying really is: ‘I’m afraid to lose.’ I’m not afraid to lose.”
While reading training camp stories from that summer, I also came across this quote from Jim Lachey.
“When you play for the Redskins,” he said, “you know you have a chance to win it all every year, and that’s exciting.”