- The Washington Times - Monday, December 25, 2006

A man of varied interests, Richie Petitbon used a baseball analogy to help explain why the Redskins were so effective stopping opponents in 1991.

“It’s like a baseball pitcher,” the former defensive coordinator said. “You’ve got to have a lot of different pitches. Very few guys win with just a 100 mile per hour fastball. You’ve got to mix things up.”

The Redskins came at their opponents high and hard that season but threw in enough wrinkles, schemes and packages to keep teams off-balance. Petitbon called the pitches, and the result, he said, was the best defense he had as an assistant. Better, he said, than the other two Super Bowl-winning units of 1982 and 1987.

“They played well as a team,” said Petitbon, who lives in Vienna. “Nobody had to do everything.”

Petitbon is not just a baseball fan. A safety with the Los Angeles Rams in 1969 and 1970 (before accompanying George Allen to the District with several other “Ramskins”), he said he closely watched legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

“The thing that made him such a great coach was that he understood how to change the tempo of a game,” Petitbon said. “You’ve got to change the pace. You’ve got to have a total mixture. You’ve got to win on mistakes. You’ve got to have turnovers.”

The Redskins forced opponents into 41 turnovers in 1991. It was not an accident.

“We didn’t have many rules, but one rule we really lived by was that you could not not hustle,” he said. “Everyone had to get to the ball. You have everyone running to the football, [and] there’s a good chance somebody’s gonna come up with it. … You’ve got to be lucky. The ball has got to bounce right. But if you get enough people around the ball, it’s gonna bounce your way.”

Petitbon succeeded Joe Gibbs as coach when Gibbs abruptly retired after the 1992 season. The Redskins went 4-12, and Petitbon was fired, replaced by Norv Turner.

What does he do now?

“A little bit of here, a little bit of there,” he said. “A little bit of golf, a little bit of traveling.”

Petitbon and his wife recently returned from a trip to California’s wine country. He hasn’t had much contact lately with Gibbs, his old friend and boss who is going through some tough times.

“I saw him when he came back,” Petitbon said. “I told him he was nuts.”

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