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10 For 80: Richie Petitbon

Posted by Andrew Walker on June 27, 2012 – 4:07 pm

Note: The Redskins Blog will be profiling several former players, coaches and team officials eligible to be voted by you, the fans, in this year’s Redskins 80th Anniversary celebration. To vote for Richie Petitbon or your 10 other all-timers to join the already-chosen list of the 70 Greatest Redskins, go to http://www.redskins80th.com/

He was the primary defensive mind during the Washington Redskins’ most successful period in team history.

From 1978 to 1993, Richie Petitbon served as the Redskins’ defensive coordinator, overseeing the unit that would appear in four Super Bowl games, winning three.

Perhaps the defense was never better under Petitbon than it was in 1991, when the Redskins captured their third Super Bowl title. During that season, the Redskins’ defense limited its opponents to 224 total points, which was second-lowest in the NFL, and held opponents to 14 points or less 10 times.

Petitbon’s players said they appreciated their coach’s teaching style.

“I love playing for Richie,” Redskins’ defensive tackle Eric Williams told the Washington Times. “Richie knows what it’s like to be a player. He coaches the way players understand. He wouldn’t ask you to do something he couldnt’ have done at one time.”

It probably would come as no surprise that Petitbon’s specialty was defense in his own playing days. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times as a safety with the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams and the Redskins, and in his 14-year playing career, Petitbon notched 48 interceptions for 801 return yards and three touchdowns.

Petitbon — an All-SEC quarterback at Tulane — made an immediate impact for the Redskins’ defense in 1971. In the team’s opener against St. Louis, he had three interceptions.

Petitbon was also given the daunting task of taking over the Redskins as head coach after legendary coach Joe Gibbs decided to leave prior to the 1993 season. He coached Washington to a 4-12 record that year.

But Petitbon’s will be forever known as the defensive mind behind three Super Bowl titles and the careers of Redskins greats Dave Butz, Monte Coleman, Darrell Green, Dexter Manley, Charles Mann, Wilber Marshall, Neal Olkewicz and others.

“You’ve got to be yourself,” Petitbon told The Baltimore Sun. “I’m a very honest person, a very blunt person. I just try to tell it like it is and I think players understand it. Sometimes it’s not what they want to hear, but as long as you’re consistent, I don’t think you really have any problems.”

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