HERNDON, Va. -- Jack Pardee is willing to say he still has fond memories of his days in Washington.
"I had a great time there," he said yesterday.
That's about all he'll say about his days there.
He came to Washington with George Allen's Over-the-Hill Gang in 1971 when football became a passion in the nation's capital.
Retiring as a player at the end of the 1972 season, he came back in 1978 as Redskins head coach. He was so eager to return that he walked away from the Chicago Bears head coaching job.
In his second year, he came within a Roger Staubach comeback of a division title. The following year (1980), when John Riggins held out the whole year, the team fell to 6-10 and he was fired.
"That's the only job I've ever been fired from in my life," he said.
Pardee lost out in a power struggle when owner Jack Kent Cooke, who had taken control from from Edward Bennett Williams two years earlier, sided with general manager Bobby Beathard.
On Jan. 5, 1981, Pardee got the pink slip. He didn't take it well.
"Yeah, I'm bitter. I think they made a big mistake," he said at the time.
And that's not all he said.
"There's one thing I certainly agree with Mr. Cooke on, a saying he used that I'd never heard before, that a fish stinks from the head," he said then. "Not the tail or the body but the head. I think Mr. Williams had a very successful run at running the Redskins. Mr. Cooke has just started. We'll see. It's going to take one, two, three, four years and we'll see how that goes. We'll wait a couple of years and see how the fish smells."
But Pardee didn't seem eager to talk about his days in Washington yesterday in a conference call with reporters at Redskin Park.
"That's history. I'm worried about the future, not the past," he said.
When he was asked if he has the degree of authority in Houston that was an issue in Washington, he said, "I have great people to work with here. It's a great situation here. I don't even remember the other one" in Washington.
Asked about his comments after he was fired, he said, "I don't remember what I said, it was a long time ago."
Not so long ago that Sunday's against against the Redskins isn't going to be a special one. It'll be the first time he's been at RFK Stadium since Dec. 13, 1980, when the Redskins played their last home game in what turned out to be his final year.
The week before, the Redskins routed San Diego, 40-17. The Chargers' offensive coordinator was a young coach named Joe Gibbs.
You know the rest of the story.
Gibbs was hired a week later to replace Pardee and turned out to be one of the game's best coaches.
Even Pardee will concede the Redskins "hired a good coach."
Gibbs, who doesn't know Pardee well, would like to distance himself from all the controversy over Pardee's firing.
"To me when I came here, it was all done a long time before I got here is the way I feel about it," he said.
While Gibbs has been in Washington all these years, Pardee took a roundabout journey back to the NFL. He was an assistant coach in San Diego, spent a year in the oil business and then was hired as the coach of the Houston Gamblers of he USFL in 1984. After a second season with the Gamblers, the league folded and he spent a year scouting before he became head coach of the University of Houston.
After three years there, he was hired by the Oilers to replace Jerry Glanville in 1990.
The strange thing is that when he left Washington, he was considered a conservative coach in the George Allen mold. Now he's back running the wide open run-and-shoot.
Pardee, though, says the run-and-shoot isn't high-risk.
He said, "If you really know what it is, it's a pretty basic system."
The Oilers are off to the best start in their history (7-1), with Warren Moon as the trigger man of the run-and-shoot.
While the Redskins, also off to their best start ever (8-0), are trying to avoid a letdown after their victory over the New York Giants last Sunday, this game is being billed in Houston as Super Bowl XXV 1/2 .
"To go back there and win, nothing would make me happier," he said. "I'd hate to go to RFK and be embarrassed."
NOTES: DL Eric Williams (neck) was the only Redskin who didn't practice yesterday, but he's expected to play. . . . Orioles P Gregg Olson was a visitor at practice.
Jack Pardee's coaching record
Year.. Team.. .. .. .. .. .. Record
1974.. Fla. Blazers (WFL) .. 14-6
1975.. Chicago Bears.. .. .. 4-10
1976.. Chicago Bears.. .. .. 7-7
1977.. Chicago Bears.. .. .. 9-5
1978.. Wash. Redskins. .. .. 8-8
1979.. Wash. Redskins. .. .. 10-6
1980.. Wash. Redskins. .. .. 6-10
1984.. Houston Gamblers.. .. 13-5
1985.. Houston Gamblers.. .. 10-8
1987.. U. of Houston.. .. .. 4-6-1
1988.. U. of Houston.. .. .. 9-2
1989.. U. of Houston.. .. .. 9-2
1990.. Houston Oilers. .. .. 9-7
1991.. Houston Oilers. .. .. 7-1
NFL record .. .. .. .. .. .. 60-54