CARLISLE, Pa. -- When Richie Petitbon was asked for the umpteenth time at the start of training camp about the pressure of replacing Joe Gibbs as head coach of the Washington Redskins, he talked about the advantages of the job.
"You're expected to win, but I think you're expected to win every place, but most places don't realize what it takes to win, and, therefore, you're not going to win. But I think everything's in place here. It's a class organization, and we have a legitimate chance to win every year, and that's the type of situation you want to coach in," he said.
For one preseason game, at least, the Redskins organization showed Monday night it can carry on without Gibbs the way it carried on when general manager Bobby Beathard left in 1989.
It was typical of Petitbon that after he reviewed the videotape of the 41-12 thrashing of the Cleveland Browns, he stressed again that he doesn't think it's important to win preseason games.
"I've said this all along and I really mean this, winning is really not important in the preseason. You have to play well with people and you have to make progress every week, but winning is not the goal. You set a schedule of how many plays you want your [first] team to play, and then put the other guys in. If you win, great, if you don't, it doesn't make any difference," he said.
Many fans in Washington don't seem to put much emphasis on the game, either. Only 36,455 fans showed up at RFK Stadium. But one split-screen shot on the ABC telecast that was blacked out in the Washington-Baltimore area showed that the owners take them seriously. The picture showed Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Washington Redskins, chortling in his box, while Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, looked glum in his box across the field.
It's Cooke who sets the tone for the Redskins organization. Since he sided with Beathard in 1981 in his power struggle with coach Jack Pardee and approved Beathard's decision to hire Gibbs, Cooke has divided the duties between the general manager and the coach. He's gone from Beathard and Gibbs to general manager Charley Casserly and Petitbon without missing a beat.
By contast, Modell, who is still remembered for firing Paul Brown is 1962, hasn't stuck to one format. Right now, coach Bill Belichick is running the football organization.
Tim Rooney, a New York Giants scout who was at the game Monday night, said, "The Redskins are very consistent in the way they do things. It's a big plus."
After struggling through a 9-7 record last year, the Redskins also are putting a lot of emphasis on rebounding. "I think there's a certain determination on this football team that we want to do well. We're executing better early than we have in the past. I think that's going to help us," Petitbon said.
That the Redskins open the regular season with three division opponents -- the Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Phoenix Cardinals -- is a factor, too. Add the incentive to make a new coach look good, and the Redskins are eager to get a fast start.
"Well, it probably does fire everybody up [having a new coach], but look at our schedule, all those NFC East teams so early. We've got to be ready to roll. We can't wait for the season to start and then decide to start playing football," he said.
Petitbon said he also was encouraged -- but not surprised -- that quarterback Mark Rypien played so well in leading the Redskins on touchdown drives on his two possessions.
"It doesn't come as a real surprise because he's been doing it in mini-camp, summer school, training camp and he took it one step further out there on the field," Petitbon said.
NOTES: Desmond Howard, who caught one pass for 13 yards in the Cleveland game, continues to have injury problems. He suffered a thigh bruise and is day-to-day. . . . Three veterans, Tim Johnson and Jason Buck, who have bruised ribs, and Jim Lachey, who has a hyper-extended knee, may not play against the Dolphins Saturday in Miami. . . . Petitbon lauded the play of rookies Darryl Morrison, Rick Hamilton and Sterling Palmer on special teams.