Redskins, Eagles join in battle of old woes

November 28, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- If misery loves company, Richie Petitbon and Rich Kotite should have a good visit today.

When Petitbon's Washington Redskins and Kotite's Philadelphia Eagles meet at RFK Stadium, the two coaches can match each other injury for injury.

Both teams' starting quarterbacks have been injured, both have been using patchwork offensive lines, both have been hurt by free-agent losses and both have endured long losing streaks.

"We're playing hard and scratching and so are the Redskins," Kotite said. "It's a credit to Richie and the Redskins. They're trying to pull themselves out of it, too."

Kotite, though, has one thing going for him. He knows he'll back next year.

Owner Norman Braman, saying he wanted to "clear up any ambiguity," announced last week that Kotite will be back next year even though the Eagles are 4-6 and have lost six straight since Randall Cunningham broke his leg.

In Washington, Petitbon's future remains the top unanswered question about this lost Redskins season.

It's easy to make a case that Petitbon deserves a second season because his first season has been wrecked by injuries.

Owner Jack Kent Cooke, though, isn't noted for patience. He was spoiled by the success of former coach Joe Gibbs, whose worst record in 12 seasons was 7-9.

The worst record Cooke has had to endure since he moved to Washington in the late 1970s to take control of the team was Jack Pardee's 6-10 mark in 1980. Pardee had an excuse because John Riggins missed the season in a holdout, but he was fired after losing a power struggle with general manager Bobby Beathard.

With the Redskins at 2-8, it's unlikely they are going to finish 6-10, and Petitbon isn't getting good reviews for the way he has handled the team in his first season.

In last week's issue of College and Pro Football Weekly, Petitbon was ranked 26th among the league's 28 head coaches. He finished ahead of Bill Belichick of Cleveland and David Shula of Cincinnati.

In the evaluation, the paper said, "Is off to an awful start in his

first year as head coach and allowances were made for the great number of injuries the Redskins have suffered this season. Still, the feeling of those who did this study is that Petitbon's teams are not mentally prepared to play and have, in several games this season, not been into it until five or six minutes -- a lifetime in the NFL -- had elapsed."

Cooke has yet to tip his hand -- he has said votes of confidence are silly -- and Petitbon has declined to speculate on the future beyond today's game.

For the coaches and players, though, the final six games may determine where they're employed next year.

"The key for the players is to look their best on film because they're going to be analyzed over and over again, not only by us, but by everybody else in the league," Redskins offensive coordinator Rod Dowhower said. "That's not a threat. That's not anything. That's just the way it is."

Dowhower was quick to acknowledge that the coaches are facing the same situation.

"We're all in that evaluation mode," he said. "None of us is going to know anything until after this season is over, coaches or players."

Of the players, the one with the most at stake could be wide receiver Desmond Howard. Howard, who declined to comment on his situation last week, has caught only nine passes and has been criticized by members of the organization for not running good routes.

It could be argued until now that it was difficult for him to get in a groove because he was playing sporadically.

But Howard, the Redskins' first draft pick in the first round last year, apparently is going to get his chance, and he has to show he can do the things that he did at Michigan when he won the Heisman Trophy two years ago.

The Redskins and the Eagles are struggling for answers, as they attempt to improve their offenses. The teams combined for three field goals last week.

At quarterback, the Redskins will start Rich Gannon for the second straight week and the Eagles will start Bubby Brister, who suffered an ankle sprain earlier in the season.

Another change the Eagles are making is that Kotite is taking over the offense from offensive coordinator Zeke Bratkowski. Kotite was so upset with the team's 7-3 loss to the New York Giants that he didn't even show the players the videotapes. He wants them to forget it.

"It looked like we didn't practice last week," Kotite said. "And that's the thing that upsets me the most, because when you do something like that, that is a direct result and correlation to coaching. And it shouldn't happen. But it did happen."

Kotite, at least, knows he has another year to solve his team's problems. Petitbon, by contrast, may have six more games to solve his problems.

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