TEMPE, ARIZ. — TEMPE, Ariz. -- Call it the Protege Bowl.
When the Phoenix Cardinals play host to the Washington Redskins today, one of Joe Gibbs' former assistants will get a victory -- unless the game ends in a tie.
Unfortunately, for Richie Petitbon, the Redskins' coach, or Joe Bugel, the Cardinals' coach, it'll be only the second victory of the season.
Petitbon and Bugel, both struggling at 1-4, are proving that being part of a successful program as an assistant coach is no guarantee of success as a head coach.
In fact, none of Gibbs' proteges has had any success as a head coach.
Dan Henning, who had two stints with the Redskins under Gibbs, went 22-41-1 as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons and 16-32 as head coach of the San Diego Chargers and is now back as an assistant coach with the Detroit Lions.
Bugel, in his fourth season as the head coach of the Cardinals, has a 14-38 career mark, and Petitbon is 1-4 in his first year.
"It's been ironic that the three guys do not have a winning record right now because we were all with Joe during the bad times and the good times," Bugel said. "I learned a great deal from that man. I had high expectations coming in here."
Petitbon isn't ready to be compared with Henning and Bugel.
"I think in my own case, it's really too early to make a judgment," Petitbon said. "I'd like to see us get healthy again and see what happens."
Petitbon's problems are the most puzzling of the three, although injuries have played a major factor in his team's demise. Henning and Bugel coached teams that hadn't won before they got there.
Petitbon, though, replaced Gibbs and was expected to keep the Redskins winning. He expected to do that. "We'll win," he said the day he got his job.
Instead, he's lost four straight, the longest losing streak for the Redskins since Gibbs started 0-5 in 1981.
Owner Jack Kent Cooke, who's not noted for his patience, supported Petitbon publicly last week the way he supported Gibbs when he was 0-5.
Although he declined to call it a vote of confidence, Cooke said, "My faith and confidence never wavered in Joe Gibbs' first year ** and most certainly, it hasn't wavered in Richie Petitbon."
Gibbs made it easy for Cooke not to waver by rebounding to finish 8-3 in the last 11 games in the 1981 season. Gibbs then went on to the next two Super Bowls.
Bugel was quick to tell Washington reporters in a conference call that Petitbon doesn't have anything to worry about.
"I know Mr. Cooke is a real man's man," Bugel said. "I don't think he would do that to Richie Petitbon. He deserves a chance. He's a heck of a coach. . . . The thing about the NFL is I think head coaches get too much credit when you win and too much blame when you lose. I don't think you have control over injuries. I don't think you have control over the players you lose. I know Richie knows how to coach. He's top shelf."
When Bugel talked to Phoenix reporters, though, he was candid about how tough the Washington job is.
"That's a pressure cooker because it's not ultimatums, it's winning the Super Bowl -- or get out," he said.
Bugel's comment about an ultimatum was a reference to the fact that Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill said before the start of the season that the Cardinals had to win nine games to save Bugel's job. After a 1-4 start, he has to go 8-3 the rest of the way to do that.
By giving Bugel a specific target, Bidwill has made it more difficult.
"There's no pressure, but it's constantly in the media," Bugel said. "Not only do I have to read it, but our players have to read it. That kind of stuff is unavoidable."
It doesn't help Bugel that of the 114 coaches in the history of the league who have coached 50 or more games with the same team, his winning percentage of .264 ranks 113th.
When the Cardinals lost to the New England Patriots last Sunday, the fans were yelling, "Joe must go."
On the criticism, Bugel said: "Everybody becomes a genius when you lose. But if that bothers you, then you hide in the closet. Outside of the compound [Cardinals practice facility], nobody probably likes us. You've got to watch your pet dog. That sucker might bite you."
It's to Bugel's credit that he hasn't lost his wit in these tough times.
Petitbon, by contrast, tends to be more terse although he wasn't testy last week the way he was before the 41-7 loss to the New York Giants.
"I have no control over what people say," Petitbon said. "I really don't worry about it. That's a fact. If you can't stand the heat, you shouldn't go in the kitchen."
Site: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
Time: 4 p.m.
TV: Channels 11, 9
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTEM (570 AM)
Last week: The Redskins lost to the New York Giants, 41-7, and the Cardinals lost to the New England Patriots, 23-21.
Last meeting: In the second game of the season, Johnny Bailey returned the first punt Reggie Roby made in a Redskins uniform for a 58-yard touchdown and the Cardinals went on to a 17-10 victory. Mark Rypien went down with a knee injury, and the Redskins haven't won since.
The series: In a series that dates back to 1932 when the Cardinals were in Chicago and the Redskins in Boston, the Redskins have a 61-35-2 edge. The Cardinals haven't swept the Redskins since 1974. Washington has won 30 of the last 37 meetings.
On the sidelines: Richie Petitbon, in his first year as Redskins coach, is 1-4. Joe Bugel, in his fourth year as Cardinals coach, is 14-38.
What the Redskins have to do to win: Score in the first period. The Redskins have been outscored 40-0 in the first period this season. Once they fall behind, they abandon the run for the pass. Since Rypien isn't all the way back, they'd like to score early and control the tempo on the ground. It helps that Robert Massey, who intercepted two fourth-period touchdown passes for touchdowns against Rypien at Phoenix last season, can't play for another week because he wasn't allowed to return for three weeks after his holdout ended.
What the Cardinals have to do to win: Run Garrison Hearst. With quarerback Steve Beuerlein recovering from a toe injury and not 100 percent, the Cardinals need a big game from the rookie running back, who has yet to live up to his billing. He had 73 yards in eight carries in the first half last week but got the ball only three times for 8 yards in the second half. They also have to keep from going into the tank after last week's demoralizing loss to the New England Patriots. That loss made it unlikely the team will be able to win the nine games it'll take to enable Bugel to keep his job. But they like Bugel and need an upset to keep the season from becoming a disaster.
Injury report: Redskins: DE Charles Mann (knee) is out. DE Jason Buck (shoulder), DT Tim Johnson (thigh), DT Eric Williams (hip) are questionable. QB Rich Gannon (foot), DE Shane Collins (foot) are probable. Cardinals: T Ernest Dye (knee), LB Steve Hyche (knee) are out. QB Steve Beuerlein (foot), S John Booty (leg-ankle), WR Gary Clark (groin), TE Derek Ware (neck) are questionable.
Outlook: Can you imagine the Redskins as a pick 'em against the Cardinals? It used to be a major upset if they lost to the Cardinals. Both teams are desperate for a win if they're to salvage something out of this season. It's hard to imagine the Redskins losing this game, but then it's hard to imagine them being 1-4.