The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Tuesday, August 30, 1994               TAG: 9408300524
SECTION: SPORTS                   PAGE: C1   EDITION: FINAL 
                                             LENGTH: Long  :  116 lines


Pittsburgh quarterback Mike Tomczak had just reached the end of his seven-step drop Friday night when Redskins safeties Martin Bayless and Pat Eilers arrived, clawing like mad dogs at his black No. 18 jersey.

Eight yards away, at the Washington 32, stood Dwight Stone, arms flailing in hope, no defender within 20 yards.

Tomczak saw Stone but was rattled. His fourth-down pass fluttered and finally fell just short of Stone's grasp.

A victory for the Washington defense.

A victory for Ron Lynn.

Lynn isn't the first defensive coordinator to gamble and call a safety blitz. But he is the first to do so for Washington since 1978, when Richie Petitbon assumed that role, one he held until being fired as head coach after last season.

Lynn, 50, was one of new coach Norv Turner's first hires, and Turner passed by long-time Redskins defensive assistant Larry Peccatiello in the process.

Ironically, Peccatiello was hired by Cincinnati to coach the defense, a position Lynn quit to join Turner. When Petitbon was asked to compare the ability of the two, his answer didn't help Lynn's stock in the community.

``Comparing Larry to Ron Lynn is like comparing a Rolls Royce to a Volkswagen,'' Petitbon claimed.

Funny, except to Lynn.

``I'm not replacing Petitbon; he didn't coach the defense last year, did he?'' Lynn says mockingly, knowing that Washington's defense ranked near the bottom of the league in 1993 and that Petitbon was still ultimately responsible.

He stops himself.

``That's an awfully flippant thing to say,'' he admits. ``Truth is, no one's going to replace Richie. His place is secure in Redskins history. We're just coming in at a different time, with different players. There's no competition or rivalry with him.

``No one will put more pressure on us than we're going to put on ourselves. It's always been that way.''

In San Diego, where Lynn spent six seasons as defensive coordinator, the task was to give the defense an identity. The Chargers were ``Air Coryell,'' a quick-strike offense that usually needed every point to keep from being sabotaged by an inept defense. The first year under Lynn, the Chargers rose from 28th to sixth in team defense. The following year, 1990, they moved up another notch.

Then it was on to Cincinnati, which had problems everywhere. The success wasn't as dramatic, though the Bengals rose from 28th the year before he arrived to 16th last season.

``We didn't progress as much because we didn't win enough games in Cincinnati,'' Lynn explains. ``But there were other factors involved there as well.

``But it was neat to see some guys others thought couldn't play - a Gil Byrd - become a Pro Bowl guy for a number of years. I think we had something to do with that happening.''

His critics have much to say about Lynn's strategies. They argue derisively that he teaches ``AFC Defense,'' as if that somehow won't cut it in the smashmouth NFC East.

``I know what they mean,'' Lynn responds. ``During the time I was there, (the AFC) had a lot of guys who could throw the ball pretty well. There were some up-the-field passing games you had to defend. There weren't a lot of teams that were going to run the ball. You do what you have to do.

``We'll see more running game now. ... conversely, we have to stop it.''

Critics also claim that Lynn prefers a 3-4 defense, that he doesn't know how to assemble a 4-3 outfit. He scoffs.

``Hell, it depends what you would call Leslie O'Neal,'' he answers, referring to the Chargers' pass-rush specialist. ``If you call him a linebacker, then we haven't played 4-3. We called him a linebacker, but only because we wanted people to think we were 3-4. We were really in a 4-3. All we would have had to do was change the name (of his position) from `Liz Linebacker' to end.''

Lynn has spent tremendous energy seeking an effective blend up front. It hasn't happened. He's been hampered by the fact that most of his linemen have been nursing injuries and haven't worked together.

Washington's projected front four hasn't played so much as one down together this summer - and the season opener is five days away.

Obviously, that makes Lynn's overhauling trickier. Everything about the Redskins' defense is new - new schemes, new terminology and many new players.

Early on, there was talk the veteran players weren't sold on Lynn's effectiveness. You don't hear much of that lately. They have bought his aggressive, go-for-broke philosophy.

``You have to be a little demanding with them; they have to believe in you blindly until they see results,'' he says. ``But you're not coaching football, you're coaching people. We understand we're trying to get to the same place. We tell them all we're asking is for them to give it a shot.

``We have no qualms about dogging (sending safeties after the quarterback on passing downs) or blitzing (rushing just linemen and linebackers), forcing the line of scrimmage, forcing the action.''

Lynn ruffled a few feathers early when he intimated that cornerback Darrell Green wasn't very fundamentally sound, that he'd been living off his vast natural ability. But he made his point when he mentioned how Dallas' Michael Irvin had enjoyed several big games against Green.

``I'm not going to change a lot of Darrell Green's techniques, but I'd like to give him a couple of new things to work with that may give him a new weapon,'' Lynn said. ``Michael Irvin's beating up on him because he's using the old techniques, things Michael's seen forever and become used to.

``When Darrell gets into a stress situation, he reverts to those comfort-zone things. So maybe we add a little to him and maybe it makes a difference.''

Green is paying attention, and there are signs of improvement. Lynn couldn't care less if the fans gave him the same courtesy.

``I don't look at job security as a fan-pressure deal,'' he says. ``We want to be good because we want to be good, period.'' ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


Defensive coordinator Ron Lynn: ``No one will put more pressure on

us than we're going to put on ourselves. It's always been that


by CNB