Cooke: 'Almost a Given' New Stadium Will Be in D.C.

By Richard Justice
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 13, 1991; Page D01

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A relaxed and upbeat Jack Kent Cooke, clearly confident that any remaining differences with city officials will be resolved, said it was "almost a given" that he'll build the new home for his Washington Redskins in the District.

Cooke, discussing the stadium and a variety of other topics during a recent interview, said only "a few things" still need to be resolved and that he hopes the Redskins will play their first game in the new facility sometime during the 1993 season.

"I'd say that's almost a given, yes," Cooke said. "I'm praying we can get it started soon enough. There are a few things still to be ironed out."

Cooke will finance the stadium himself on land near RFK Stadium and has negotiated with District officials about construction of and control over roads, parking and other matters. Most of those differences have been resolved and Cooke said discussions "are continuing" on the other areas.

His vision of what the stadium will look like "is pretty well crystallized because I've seen fairly accurate sketches of what it will look like, and I'm very pleased with it," he said. "It won't resemble any other stadium any more than the Forum resembles any other arena." Cooke had the Forum built when he owned the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I don't mean to say it'll be as radical a departure from the norm as the Forum was, but it's going to have a distinct identity, a character of its own. It'll have the superb sightlines of Giants Stadium, which I think is the best in the country. But it will have more amenities and posher amenities."

Meanwhile, Cooke touched on several other topics during a two-hour session, including his excitement about the start of a new football season and his confidence in Coach Joe Gibbs and General Manager Charley Casserly.

Cooke also talked about what has long been one of his pet topics -- bringing major league baseball back to the District. He said he was disappointed that efforts to land a National League expansion team had failed, and that he, like others, believed current prospects for landing a team were dim at best.

"I think it's a tragedy," he said. "It's complete nonsense, but what can you do about it?"

Cooke refused to touch on the matter of unsigned quarterback Mark Rypien or the frustration of having a revolving door at the position since Joe Theismann's career ended in 1985. He would say only that he's excited about this season -- his 18th as the man in charge of the team.

"I've never been anything but excited about every season," he said. "I love the idea of the contest, and the thrill of the contest is at the essence of almost every man I've ever met. Aren't you interested in the challenges you meet every day?"

Cooke said he never lost hope last season, even when the Redskins were 6-5 and on the verge of missing the playoffs a third straight season.

"It's obvious that I was disappointed, and Joe was disappointed," he said. "We talked about it at great length on a number of occasions. There's not a day I visit the park that I don't spend considerable time with Joe, and I knew it would right itself and so did Joe. It just needed some more of his intense application, and it panned out that way."

Gibbs worked 16- and 18-hour days down the stretch last season when the Redskins won four of their last five games and won a playoff game in Philadelphia before being eliminated by the San Francisco 49ers, 28-10.

Cooke heaped praise on his football management team, saying his regard for Gibbs had grown "in leaps and bounds. It's grown like a weed, like the beanstalk that Jack climbed. I knew when I met him he'd be a success. You can tell by listening to him, watching him, hearing his views. Listening even to the intensity in his voice and seeing even his movements. You can tell in short order whether a man has that intensity."

He said Gibbs's long hours didn't concern him, because "I know many successful men who drive themselves 12 months of the year, and they do it for 16, 17 hours a day. They don't drive themselves. They enjoy this pursuit of the object. The word 'drive' is used erroneously. He doesn't drive himself. He goes for a ride in this vehicle that takes him where he wants to go. I think Joe will coach as long as he's capable of coaching, which I hope will be as long as I'm alive."

He was equally complimentary of Casserly, saying: "I know he surprised the hell out of all of you {reporters}. But he didn't surprise me a bit. He earned his spurs 10 years ago with me. He worked and studied with us, and he's as organized a guy as I've ever met, including some of the CPAs and lawyers that work for me. He's totally organized. He's articulate. He doesn't rush into things. He has good judgments, he's cautious in his decisions and he's an all-around damn fine general manager.

"I would say right now he's one of the five best general managers in the league, and give him another three or four years and if they run a poll, he'll win it as the best general manager in football. He's also a decent man, he's a family man. He has a wonderful wife. Joe is the same type guy."

Cooke denied a suggestion that at 78 he's less involved with the day-to-day operation of the team. Many of the daily duties have been turned over to his son, team president John Kent Cooke, but Cooke said he was still the boss.

"I'm as involved the same as I've been since the day I landed here," Cooke said. "There isn't a day goes by that I don't talk to Casserly or Joe. I'm not there every day. I run a whole flock of newspapers on the West Coast, and I'm not there every day. But I do run them."

Asked if he would ever sell the Redskins, he said: "I've had a number of offers. I recently had a bona fide offer from a man quite capable of buying it. I wrote him a darling letter back saying in essence, no, no, no. If I'd had time to write a thousand nos, I would have. Not a chance in the world. Never any thought that I'd like to sell the Redskins."

© Copyright 1991 The Washington Post Company

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