Edward Bennett Williams, president of the Redskins since 1965, soon will give up control of the football team with majority owner Jack Kent Cooke taking over, The Washington Post learned yesterday. It might happen as early as this week.
So the 34-20 Redskin romp over the Dallas Cowboys may have been Williams' last glory day with the team he helped status by hiring coaches raise from despair to Super Bowl status by hiring coaches Vince Lombardi, George Allen and Jack Pardee.
Pete Rozelle, commissioner of the National Football League, said in Philadelphia yesterday that he and Williams had reached an agreement that Williams would step down as the Redskin boss.
After baseball's American League aproved sale of the Baltimore Orioles to Williams last month, Rozelle had said the prominent Washington attorney was in violation of NFL policy against its team owners or chief operating officers simultaneously controlling a team in another major league sport.
I talked with Ed at some length this week," Rozelle said. "And I think we are going to be able to work out a solution (to the cross-ownership problem) and resolve the situation. I think we're going to meet again this week to work out a final resolution of the thing."
Asked if any such resolution would include Williams continuing to call Redskin shots, Rozelle said, "No, it won't. Absolutely not. That won't happen."
Williams would not confirm or deny any agreement with Rozelle.
"He told me he wouldn't say anything until after we met again," Williams said at RFK Stadium yesterday. "And I agreed not to say anything, either. sI intend to abide by my part of the agreement."
Cooke, who owns 85 percent of the Redskin stock with Williams holding the other 15 percent, also avoided a direct answer to the Williams-Rozelle question.
"Just say, 'Mr. Cooke said nothing, he was too happy with the football game to be talking about anything except it,'" Cooke said.
A source in the Redskin front office, however, said Cooke will replace Williams as part of the agreement with Rozelle. As Williams did with former Oriole owner Jerold Hoffberger, Cooke may ask Williams to stay on with the Redskins in an advisory role, another source said.
As long as Williams is not the chief operating officer of the football team, he does not violate the NFL policy that is designed, the NFL says, to keep its people's minds on football alone. He also can retain his stock in the Redskins.
The Cooke move to the top is no unexpected development.
Even as majority owner for a decade, Cooke left control of the Redskins in Williams' hands. Cooke was busy with his other sports teams in Los Angeles, the hockey Kings and baseball Lakers. He also owned the Forum, a 16,000-seat arena in which those teams play.
From across the continent, Cooke participated by telephone in decisions ultimately made by Williams. When Cooke sold his Los Angeles sports interests and a 16,000 acre ranch for $67 million early this year -- and when he settled a divorce case for a reported $42 million -- the 66-year-old entrepreneur moved to Upperville, Va., to begin what he calls "my third life." He made a fortune in Canadian broadcasting and publishing before moving to California in 1963.
Coming as it did in the summer of a year in which Williams bought the Orioles (Aug. 2), Cooke's move to the Washington area prompted speculation that he would take over full control of the Redskins.
Cooke and Williams denied there would be any change at the top. Williams even said he would challenge the NFL's cross-ownership policy, hinting he would take the league to court.
Williams' leadership of the Redskins has been a success. When he was approved as club president in June 1965, the team had not had a winning season the previous nine years. With yesterday's victory, the Redskins are assured of their ninth straight .500-or-better season.