The sound you may be hearing around the National Football League concerning the current sad state of affairs of the Redskins may well be a collective "I told you so" about George Allen's trade-now, worry-later, cherish-the-aged philosophy.
Talkative Thomas Henderson, the wide-open-mouthed Dallas linebacker, alluded to it last week, saying, "You can play with experience for a while, but youth takes over. All our guys are in their 20s and all their guys are in their 30s . . . When you get up in age, it takes longer to recover."
As the Redskins injury list mounts to alarming proportions, one can't help but notice the ages and experience levels of those banged up and battered players.
There is Chris Hanburger, 36 and a 13-year veteran: Pat Fischer, (37 and 17 years), Charley Taylor (35 and 14), Jake Scott 32 and eight in the NFL, Bob Brunet (31 and eight), and John Riggins (28 and seven).
Are the Redskins problems directly related to age, as the critics are suggesting? Is the future over for Washington's favorite football team?
George Allen visibly bristled at the question yesterday.
"I'd say John Riggins is pretty young guy, and he's injured," Allen fumed. "I'd say Brunet is a young guy, and he's injured. Stu O'Dell is 26 . . . Ah, I could go on and on.
"Listen, the age has nothing to do with it. Ron McDole is playing good football and he's 40 years old or whatever he is (38). He's still ready to play. They can say what they want to say. They say it when we're losing, and they'll say it when you're winning."
All those injuries to key older men can hardly be considered coincidence. Perhaps time really has caught up with a Redskin starting team that now averages 30 years of age an offense and defense.
Riggins is a young man at 23, but he has also taken seven years of pounding as a running back, a position where the average life expectancy is four years.
And heaven only knows how many concussions and wicked hits Brunet has suffered after eight years of going one-on-one with the wedge. He is 31 on the calendar, 81 on the medical charts.
Still, Allen has supporters in strange places. Joe Sullivan once his chief aide but now director of operations for the St. Louis Cardinals came to his defense yesterday, sort of.
"I know a lot of people have been saying that about the Redskins the last couple of years, and George has proved them wrong every year," Sullivan said. No, I don't think it's the end for them, but not the Redskins who beat us.
"But when you go with older players, injury is the one big thing you gamble with. When an older player gets hurt, it takes longer to get back. Their bodies don't respond. That's why we try and keep young players, and Dallas is the same way.
"If George is willing to take the gamble - and it's worked in the past - you also have to pay the consequences. Most of the teams also feel you can't play with older players unless they stay in a No. 1 shape. Although they might try, the older you get the harder it is. I think that's what you're seeing now.
"I can also tell you that's an entirely different team without Chris Hanburger in there. I think that's the reason they're having their problems. He can be mediocre and have a great game because he's always got them in the right defense.
So what's wrong with the Redskin offense? Sullivan was asked. Is it time to switch quarterbacks?
"Look at all the injuries to the running backs," said Sullivan. "You can't blame Kilmer. He's got so much courage. He's getting banged up. I admire the hell out of that guy. I don't think that's the solution for them. But that's George's problem, not mine."
Allen said yesterday it is not a problem, that Kilmer is still his quarterback, bad knee, bruised shoulder, sore back.
He will get no argument here, simply because after four long years, the jury is still out on the man who would replace Kilmer. And that is not so much Joe Theismann's fault as it may be Allen's.
Most of the Redskins will tell you that a man needs three or four years of constant game condition playing to master his position. Theismann has never been given that opportunity, if only because Allen always preferred to throw Kilmer, Sonny Jurgensen and even Randy Johnson at the opposition.
Allen did little for Theismann's confidence in the Cowboy game, lifting him in favor of a hurting 38-year-old man, although Theismann's play did little to inspire his teammates or the faithful followers of Redskin football.
One Redskin offered the ideal solution in the locker room after the Giant loss. Wouldn't it be wonderful, he asked to have Kilmer calling the plays from the press box and Theismann's young legs and arm out on the field, with messenger guards to relay valuable information?
But that is not about to happen, Kilmer will play as long as he can stand up, and with the savage beating he has taken in the last two weeks - 10 legal sacks and countless more after releasing the ball - that may not be much longer.
Cynics will tell you that Allen has the Redskins right where he wants them, in the crisis atmosphere his teams have thrived on in the past.
But during training camp this year, Allen was the first to admit that the frantic comeback from the 6-4 start of the 1976 season left the Redskins thoroughly drained emotionally and ripe for the playoff egg they laid against the Vikings in the opening round.
Allen has few psychological ploys left. His football players privately say they are tired of hearing "must game" or "the most important game of the season" every week. And they all know that no man Allen brings in either by trade or off the waiver list save perhaps for Jurgensen or Larry Brown - is really going to provide much inspirational help.
"Got any suggestions?" Allen asked the media during his press conference yesterday at Redskin Park.
One fellow said giving the Redskins the entire week off and allowing them to show up Sunday for the Eagle game night not be a bad idea.
Allen smiled. What else could he do?