The reasons the Redskins are a .500 team - and, might not get a whole lot better - involve small lines of type in NFL draft lists that loom large at the moment, that have stymied an orderly transition and forced coach George Allen to near-genius levels to overcome trader George Allen.
Take a glance at the Redskins' recent history with the system NFL teams use to replenish themselves:
1. Choice to San Diego for Duane Thomas.
2. Choice to Green Bay for Dave Robinson.
3. Choice to San Francisco for Rosey Taylor.
4. Choice to Buffalo for past considerations.
1. Choice to Miami for Joe Theismann.
2. Choice to Detroit through San Diego for Duane Thomas.
3. Choice to New Orleans through San Diego for Bryant Salter.
4. Choice to Oakland through San Diego for Walt Sweeney.
5. Choice to St. Louis for Fred Sturt, Jimmie Jones.
1. Choice to St. Louis for Dave Butz.
2. Choice to Los Angeles through San Diego for Bryant Salter.
3. Choice to San Diego for Bryant Salter and Deacon Jones.
4. Choice to Kansas City for Jim Tyrer.
5. Choice to Los Angeles for Larry Smith.
6. Choice is Atlanta for Glenn Hyde.
1. Choice to St. Louis for Dave Butz.
2. Choice to St. Louis for Dave Butz.
Probably, the Redskins got fair value for Robinson, Taylor and Sweeney - and Salter allowed them to trade for Jake Scott. Allen may prove a winner over Miami yet if Theismann ever beats out Billy Kilmer at quarterback, though Don Shula used that choice for an immensely talented linebacker Larry Gordon.
So far at least trader Allen has all but thrown away three first-round draft choices and two second-round choices, for a runner who rarely ran, Thomas, and a defensive tackle hampered by injuries and lack of internal fire, Butz.
That is an overwhelming disadvantage, yet coach Allen - helped by being able to sign Jean Fugett, Calvin Hill and John Riggins without having to compensate anyone - still got the Redskins into the playoffs last season.
But that was not all the Redskins had to overcome. The way Allen uses the draft, for trades, only nine "draftees" over the last four years are even on the team - and the lone survivor of the '74-crop, Stu O'Dell, is out for the season.
Of those nine players Allen used the draft to acquire, only Joe Lavender, Ron Saul and Mike Thomas are starters at the moment, though Dallas Hickman, Karl Lorch and Ted Fritsch clearly have proved useful.
But Thomas' once-brilliant star is steadily in decline. He has been injured and the blocking has been awful at times. His hands are healthy, though, and he dropped two catchable passes against the Giants Sunday and fumbled once after struggling for a first down.
The injuries to Pat Fischer and Chris Hamburger, Charley Taylor, Jake Scott and others are of the magnitide some thought ought to have hit the team three years ago but did not. And who has played well lately, or at least better than expected? The old folks, Ron McDole and Kilmer. And the most valuable player right now is the punter, Mike Bragg.
Simply put, trader Allen has not given coach Allen the means to produce a contender for the Super Bowl, though the rest of the National Conference teams might conspire to allow the Redskins more of a chance at the playoffs than they might well deserve.
Even though Allen often speaks otherwise, his history has been to choose backup players more for their value to the special teams than as future replacements. Now some special teamers are in fact first teamers. Danny Buggs, Taylor's replcement Sunday, was known in New York as "virgin hands" before the Giants released him last year.
On every team, in fact on every unit of every team, there is a core of fine players who largely determine victory and defeat, who allow the fillins to seem better possibly than they might be on their own. And this core often changes, which is a natural transition in team sports.
With the Vikings, the core once was their front four. Now it is the linebackers and Nate Wright. With the Rams, the runners now are superior to the blockers. The Cardinal's offense is much better than their defense.
The Redskins' core has been eroding for a few years now, from 1972 to be exact, with especially large slippage even before midseason this year. The offensive line has not been able to overcome the problems at running back - and slippery-fingered receivers.
Some longtime Redskin watchers believe Allen's loyalty to his veterans might be the one weakness in an otherwise splendid array of skills, that his history has been to play someone - or even keep him n the roster - sometimes two years longer than necessary. They cite Fischer as the latest example.
Where some teams the Cowboys being the prime example, use the you-can-be-quickly-replaced theory to motivate hired hands, the theory goes, Allen's success has been determined by a special allegiance to older players who he still blindly trusts.
There is a great deal of truth there, especially with Fischer now officially out for the year. Still, Allen is such a pragmatist, so obsessed with success, that one never underestimates the notion that over the last few years, he simply has lost his once-impeccable flair for finding talent.