Anyone in Soldier Field from Washington today was almost constantly serenaded with "Hail to the Redskins." That six-point success over the Cardinals Saturday may not quite have been "a great victory for the nation," as George Allen suggested, but it was wonderful tonic for the Bears. Now Jack Pardee has the Redskins chasing him.
"Think I'll invest a dime and call George and think him myself," Pardee said after the Bears' 21-10 victory over Green Bay. Had St. Louis beaten the Redskins, the Bears would have been a risky bet to make the playoffs. Now they are as certain of being in as anything can be in the NFL these days.
Unless the Redskins whip the Rams by 45 points Saturdy in RFK Stadium, the Bears will become at least the wild-card team by beating the Giants the same day in the New Jersey swamps. And if that happens Pardee will see all manner of Redskin-like parallels: Overcoming adversity. Backs against the wall. One Hall of Fame runner and great defense. Think back to 1972 and you get the drift.
"Yeah, we (the Redskin team that made the Supper Bowl with Pardee at left linebacker) had Larry Brown," he said, "and now we (the Bears) have Walter Payton. And both defenses are solid. But our special teams are not quite up to the Redskin standards yet."
For drama, one would be hard-pressed to top the Bears' scare this season. Except for 10 seconds and one play Pardee and the Bears would almost certainly be out of the running for the playoffs by now.
We're 3 and 5, and down six to the Chiefs with 10 seconds left in the game," Pardee recalled. "So we complete a 38-yard touchdown pass, get the extra point and win by one. And then we win our next four in a row. That turned it all around."
The Bears were expected to be at their present point in this, the third year of the Pardee-Jim Finks regime, because of a schedule so soft that overhauling the Vikings for the Central Division title seemed possible. That still can happen - and the Redskins hope it does. But when it seemed impossible earlier in the season, everyone was searching for panic buttons.
Except Pardee, whose rudder rarely strays drastically regardless of the success of failure of the team. That especially impresses this rather young team, which missed injured Wally Chambers most of the season and only had a stable offensive line the last few games.
The players recall a game three weeks ago against the Lions. They trailed by 7-0 at the half after committing most of the football sins known to man. Instead of recalling the horrors, Pardee emphasized the positive. (It was a brief speech, one player recalled.)
And the Bears won by 17 points.
"Getting a team changed around, from losing all the time to winning regularly, probably is the hardest thing in coaching," said Pardee, who experienced that turnaround as a player with the Allen-led Rams in the mid-'60s and has accomplished it with the Bears as coach in three years.
"Say we'd been in this type game two or three years ago (leading by four points going into the fourth quarter). We'd probably have found a way to lose. But because we've been more consistent the last year or so and have won games like this, the whole attitude is different.
"And this is the nature of teams that make the playoffs without being dominant. You play best when you have to, when you feel there's a chance to win as long as the game's close. That's the way the Redskins always have been."
Pardee was immensely successful with an Orlando team in the World Football League when paychecks rarely arrived at all, let alone on time. Was it more difficult to motivate those players or his financially secure Bears? He laughed.
"It's never easy," he said. And then he talked about his long relationship with Allen, who coaxed him out of being an assistant coach at Texas A & M to return as a player with the Rams in 1967.
"I enjoy working with (college-level) kids," Pardee said, "but all the recruiting makes life tough. You're out on the road right after Thanksgiving and never get back till March. I felt like I wanted to coach in the pros.
"And I really had fun working for George. I love to work with people who enjoy the game. And he's probably the greatest coach in the game now. Who else could keep that Redskin team - all things considered - still in contention? He's the greatest at it.
"We don't do everything alike, but we are similar in some very basic traits - like defense."
A basic Pardee trait is being able to think quickly under pressure.
He had a chance to test his mind in the opening game this season, when the Lions opened with one running back and two tight ends. Pardee called the game his most enjoyable because the Bears had to scrap their basic defenses and improvise. They won by 10.