Running back Lawrence McCutcheon, who Sunday broke the Los Angeles Rams' one-season and career rushing records, will see little action against the Redskins Saturday, Ram general manager Don Klosterman said yesterday.
"He (coach Chuck Knox) won't play too much of McCutcheon," Klosterman said. "He's a little bit sore."
The implication was clear: The Rams already have clinched the NFC West title and the first-round home-field advantage in the playoffs. They will not take unnecessary risks when there is nothing at stake in the regular-season finale.
The 1 p.m. game at RFK Stadium is anything but meaningless for the Redskins. A Washington victory means the Redskins would advance to the playoffs if either Minnesota or Chicago loses its final game.
Washington's first-round opponent, ironically, would be the Rams. Under similar circumstances in 1974, the Redskins defeated the Rams in the 13th game of the regular season and than lost to the same team in the first round of the playoffs two weeks later.
"It's a big advantage for them," Klosterman said from his Los Angeles office.
"I know we'll play hard," he added. "But Washington gets a tremendous psychological boost. It's a big, big game for them. It is a nothing game for use. We're playing away from home. It will be difficult for us to get our players up."
After a stuttering start, the Rams have won their last six games and allowed only five touchdowns in the process. The principle reasons are a defense that woke up and the development of Pat Haden at quarterback. He leads the NFC in passing.
"We had a slow start," Klosterman confirmed. "A lot of it can be attributed to an infusion of new players - we had about 10 - plus our holdouts such as Jack Reynolds, Tom Mack, Harold Jackson, Charlie Young and Rich Saul.
"Then we had the quarterback controversy (Haden vs. Joe Namath). So there were a lot of things that contributed to a slow start. We knew we had the talent. It was a matter of getting the right mix, the right chemistry . . .
"At the present time we are good football team."
Klosterman also is aware of the Redskins' talent. He drafted Ken Houston for the Houston Oilers and traded both left tackle Tim Stokes and reserve guard Dan Nugent, who replaced injured Terry Hermeling last week, from the Rams to the Redskins.
In fact, Klosterman remains one of the few general managers around the National Football League who still will trade with Washington coach-general manager George Allen.
"I like to deal with George," said Klosterman. "If he wants something, he'll pay value for it. He has a thorough understanding of draft choices and he knows what to do with them. Others don't."
Klosterman calls Allen's practice of trading future draft choices a "discounting" procedure.
"They're really discounted, because you don't get to see the player for two or three years." Klosterman said. "George has done that masterfully. He's done more than general managers who have all their draft choices.
"I like (to receive) discounted draft choices, because I'm always concerned about downstream development of our football team, anyway."
The Stokes deal is a case in point. Allen needed a left tackle going into the 1975 season. The Rams had a good young prospect in Stokes. So a deal was consummated. The Redskins got Stokes and No. 6 and 8 draft choices in 1976 for the Redskins' No. 2, 3 and 4 draft choices in 1978 plus a No. 5 pick in 1979.
Klosterman also discounted reports that Allen may be headed back to the Rams next season and that current coach Knox would wind up at Detroit.
"I'm sure I could work with him," Klosterman said of Allen. "He wants to win and he works hard at it. We do, too. I think there would be a lot of compatible traits. But I don't have th money to be his boss."
Allen gave the Redskins a day off from practice and team meetings yesterday . . . The Redskins took no action in picking up a reserve defensive lineman to replace Bill Brundige. Brundige is to be released from Sibley Hospital today. A spokesman said he has a severe contusion of the left knee and is "very doubtful" for Saturday. An Allen aide said the team wants to check its injury list today before signing another player.
Here is a closer look at the Redskin playoff situatioN:
If the Redskins, Bears and Vikings all win their final regular-season games: the Redskins would in all likelihood be eliminated because they would lose out to the Bears in point differential in conference games. The difference is currently 44 points.
If the Redskins win, they would get into the playoffs if either the Vikings or the Bears lost.
If the Redskins lost, they would still win the wild-card berth if Detroit beat Minnesota Saturday night, as long as the scores did not wipe out Washington's 16-point differential in conference play.