For Redskin watchers today, the major question is not why Jack Pardee was offered the job as head coach but why he took it. There may be more competitive men in sports than Pardee, men with more zest for a challenge and all the obvious risks, but none come quickly to mind.
"I'm lucky to be alive because of him," said his former coach at Texas A&M, Bear Bryant, who was chuckling as he spoke over the phone yesterday. "This was in his senior year, against Baylor, and he was hurt. I wasn't going to play him, but he didn't know it.
"I didn't start him, of course, and the game developed into a real blood-letter, one of the toughest games I've ever seen. Well, he was near me on the sideline, my eyes big as silver dollars, and every time I'd turn around he'd almost be pawing the ground.
"It got so I was afraid he was going to whip me, right there on the spot, so I put him in and he played the rest of the game. And we finally won."
Maryland's coach, Jerry Claiborne, was a young assistant at A&M in the early '50s when he first noticed the Pardee zeal.
"The assistants played basketball against some of the players when we first arrived," Claiborne said, "and Jack was a freshman, already there when we came with Coach Bryant. Some of us assistants roughed 'em up pretty good, and I remember giving Jack a good lick once and then not going anywhere near the basket again.
"After about 10 or 15 minutes, Jack said: 'Hey, coach how come you don't drive for the basket?' I said: I'm not stupid.'
"He's a heck of a competitor, a real fine person, and he knows what it takes to be a winner."
That certainly is true enough. But why would Pardee leave Walter Payton and some other mean and frisky Bears - and perhaps the weakest division in the NFL - For a team whose best players are old and whose young players have yet to prove themselves? And in the same division with the best team in all of football at the moment, the Dallas Cowboys?
"You look at the pluses and minuses," he said, "and they're both 9-5 teams. I know a lot of the Redskins, but there's some I don't know, almost the whole offensive line except (Len) Hauss.
But the Bears are no sure thing. There are no big, glaring differences of strength (between the Bears and Redskins). The environment is better here, the (practice) facilities, the stadium.
"My contract was up, so rather than sit around and complain about the things I couldn't have I did something about it. I've taken risks before. I left the Redskins for the World Football League. That was a pretty good risk."
As a Redskin player in '71 and '72, Pardee assumed an almost coach-like air on and off the field, a bit removed from much of the team without being distant, as though he knew a transition was coming soon and he was making preparations in his own thorough fashion.
"I think that's why Jack studied a little harder than anyone else normally would," said Diron Talbert, another Ramskin. "Jack took home every night, like Chris (Hanburger) does now.
"And he always wanted the guys playing.Not with broken bones, of course. But if you suffered a little nick and started off the field, well, Jack didn't want you off the field.
"I remember one game in L.A., Deacon Jones dislocated a finger and was leaving the field. Jack ran over, snatched Deacon's hand, pulled that finger back into place and Deacon went right back in."
What will be different about the Pardee Redskins as compared with the George Allen Redskins? Probably not much, simply because there is a lot of Allen in Pardee - the same large devotion to defense, the same fetish with special teams, the same caution on offense.
What Pardee does not have, it seems, is Allen's incessant con, the obsession with appearing to be so much more than what he is - a fine football coach.
"You can't take yourself too seriously," Pardee says.
"We've gone back to an open society," said the team president, Edward Bennett Williams.
There was no Allen-like opulence in Pardee's reintroduction to Washington yesterday. The press conference was in a hotel room so small the Redskin offense could not comfortably huddle. The man from WJLA-TV-7, Tim Brant, did his play-by-play from a closet.
Pardee was reminded of the special impact of the team in Washington, that there was Redskinmania long before Blazermania and Broncomania and that Billy vs. Joe is infinitely more important than Sadat and Begin.
"That's one of the reasons I took the job," Pardee said, "because there is interest." There it was again, popping out through his vest like some force that simply refuses to be tackled, that drive that forces competitive men toward the most competitive of jobs.