There are no problems we can't solve," George Allen used to say, often and in the end, he was right. Make no mistake about it, the Washington Redskins do have problems. But George Allen doesn't have to solve them anymore.
Jack Pardee, the man who must now solve the Redskin problems, has been on the job for five days, and says it is still too early to make any hard-and-fast conclusions on the state of the team.
"I'm not going to form any jdugments on anyone," Pardee said. "The first thing I have to do is get the staff put together. It seems like I've had a hundred calls a day from people looking for a job. I should get it all done by the middle of the week. And then we can really get going."
And when he does, Pardee's reputation as a practical problem-solver surely will be tested. And yet, what some people consider the main areas of concern - the age of the Redskins - does not seem to fazs the new head coach. "Old age won't kill you," he said, "but playing bad will."
Nevertheless, 15 of the Redskins 24 starters will be 30 or older during the 1978 football season - seven on defense, six on offense and the two kickers, Mark Moseley and Mike Bragg.
The Redskins final-game roster against the Rams listed 23 men over 30, and that figure did not include Bob Brunet and Pat Fischer, both on the injured reserve list.
Several of those players likely will not be back. Jerry Smith announced his retirement at the end of the season, and Brig Owens has said he probably will not play again either. Brunet will probably not be able to play for medical reasons, and Fischer's status is still questionable. Everyone else should return.
Fischer still has pain in his back, despite surgery, and Pardee said, "We probably won't know about Pat for awhile. But I'll tell you this, his health is more important than playing football."
The health of many other key Redskin starters is also much on Pardee's mind. There were 14 on the team's injured reserve list, including fullback John Riggins and defensive end Dennis Johnson.
Billy Kilmer, Mike Thomas, Chris Hanburger, Charley Taylor, Bill Brundige and Terry Hermeling, among others, missed game action because of injuries.
At his first press conference, Pardee made it a point to say how important a healthy Riggins was to the Redskins. The other day, he said the same thing about Thomas.
"He has to play to all-pro potential every week," Pardee said "and you have to practice that way to play that way."
Thomas was not the most popular Redskin last season because of his reluctance to play with plan. He pulled a hamstring the first day of training camp, practiced infrequently during the regular season and alienated many teammates with his midseason complaint that Allen forced him to practice hurt.
Several veteran players say Thomas received a rare team-meeting tongue lashing from Allen after his outburst. They also say Allen tried to trade Thomas, with no takes.
"I haven't even gotten into that (the Thomas situation)." Pardee insisted. "I'm going to approach everything with an open mind. But from what I've seen, the older guys are the ones who played the best last year. If we're going to be successful. I think it's the young guys. Mike Thomas, Danny Buggs, Larry Jones, who have to come through."
Despite all those over-30 types, Allen's legacy to his successor did include 20 players on the roster or the injured list who are 26 or under, five of them starters.
Pardee will get little help from the draft. Allen traded the team's first eight picks, though the Redskins will choose in the eighth round because of a trade last season with the Rams.
The team's medical men say Riggins and Johnson should be recovered when training camp opens in mid-July.
The receiver corps will be strengthened by return of Brian Fryer, the Canadian swifty who had knee surgery in 1977. Middle linebacker Greg Hartle, signed as a free agent last winter, has had 18 months to recover from a serious knee operation.
There are still some young prospects left from the 1977 draft on the roster, including the team's top choice (in the fourth round) defensive end Duncan McColl, and tight end Reggie Haynes, a seventh-round pick who will probably replace Smith as Jean Fugett's back-up.
Defensive tackle Perry Brooks was making a strong impression as a pass rusher until he tore up his knee in a preseason game against Miami. He is healthy again.
The Redskins' major problems in 1977 involved the offense. The team finished 20th in the NFL in total offense, their total of 196 points was 21st in the league, and only two teams allowed more than the Redskins 53 sacks.
Pardee most likely is going to bring in a new offensive coaching staff, and that should help. He also seems intent on giving Riggins the ball more often and allowing some of his younger receivers a chance to play.
With the new 16-game regular-season schedule. Pardee and every other NFL coach will need all the healthy bodies - young or old - they can get.
Pardee insists now "the most important thing is to get everybody back healthy, that's the key. This has been a good football team for seven years, and it's still a good football team as far as I'm concerned.
I'm sure not worried about it," he said. After all, didn't somebody once say "there are no problems . . ."