Diron Talbert watched the Dallas Debacle from a room at Sibley Memorial Hospital Thursday, and the wounded Redskin captain believes he knows percisely what ails his slumping team. "It's leadership," he said yesterday. "Theay don't have any."
"We've got so many new people, so many young kids out there and a lot of them don't really know what to expect or even who to believe," said Talbert, who underwent surgery Monday to repair a damaged knee and will be lost for the season.
"They need somebody to point them in the right direction. They are begging for someone to be a leader, but nobody is playing well enough to do it.
"Tou can't be a leader unless you perform well or you've been playing steady - a guy who plays week after week, hurt or not. You can't be a leader if you talk behind a teammate's back and you can't be a leader if you play one week and not another.
"I'm not going to call anybody's name or point any fingers but there are some guys who aren't helping the cause. I've gotten something like 250 letters in the hospital, and even some of the fans write and tell you they can see who's causing the problems.
"I watched the game the other day, and you hate to say this from a hospital bed, but on offense there doesn't seem to be anyone playing well enough to get up and give a pep talk, to try them fired up. Maybe John Riggins should. He's about the only one who'e been playing steady ball all year.
"I wish I could be there, but hell, generals get shot sometimes and the captains have to take over. The captains get shot and the second lieutenants have to take over. They get battlefield promotions.
"What we've got is a hell of a lot of privates on this team. Some of them played in the WFL or the Canadian league and they're just happy to be there. But there's no reason some of those privates can't be leaders. But you can't just show up one day, have a coup and say. "I'm the leader.' They have to start playing well."
Talbert was asked if he has discussed the Redskin problems with Coach Jack Pardee, his good friend and a former teammate who was best man at Talbert's wedding four years ago.
"I'd hate to second-guess Jack because I've got too much respect for him." Talbert said. "It's Jack's team and he hasn't asked me for my opinion. Things were going so smooth there he didn't need to call on anybody. He knows what he has to do; it's so great secret.
"I just see the whole thing as a battle between some people who are trying to do things right and a few people who give a damn.
"After games we've lost this year, there have been guys sitting on the bus giggling, laughing, playing music like nothing ever happened. It upsets the hell out of me. They're laughing on the damn plane going home, playing cards, talking about what they're going to do after we land.
"They ought to be a little more remorseful, at least for a day. But that's one of those little things that becomes a big thing when you start losing.
"I enjoy playing football. I enjoy practicing. I enjoy being on time for practice, for my meetings and for the team plane. There's got to be some discipline.
"That's how I was brought up in the game. You better not be five minutes late. You know that's a problem this year. Just ask some of your stoolies - they'll tell you the same thing. I just hope someone can stand up, pick up the slack and get some of these guys going. Sure, it can be turned around. The team is done now, but 85 ain't that unrespectable. They can still make the playoffs, but somebody's got to shake them up a little."
Talbert insists that he will try to resume his career next year and honor the remaining two years of contract he signed last summer.
He will be released from the hospital early this week, has already started doing rehabilitation work for his knee and says he has no doubt that he can recover and play again.
"They (the doctors) don't see any problem rehabilitating it and neither od I," he said. "Sure, I'm concerned about it. I'm a guy who's always counted on my legs. My mobility has always been the best part of my game. But they are confident and so am I.
"But right now I'm not important. I'm through for the year. I'd love to be out there with those guys but somebody else has to take charge.
"If I was Jack, I'd make the whole team watch the film of that Dallas game, start to finish and all together. We did that once in L.A. after a bad loss and it gets kind of embarassing. But it also shakes you up.
"What happens is that nobody can say to the guy sitting next to him. 'You played bad,' because the other will say, 'I saw what you did, too you S.O.B." Right now, nobody ought to be saying anything to anybody. "They've just got to get together and work this thing out."