"Sometimes every day seems worse than the one before," said Redskin Coach Jack Pardee, who has known worse moments than the last two weeks but not many. "All any crisis does is prepare you for the next one."
Whatever fuss Pardee raised yesterday about such vague sins as attitude and dissension failed to lift the roof off Redskin Park. And anyone who has not absorbed the silent message of Pardee's 10 months as Redskin coach would not be inspired by shouting, anyway.
From Tim Stokes through Len Hauss through Rusty Tillman through Billy Kilmer through Ron McDole through Frank Grant, Pardee's actions have said, loudly: You meet my standards or you don't play - or you're gone. Or you're gone as soon as I find somebody as gifted.
All of this and gobs of fightin' words from Thomas Henderson and Harvey Martin in addition to the fury of an intense rivalry and the Redskins still lost by 27 points to the Cowboys.
So isn't the problem not enough good players at enough important positions?
"You're more perceptive than most," Pardee said, adding his oft-repeated references to playing the cards you're dealt and wishing for Christmas presents (blockers and tacklers) that fail to appear.
"And yet the playoffs still are within reach," he said."(Crisis) is what life's all about. You get through something you don't think you can and that gets you ready for worse things coming up."
In truth, many recent Redskin teams have found themselves in a similar position - needing a rally in the final few games for a playoff spot. Usually, they have made it, or at least when they had "leaders" such as Larry Brown, a healthy Kilmer and Chris Hanburger and Pardee at left linebacker.
Leadership is one of those athletic code words that means a talented player who performs under pressure. Redskins leaders of prior seasons - Hauss, McDole and other self-starters - have given way to younger players. But no younger "leaders" have emerged as yet.
Pardee and General Manager Bobby Beathard inherited an aging team that had not made the playoffs for two of the previous three years under George Allen. They had one large tool, a No. 1 draft choice next season, and used it wisely.
But left cornerback Lemar British has missed five games and defensive end Coy Bacon, 35, after a splendid start, has made a total of two tackles in the last two games.
What are Pardee's alternatives? Well, one of them is Mike Curtis for Hanburger. Redskin watchers could remind Pardee that the defense last year - with Curits an 11-time starter at right linebacker - yielded 37 fewer points in one more game.
Yet Pardee said yesterday that Pete Wysocki would play the position against the Dolphins if Hanburger's leg injury is not mended enough by Sunday.
"I'd rather use Mike inside," Pardee said. "To play well, you've got to specialize, not learn several positions. Pete's been there all year long."
Injured Ron Saul has had a grim year at left guard. Probably, he will play against Miami because the alternatives are switching two unproven players. Jim Harlan and Jeff Williams, whose mistakes are written on quarterback Joe Theismann's chest.
The wrong assumption with all these dissension theories flitting about lately is that the fingerpointers actually realize the problems. Most of the problems, in fact, usually yell the loudest.
Some of the strongest - and, of course, anonymous - second-guessers in the world are on pro football teams. My favorite is the Redskin who insisted to a friend that Kilmer would have beaten the Colts last year in Baltimore.
This year, he told the same friend that the Redskins would have won if only Theismann had replaced Kilmer earlier in the game. So fans are not the only fickle followers in the NFL.
Still, with all their problems, the Redskins have enough talent to win their remaining games and make the playoffs. The Dolphins are struggling, although their offensive line and Bob Griese are better than they showed against the Jets last week.
The Falcons have gotten two of the luckiest breaks known to mankind in beating the Saints twice, and the Bears are 5-8 in a weak division. Having gotten this far with wide receivers that few other teams wanted and some free-agent linemen, the Redskins can realistically see the playoffs.
But they are not a great team, not even a playoff team by AFC standards. They are a team in transition, one searching for answers to such basics as: Can enough of who we have really play?