Pat Fischer says he usually waits until the second quarter before deciding whether to watch the Redskins on television. "I'll ask someone what the score is," he says, "and if it's close, I'll watch. Otherwise, if they're not playing with any emotion, I can't stand it."
Eddie Brown says he was watching the Redskins get drubbed by the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago when the nine-year-old son of a Los Angeles Ram teammate said to him, "Boy, your old team doesn't look so hot. They don't even look like they care."
"If a 9-year-old boy can pick it up," said Brown, "it must be obvious to everybody."
And Len Hauss, asked if he had watched the Redskins play lately, quickly shot back, "Oh, have they played lately?"
All across America, former members of George Allen's over-the-hill gang have watched their successors disintegrate from a 6-0 team at the start to a struggling outfit that has lost six of its last eight games and three in a row.
Interviews with six former Redskins brought reactions that ranged from surprise to sympathy, dismay to disgust over the plight of the 1978 team.
Brown, traded to the Rams in August, was mostly disqusted.
"I watched their last two games (Miami and Dallas)," Brown said, "and what really upsets me is the way they walk on and off the field. It looks like their heads are always down. They just don't play with intensity.
"But I think what's really happened there is that the ownership has sold out the fans of Washington by getting rid of some of the older players to cut back the salaries for a profit. They tried to blame George Allen for having too many old players, but if Allen had been there, they would have clinched the division.
"Getting rid of older veterans like Hauss and Rusty Tillman, even Frank Grant, then benching older guys who were leaders -- Kilmer and McDole -- has had a lot to do with it. They're playing a lot of guys who don't know how to win a money game because they've never been in one.
"It also looks like they've got a lot more hot dogs out there than they used to. I see people mouthing off all the time, taunting other players. They don't need that. I tell you what, it looks like an awfully tough situation to be in."
Hauss, a 14-year veteran and team captain who was placed on waivers last fall, spoke from his home in Jesup, Ga.
"Don't you think it just might be a little bit the fault of Bobby Beathard, or maybe Jack (Pardee)? Of course, I don't have the privilege of the Washington press. I just see a lot of things other people keep avoiding."
Fischer, who retired last summer when he could not pass a physical because of a back injury, said he has no answers as to what ails his old team, "but it's obvious something is very wrong out there.
"Either there's something wrong with the players in terms of their loyalty to each other and the organization, or it's a problem that they're just not very good football players. Injuries aren't any excuse; everybody's got 'em.
"You also have to wonder about leadership. Is there a nucleus of four or five players who can go to the other players and help work problems out? I doubt it. I really doubt it. Either leadership has failed or the young guys don't have any respect for the older ones. The guys who could lead may have chosen not to, or they may have tried and failed."
Other former players were a bit more sympathetic.
"I think 8-6 is still a respectable position to be in," said former offensive lineman Ray Schoenke, now a successful suburban Maryland businessman. "They've still got a chance at the playoffs, and if they do that, I think it'll be a successful year, no matter what's happened.
"I also disagree with all the people who say there's no talent. Those first six games they were playing damned good football. They just seem to have lost the intensity, but I still think it's a damned good team, and they can get it back.
"I've also got all the respect in the world for Jack. Sure, he came in and got rid of a lot of people and that put the heat on. The rest of the players knew he was for real. They knew if they didn't produce, they'd be axed. To compare Jack with George would be unfair. It's a totally different philosophy, and I still think Jack can do it his way."
Brig Owens, who retired after the 1977 season and now works for the NFL Players Association, also sided with Pardee and wondered out loud "why everybody keeps tearing these guys apart?
"Look, they've got new players, they've had key injuries and they still have a great shot at the playoffs," Owens said. "Instead of giving them support, people jump all over 'em. Oakland's 8-6, Denver is struggling, a lot of teams are in the same boat.I just don't think it's fair.
"To come into RFK Stadium, your home field, and to be booed like they were last week is ridiculous. Teams used to hate to come to RFK. And when we were on the road, that was our tactic -- get the home crowd booing their own team. George always talked about that.
"I think you also have to keep things in the family. It's hard to believe some of the things some of the players have said. But the big thing right now is these guys need a victory. If they beat Atlanta, I think a lot of problems will be solved."
Larry Brown, who retired before the 1977 season and now works as an insurance and pension executive in Washington, also gave Pardee a vote of confidence.
"I only know what I read in the papers about their problems," Brown said. "I've only watched a few of their games, and it's obvious they have to straighten things out. I just see a tremendous amount of mistakes being made out there.
"But I believe they have a damned classy guy at the head of the ship.He's a low-key person, but I think he's a good coach and I believe he'll get the job done. I'm like everybody else now: I hope it's Sunday."
The Redskins' final major practice of the week was a no-pads affair because, "I wanted to use today for a good mental practice," Pardee said. "We've had real good workouts all week. The hitting the last two days has been better than it's been all year"... Middle linebacker Harold McLinton missed most of yesterday's session because of a pulled groin muscle incurred against the Dolphins, but he said there was no question he'd start in Atlanta, his hometown... Ron Saul, also nursing a sore groin muscle and foot, continued to work with the starting unit at left guard... Wide receiver Terry Anderson missed the workout with the flu, and Tony Green ran at his position during workouts yesterday... Falcons list defensive end Jeff Merrow (dislocated toe) and wide receiver Wallace Francis (bruised leg) as doubtful. Edgar Fields would start ahead of Merrow and Alfred Jackson would replace Francis.