The decline of the redskins began near midnight on July 19, 1973, when George Allen traded for Duane Thomas. It will get worse. In truth, it should, for the quickest way for the Redshins to become Super Bowl contenders again is to become bad again quickly.
How bad? Maybe 6-10 bad. Maybe 4-12. Maybe worse. Whatever it takes to acquire enough draft choices for an orderly reconstruction. It will take five years, perhaps longer, but it ought to be done.
Patchwork holds just so long, in football teams as well as trousers. It failed in the final Allen years and it failed in the first year of Jakc Pardee, whose broom seemed ever so large early in the season but in fact might not have been big enough.
Ever the realist, Pardee still never imagined he woudl have two teams this season, both known as Redskins but part still largely set in its Allen-like ways and the other simply not skilled enough to become dominant.
Having seen the results of a team divided. Pardee possibly can be coaxed into daring to be bad. The conversion may have already started.
"People realized their futures were at stake," center Bob Kuziel said. "Not just the players. The coaching staff made it plain this week that we weren't just playing for this year.
"These (Atlanta and Chicago) were two very important games for us for now and for the future."
What about the future?
"We'll talk about anybody with everybody," General Manager Bobby Beathard said almost immediately after the 14-10 loss to the Bears yesterday. "I wouldn't think there are any untouchables."
To get what the Redskins need to win in a hurry costs more than the Redskins have. A Keith Dorney, or some young blocker of that quality, could only come for a price that would weaken the team elsewhere.
They could do that sort of thing, give up carrots for peas, but that would leave the customers in a hungrier mood than ever. Especially when two teams in the Redskins' division, the Eagles and Giants, have the means to improve more rapidly. Eagle Coach Dick Vermeil has done more with less than anyone in the NFL. Now he has what the Redskins do not-high draft choices. The Giants also have quality choices-and they soon might have the sort of personnel staff to choose them wisely.
The Cowboys will be better than the Redskins as long as Roger Staubach remains healthy-and he is known within the league as "a young 36." Dallas is the one team that has managed to avoid the peaks-and-valleys cycle of the NFL.
"I would not want to trade any choices," Beathard said. "It had gotten to the point the last few years where the choices had been depleted-and time was running out." A moment later Beathard went on the attack against the depletor-Allen.
"I am tired of hearing George Allen comment he would do this or that (with the Redskins)," Beathard said. "He has no record in L. A. (this year) to prove anything to anyone.
"I don't think he's been fair to Jack."
There are only two ways to build a team in the NFL.Allen's draft-choices-for-veterans method seems sound, but failed to win the Super Bowl either in Los Angeles or Washington.
Why not give the other way a chance?
The steelers did it. In 1969, they were 1-13, had enough high draft picks and used them for enough Joe Greenes, Jack Hams, Terry Bradshaws and Franco Harrises to win the Super Bowl five years later. And repeat the next season.
Green Bay was awful several years before it became dominant under Vince Lombardi. So were Miami and Oakland, the Jets, Chiefs and Cowboys.
Mike Thomas, who played out his option, ought to bring a decent draft choice either in trade or compensation-unless he jumps to Canada. The Colts might offer a decent return for Billy Kilmer. What good team could not realistically dream of the Super Bowl with Ken Houston?
Still, if players largely determine the fate of teams, the Redskins' slip this season was not entirely the fault of players. The carrier-pigeon system on offense was too inefficient too often.
In the final two minutes of the first half yesterday, the Redskins dashed 57 yards without thinking, or from their 31 to the Bear 12 with plays that had been determined long before game time.
On third-and-a-foot, the fellow with the play arrived too late in the huddle-and Joe Theismann was forced to call a timeout.
And a scene from the exhibition season comes to mind.A veteran who would soon be purged, Rusty Tillman, captam of the special teams, was sitting near his locker. He could see the future and he said:
"The special teams just aren't doing the right things. They're getting by on talent, that's all. Mark my words, there'll be a punt blocked this year-and somebody'll break a kick on 'em."
The blocked punt helped lose the Atlanta game. The Bears broke the kick yesterday. Bobby, go for the jugular.