It began suddenly last summer, those first steps in the breaking up of George Allen's favorite football team. There was nothing very subtle in the cuts of Rusty Tillman and Leonard Hauss, no subterfuge in the benching of Billy Kilmer, the trade of Eddie Brown.
And now, once again, that ax wieded by Jack Pardee and Bobby Beathard has lopped off another, Chris Hanburger, the onetime All-Pro linebacker, now can devote himself full time to moving Mustangs on his car lot in College Park.
And before the Redskins head to training camp in two months, there will be several more major moves on a football team in need of a major overhaul, both physically and spiritually.
Pardee and Beathard insist publicly that no decisions have been made yet on the status of Billy Kilmer, Mike Thomas and Jake Scott for the 1979 season.
But it looks as if all three will be gone next fall. Pardee is now saying that paying off Kilmer's $280,000 contract is definitely an option. Translation: It will happen.
Clearly, the Redskins are on a youth kick, the only answer to the myriad of problems the team came up against a year ago.
Pardee does not need an aloof, 40-year-old quarterback second-guessing him in the locker room. Nor does he need the friction between Kilmer and Joe Theismann, who, besides competing for the same job, do not like each other.
Pardee looked desperately for leadership last year from his old pals. Instead, he got grumbling graybeards. It won't happen again.
If Kilmer was president of the Grousing Gang, then Scott was its hit man.At the end of the season, one team official described Scott's attitude as "poisonous." So if the Redskins cannot find a team willing to trade for him, Scott will join Hanburger on the waiver list.
For months, the Redskins have been trying to trade both Scott and Thomas, with no success. Scott's reputation as a moody problem child is well-known around the NFL, ever since his publicized spats with Don Shula in Miami before his trade to the Redskins.
Thomas' physical problems also have been well-documented. At Redskin Park and around the league, he is considered a player who causes more problems than he is worth.
Thomas obviously has talent. He gained 1,000 yards in 1976 behind a line that was mediocre at best. He still is young (26), blessed with quick feet and excellent hands that make him a dual threat as a runner and receiver.
The Ridskins were close to making a deal for Thomas on draft day, but that fell through, and now, Beathard says, "We have absolutely nothing going."
Look for Thomas to be placed on waivers within the next two weeks.
Waivers, you say? How can that be? It's quite simple, really. No football coach wants an "attitude problem" - whether real or imagined - on his team.
Signing Thomas also means a $100,000-plus contract for a player with four years of pounding in his background and a history of nagging injuries every year. So there are no takers, at least at those six-figure prices.
There are other candidates on the Redskins' hit list at the moment. Tight end Jean Fugett is no favorite at Redskin Park, where there is major concern about his offseason weight (250 pounds) and his wounded knee (two operations over the last eight months).
It was no accident that the team's top draft choice and its best free-agent acquisition both are tight ends.
Theismann's up-and-down performances of a year ago were not pleasing to the coaching staff, although his starting position seems safe enough. The same cannot be said for Coy Bacon and Danny Buggs, who may have difficulty making the team this season.
Many of these decisions will be made within the next two weeks, and nothing will be made final without consulation with Edward Bennett Williams, the team president.
Williams is no sentimentalist, and has frequently said since his dismissal of Allen that he believes the Redskin future lies in the draft, with young people.
And that is the direction Pardee and Beathard wisely are following, with williams' blessing. The same day Hanburger was placed on the waiver list, the Redskins were welcoming a half-dozen young free agents and draft choices to Redskin Park.
"You don't know how excited we are about some of these kids," Beathard gushed yesterday. "I know everybodys always says this, but I really do believe we can really turn things around with some of these new guys coming in."
And some more old guys going out.