Redskin quarterbacks Joe Theismann and Kim McQuilken endorsed the club's conservative offense today. They said it is the logical way to the playoffs.
"You can't criticize a Pittsburgh or a Dallas for playing the percentages," said backup quarterback McQuilken. "They aren't razzle-dazzle clubs. But they get to the Super Bowl.
"With all the 3-4 defenses being played, it's foolish to get yourself in a third-and-long situation very often. It just won't work out. You have to make sure you can dictate to the defense, not the other way around."
Coach Jack Pardee has said that the Redskins will not rely on "any one man or any one play" to score points this season. The team will emphasize error-free football: fewer offensive sacks, fumbles and interceptions. And they will ask field goal kicker Mark Moseley to produce much of their scoring.
"I don't think we will be as conservative as it may seem" Theismann said. "You just don't come out firing the first exhibition game.
"We'll be entertaining and exciting. I think you could say that about us for the first six games last year (all wins).
"But there is a lot of emphasis this year on getting everyone involved. This means having good games from all 45 people, not just two or three.
"Houston, for example, is lost if they don't have Earl Campbell and Dan Pastorini. Or Buffalo was lost if O.J. was hurt. Or Chicago is lost if Walter Payton is hurt.
"We can't get ourselves in that position. We have to utilize our depth. Like on offense, all 11 of us will have to be good all the time and not wait for a few to do something."
Theismann said the coaches are stressing quarterback decision-making. If the quarterback picks out the wrong receiver, gets sacked too often or throws too many interceptions, the whole offense suffers.
"From that standpoint, there is added pressure on this position," he said. "You can't play mistake-free football if the quarterback is making mistakes. I know (offensive coordinator) Joe Walter is saying I should be right 70 percent of the time. But I'm sure he would be tickled with 100 percent."
McQuilken said cautious football is $&(WORD ILLEGIBLE $&)See REDSKINS, D3 Col. 1> $&(WORD ILLEGIBLE $&)REDSKINS, From D1> the trend, with few exceptions. He likes to throw - as do most quarterbacks - but said it is "more fun to run and win, than pass and lose."
"I've played on losing teams that have passed a lot," he said. "It's not that great. You are always in a hole, trying to make it against defenses that are letting you have the run and just sitting back for the pass.
"If we can get on top and use our run, they have to respect the pass. I know that is said a lot, but against the 3-4 and the nickels and the rest of the special defenses, you have to be able to run the ball."
The Redskins hope to utilize field position, ball control, an improved offensive line and what they hope is a strong defense to stay even with some more talented opponents. Both Denver, which the Redskins play on Saturday, and Atlanta have used similar approaches successfully the last two years and have won despite less-than-sensational personnel.
Washington coaches feel they are developing depth at running back and at all three receiver positions. By spotting plays according to game situations and by taking advantage of specific talents, they feel they can field a steady, although not flashy, offense.
"You can work on teams with runs and short passes," McQuilken said. "That doesn't mean you forego the bomb. You can use it as a surprise, as a weapon. But it just doesn't make sense to rely on it, you can't keep gambling.
"You play it straight for eight or nine plays and you can afford to gamble on two or three, but not the other way around."
Theismann remembers the final games of 1978, when the running game stumbled and opponents feasted on Redskin passes.
"We had to make some adjustments in the late season that didn't work out that well," he said. "We really haven't changed the offense at all this year. It's the same. It's just being perfected more and more because everyone is used to it.
"If our offensive line is better, it means our running game and passing game should be better. If I'm better, things offensively should be better.
"Remember, we had only one receiver go through all of camp last year. The rest were picked up along the way. Now we have a lot more time to work with them. That's got to help too.
"Now we are taking the exact right approach. We are building a foundation, getting down the basics and we will go from there. You have to be able to run before you throw. We can't let mistakes get us out of football games."
The approach probably is the most realistic for the Redskins, considering their personnel. Without breakaway runners or receivers, they realize they have to punch and jab. They will use many players and try not to give away scoring opportunities.
"The first thing you have to worry about is winning," McQuilken said. "How you go about it is secondary. What if you are exciting and still lose? That's no good."
The club cut three players: fullback Stan Wintrey, ex-Miami Dolphin veteran; and rookies Dale White, defensive tackle from Arkansas who has been hurt much of the camp, and running back John Smith of Boise State, who was injured in the first scrimmage against Baltimore .... Backup offensive tackle Greg Dubinetz, who started against Tampa Bay in place of Terry Hermeling, has an infected foot and did not practice today. He is expected back soon .... Pardee said Redskin tight ends will carry in plays during the exhibitions but he has not decided who will be used when the season starts. "We could use tight end, wide receiver and running back," he said. "That way we can substitute according to the situation."
Hermeling, who missed most of last week with a sore knee, worked out today and should play against Denver ....Pardee is optimistic that guard Dan Nugent, who has a disk problem, will play this season. Nugent will be in traction a few more days and then will test his lower back to see if the pain recurs. "We will go down to the wire (the final cut day is Aug. 28) with him," he said. Reports on offensive guard Jim Harlan, who has an upper spine injury, are "more encouraging than they have been," Pardee said. CAPTION: Picture, The Redskins depend on field goal kicker Mark Moseley, left, for points and on punter Mike Bragg for field position. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post