The turnover has been breath-taking. In the 32 months since George Allen coached his last game with the Redskins, the Beathard-Pardee tornado has whirled through the Washington roster, chopping off a whopping 25 of Allen's final 47 players.
The changes have created headlines, constant fan uproar and, in the opinion of the current Redskin administration, a better football team.
But rarely in recent NFL history has any team been stripped so dramatically of its star players and cleansed so thoroughly of its aging veterans. Even in a game where career longevity is limited at best, the Redskin house-cleaning has been devastating.
The men responsible for the changes -- General Manager Bobby Beathard and Coach Jack Pardee -- say they wish they had had another choice, but that the wholesale turnover was their only way to stop the deterioration within the club.
What is left is a Redskin team that hasn't visited the playoffs in two seasons after five trips from 1971-1976.
What is left is a Redskin team that has had a significant drop in average team age since the end of 1977 (from 29 to the present 27) and in average NFL experience (from 6 1/2 to 4 years).
And what is left is a team that supposedly is quicker, stronger and more eager than any of Allen's. "A team that can make the playoffs," is how Pardee puts it.
If they do make the playoffs, these Redskins will have to do it differently from Allen's best clubs, which relied on veterans (he had 15 players at least 30 years old at the end of 1977) and precise execution (Allen teams spent hours working on intricate defensive tactics).
Although Pardee's team will be just as cautious on offense, his Redskins will be much more physical and much more aggressive.
When Allen needed special help, he could turn to Billy Kilmer (39), Len Hauss (35), Chris Hanburger (36), Ron Mcdole (38), Jerry Smith (34), Brig Owens (34) and Charley Taylor (34). They are all gone.
Pardee can still lean on Ken Houston (34), Diron Talbert (35) and, Terry Hermeling (33). But he must rely much more on younger players, since probably only nine Redskins on his final roster will be 30 or over.
The contrast in starting units is particularly worth noting. Allen's first 22 players averaged almost 31 years of age; Pardee's will average about 29. Take away the current defensive line, manned in part by Talbert and Joe Jones (31), and Pardee's average drops to 28.
In 1977, Allen kept just two rookies (Mark Murphy and Clarence Harmon), one player with only a year's experience (Joe Harris) and five with two years (Dallas Hickman, Karl Lorch, Dan Nugent, Howard Satterwhite and Gerard Williams).
In 1979, Pardee could have some seven rookies (Don Warren, Phil DuBois, Kris Haines, Rich Milot, Neal Olkewicz, Monte Coleman and Ray Waddy), six players with one year's experience (Greg Dubinetz, Perry Brooks, Tony Green, Jeff Williams, Don Hover and Don Harris) and three with two years (Murphy, Harmon and Fred Dean).
But despite the changes and despite the optimism of the Redskin staff, this current team still has not proven that it is capable of competing with the NFL'S best clubs.
After a 6-0 start last season, Washington lost eight of the last 10 games, including the final five.
Pardee says injuries to key personnel and the lack of adequate, first-rate backups brought on the club's downfall. Yet the Redskins still came within a loss to Atlanta of making the playoffs with a squad Beathard says "doesn't compare in ability at all with the one we have now."
The Redskins get a break in one area. The NFL is so evenly balanced (13 clubs finished within two games of each other last season) that Washington doesn't have to show much improvement to advance through the standings.
"We will have a better team even if it doesn't mean a better record," said Pardee, borrowing a coach's standard preseason line. "Just like us, a lot of folks are trying hard to improve. This is a very competitive league."
This is also a league of standout quarterbacks, fancy runners and game-breaking pass receivers. The Redskins will try to make the playoffs with none of the above.
Pardee is staking a lot on his defense, which finished 17th overall last season in the league, including a horrid 24th against the run and 10th against the pass. But he feels his fine secondary, combined with improved linebacking and a better pass rush (supplied by Jones, Coy Bacon and Dave Butz) will change the club's statistics.
And there is no reason to believe that the special teams, long a Redskin strength, will falter, although they struggled at times last season. An influx of new talent, especially linebackers Coleman and Milot, should maintain their standard of excellence.
That leaves the offense, the one headache that may not clear up. Joe Theismann has not had a sensational preseason. Backup Kim McQuilken is well-liked and talented, but he is still learning the Joe Walton offensive system. Benny Malone is a well-established NFL runner but not a constant breakaway threat, in part because of injuries.The receivers have not distinguished themselves.
So Pardee has come up with a three-pronged offense: John Riggins, Mark Moseley and a stronger line. Riggins should make a run at 1,000 yards again if that front wall stays healthy, especially newcomer Jeff Williams, a future star. If Riggins can't drag the Redskins into the end zone, then Moseley is always available with that accurate toe, which may get a workout unprecedented in NFL history.
It will be a team hoping to commit few mistakes, while relying heavily on the kick coverage teams, that fine secondary, Moseley and Riggins. It doesn't promise to be exciting, but Pardee figures the fans will accept less-than-spectacular play if the Redskins still can scratch out enough victories to get into those elusive playoffs.
A position-by-position breakdown: QUARTERBACK: There is pressure on Theismann to make fewer errors in judgment this season. He is being asked to reduce his 18 interceptions and to play a more controlled game. Entering his second full season as an NFL quarterback, Theismann maintains that he is making progress. McQuilken has better size and less experience, and he is eager. One of the two must play well for the team to succeed. RUNNING BACK: Malone, kick returner Green, Riggins and Harmon form the nucleus of the ground game, with Ike Forte as the swing back and a special teams standout. Pardee will shuffle his halfbacks according to game situations -- especially since Malone is not a strong receiver -- in hopes the talent of a lot of athletes will be better than those of one (Mike Thomas). Harmon keeps improving and he may force Pardee to play him more, even alongside workhorse Riggins, who is coming off another 1,000-yard year. WIDE RECEIVER: The Redskins have had a revolving door at this position. Ricky Thompson is fundamentally sound and could develop into a standout. Danny Buggs, who has fine deep speed, beat out John McDaniel for the split end job and former Notre Dame star Haines is the best blocker among the group. Another change or two is possible before the opener. TIGHT END: Jean Fugett, who is in the option year of his contract, would like a good season to strengthen his bargaining power. If he swings out to wide receiver, then Warren, the team's top draft pick from San Diego State free agent, will fill in. Pardee thinks both rookies are good enough to stabilize an unsure position. OFFENSIVE LINE: "We can match up pretty well against our division opponents," said Pardee. Williams, a 6-4, 265-pound specimen, is still learning the intricacies of guard but he blows people off the line of scrimmage. No one had a better camp than George Starke, coming off a knee injury, and Hermeling remains one of the team's strongest players. If Nugent can recover from a disk problem, he could push out 31-year old guard Ron Saul. Ted Fritsch remains a competent backup center to Bob Kuziel, while free agent Dubinetz and possibly holdover Dean are the likely replacements at tackle and guard. DEFENSIVE LINE: The Redskins couldn't stop the run last year, but Pardee is convinced the retirement of Hanburger and McDole, the return of Talbert from knee surgery and more emphasis on halting the ground game will change that. Jones is a proven pass rusher and could be a steal (the Redskins gave up a 12th round choice to Cleveland for him). Butz can be formidable and is getting better almost daily; he has all-pro ability. Talbert is steady but needs quickness around him. Lorch is being asked to worry mainly about the run, while Bacon will be used as a pass-rushing specialist. Brooks' arm injury leaves a hole at backup tackle -- 34-year-old Paul Smith is the current replacement -- until he recovers. LINEBACKER: Another bright light for the club, according to Pardee, the linebacking corps is now populated by such new faces as Coleman, the Central Arkansas sleeper, and Milot, from the Penn State school of linebacking. Brad Dusek is a fixture on one side while Pete Wysocki finally gets a chance to start in place of Hanburger. Pardee is gambling that Hover, who has not played a down in the middle as a pro, can replace Harold McLinton, who was dropped last week after 10 seasons with the team. Hover is backed up by Olkewicz, a free-agent rookie from Maryland, while both Milot and Dallas Hickman, a special-team standout, will be tried inside as well. If Hover stumbles, the defense could be in trouble. SECONDARY: With Houston and Lamar Parrish around, there is no wonder the Redskins are not worried about this aspect of the team. Joe Lavender is progressing after off-season surgery but he still faces a court trial in October that could disrupt things. Intelligent Mark Murphy, despite lack of experience, should be an improvement of Jake Scott at free safety. Gerard Williams and Waddy, a free agent from Texas A&I, are the backup corners while Harris is behind Houston. Tony Peters, a two-year starter with Cleveland, can play both corner and safety and could make Williams expendable. KICKING: Moseley and Mike Bragg just keep going. Moseley may be the best in the business. Bragg is not always pleased with his punts but he has put 52 of them inside the 20 the past two years.