Whatever the outcome of Sunday's game in Dallas, General Manager Bobby Beathard feels that the unexpected success of the Redskins this season "vindicates most of the decisions" that he and Coach Jack Pardee have made about personnel the last two years.
Many of those moves were controversial at the time, but the Redskins' brain trust rarely has misjudged the players it has run through Washington since taking over the club's rebuilding program after the 1977 season.
From the dismissal of the majority of the Over the Hill Gang to the trade for Lemar Parrish and Coy Bacon to the waiving of Tony Green, Beathard and Pardee have guessed correctly.
Just as important to the Redskins' future, the team has regrouped faster than anyone expected. A fair share of the rebuilding process has been accomplished while the team has continued to win. As a result, much of the pressure that might have occurred after a poor year has lifted -- before Beathard has a shot at his first full draft next spring.
The Redskins already have been able to close some of the talent gap between them and the Cowboys through deft use of personnel, some key trades and the signing of talented free agents.
Pardee and Beathard have added 24 of the 45 players currently on the team's active roster. Nine of the additions are starters, and others, like tackle Paul Smith, defensive back Ray Waddy, kick returner Bobby Hammond, linebakcer Monte Coleman and pass rusher Joe Jones fill important backup roles on the club.
Over the same two-year span, Dallas has added 11 players, including seven from the last two drafts. In contrast, the Redskin drafts in 1978 and 1979 are responsible for four players: Don Warren, Don Hover, Rich Milot and Coleman.
Now, however, Beathard and his aides feel they can start making significant inroads, talent-wise, on the Cowboys and most other NFL teams through Washington's first full draft in a decade.
The Redskins will have picks in nine of the upcoming draft's 12 rounds, including their first No. 1 pick in a decade.
"Every draft is important but this one is doubly important for us because it's the first one we've had in so long," Beathard said. "But what Jack and the team has accomplished this year is so significant to our future. They've shown what a competitive camp and the right coaching and talent can do.
"Now, if we do our job and add to that talent, in the places we need it, it will keep us on the right step. A lot of teams have had a head start on us."
Dallas, of course, is one of those NFL clubs that has used the draft to get an edge on the Redskins. A comparison of the two rosters indicates:
The Cowboys roster includes six No. 1 draft choices, the Redskins none. Dallas has 23 players chosen from the first to fifth rounds; Washington has two: punter Mike Bragg (fifth, 1967) and Warren (fourth, 1979).
Dallas is starting 18 draft choices, the Redskins one (Warren again). There are 34 drafted players with Dallas and just seven with the Redskins. The Cowboys total would be higher if Ed Jones (No. 1 1974) and Hollywood Henderson (No. 1, 1979) were still around.
The Cowboys have traded for only one player on their entire roster: John Dutton. That deal with Baltimore was forced because of Jones' retirement this year. The Redskins have dealt for 14 players, including eight under the Beathard regime.
While the Cowboys have tapped the free-agent lists for 10 players, Washington has used that route for 24. Three of those Redskins (Dave Butz, Jean Fugett and John Riggins) had played out their options with other teams and were big-money acquisitions.
The only players starting for Dallas Sunday who were not drafted are, besides Dutton, Drew Pearson (if his knee is well), Benny Barnes and Cliff Harris.
But the Cowboys have not drafted that well lately and some of their mistakes are beginning to show in terms of depth at certain positions. That factor, plus injuries, have given clubs like the Redskins a chance to be more competitive.
To try to keep up with Dallas until the full drafts began, Beathard and Pardee decided to rely on free agents, internal player development and as few trades as possible, especially involving high draft choices.
Beathard has guarded with special care that 1980 No. 1 choice, refusing any temptation to use the George Allan hurry-up technique and trade it away for an established player.
The only major deal he has made involving top draft picks came last year when Bacon and Parrish were obtained from Cincinnati for the 1979 No. 1. But Pardee felt he needed to strengthen his secondary immediately with Parrish and he believed Bacon would help his pass rush.
Parrish currently leads the NFC with nine interceptions and is a prime All-Pro choice. Bacon has the most sacks on the squad (14) and is playing better against the run this season than at any time in his Cincinnati career.
A month after the Bengal deal, Beathard send Eddie Brown and a draft choice to Los Angeles for Jeff Williams (now a starting guard), Donnie Hickman and three picks. Just before the opening game, wide receivers John McDaniel and Ricky Thompson were obtained in separate trades and, in October, Benny Malone came over from Miami.
Before the season began, Joe Jones was brought over from Cleveland for a 12th-round pick and Tony Peters later was obtained from the Browns for two choices.
By the end of this shuffling, which included five other minor deals, the Redskins had given up five players, had brought in 13, had surrendered 15 draft choices and had regained 10 picks.
"We've had to scramble," Beathard said, "but we really didn't have any other choice. We weren't going to mortgage our future if we could avoid it. We made deals only when we had to or when we really felt the player available could help us."
Washington also has benefited this season from a good haul of free agents. The most prominent is middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz, who leads the club in tackles. But others, like Waddy, Ike Forte and Smith, have played vital roles in Pardee's player-shuffle tactics.
"We never considered anything we have done as being gambles, as far as letting go one player and keeping another even if they were a free agent," Beathard said. "Both Jack and I felt we were right when we made the decisions and I don't think either of us had a second thought about them."
And that even includes cutting players like McDaniel, Forte and Buddy Hardeman (now on injured reserve) and then later bringing them back to the roster.
Sometimes, Beathard said with a smile, "you have to know the rest of the league and who they might pick up. We're just glad everything has worked out like it has."
The Redskins didn't work out yesterday. They held meetings and will begin practicing for Dallas today . . . Joe Theismann is second to Roger Staubach among NFC passers. Staubach leads the NFL and Dan Fouts is second while Theismann is third . . . Hardeman went through a hard individual practive yesterday in sweat clothes and may suit up for today's practice.