Maybe what the Redskins need more than anything this week is for somebody to walk into a team meeting carrying a large mannequin in a Philadelphia Eagle uniform, toss it toward Terry Hermeling and see if he holds it. Or for the coaches to show -- over and over -- the film of that dizzy tipped pass yesterday, where the Seahawks and Redskins looked like a dozen trained seals trying to keep a beach ball from falling. Or for Mark Moseley to take a mock-angry kick at a football lying on the floor -- and miss it.
Sometimes a team plays so badley, gets so uptight with itself, that the only way to correct matters is to admit the utter absurdity of it all with the sort of biting locker-room pranks only football players can devise. The Redskins may well be beaten worse later this season, but they will not seem more pathetic than yesterday.
Mark Moseley missed three fields goals, one from chip-shot distance for him and another when the football fluttered like a wounded seahawk.
In one fourth-quarter drive, one drive mind you, the Redskins gained 107 yards -- and scored zero. They took the ball from their 19-yard line to the Seattle 15, held and smelled their way back to the 45 and then pushed anew to the four. On second and goal, Joe Theismann threw an interception.
Oh, yes, the holding.
"I go all last year with just holding penalties," Hermeling grumbled, "and I get called for three today. Can you imagine that? Three in one game?"
Ah, Terry, It was four.
Yep. You had the blocker's hat trick -- three -- in the first half.
"You mean they called me on that one . . .?" His postgame reaction had been the manly one. He had faced up to his sins in front of reporters half expecting a forearm shiver, had in fact said: "It's something I've got to live with. They can call holding any time they want and I'm the one that's gotta eat it." But the news that he had been nabbed four times hit like an anvil. His voice sputtered and he followed it out of the dressing room.
Teamwide, the Redskins' mood was one of incredulity, shock that such a dreadful performance could come against one of their few equals in the NFL at the moment. They needed points as desperately as Carter -- and all but invented ways to avoid scoring.
It is enough to have part of the offense begin to crack. But when the foundation -- Moseley's leg and Theismann's arm -- starts to sway, the entire team shakes. Theismann threw well at times, but should have avoided that end-zone interception and at least one other.
Injuries are an excuse, but Seattle's best runner did not play. And if the Redskin of tensive line is sometimes a collection of inexperience a bearded vet sinned the most.
Coach Jack Pardee insists the detense and every phase of the special teams and every phase of the special teams except field goals is playing well enough to win. Perhaps. But perhaps the opposition is beating him at his situation substitution game. Because he has players who are skilled at either run defense or pass defense, but not both Pardee uses them on downs for which they are best suited.
That worked splendidly last year. This season, however, a disturbing trend has become evident. On, say, second and long, the Redskins use their best pass defenders. But the opponents, cleverly enough, run on what seems an obvious passing down -- and frequently make the yardage they want. They use Pardee's tactics against him.
Of course he has no other choice. If he were coaching the Steelers, Pardee would order his 11 best offensive and defensive players on the field the entire game and think about little more than a victory speech.
Instead, he is reduced to saying:
"The offense is going to take some time. We've got to work on pass protection and the running game at the same time." Chrysler never made a machine so in need of retooling. Or in such a hurry.
"Maybe we can catch the Eagles over-confident," one player said.
After they were embarrassed by the Cardinals yesterday?
Of all the NFL birds, an angry Eagle is more dangerous than a crippled Seahawk.
"Where do we go from here?" Pardee asked himself during his postgame press conference. He gave the Buddy Hardeman answer Catch 22. "We need to play with more confidence, but how do you play with confidence without success?"
Or without an experience middle linebacker. Or without an experienced tight end. Or without an experienced fullback. Or with a kicker possibly coming down with the yips.
Will we ever see Neal Olkewicz again?
"Next week, Olkewicz promised. All game he had been pacing the sideline, pawing the ground, trying to rid himself of the unseen hobbles the coaches wisely had forced on him. 'I thought I'd be back this week, but I guess I still didn't look well enough. They said next week. I hope they don't change their minds. I'd be awful surprised if I don't play this week."
A realistic question about now is whether, in fact even a change in attitude would be enough to salvage a 500 season. Spirit carries a team only so far, after all. Do the Redskins have enough talent, players rather than bodies, to-cope with the better teams?
"We have the best talent here in a long time," Ken Houston insists, publicly at least. "The best talent at each position. Man for man, position for posistion, we have better players than any time since I've been here." Houston has been a Redskin eight seasons, having endured the Oilers and one stretch of 12 loses in a row before moving on the Washington and the George Allen experience.
"George's teams had outstanding talent at a few positions. This one has more overall. But the differences is experience. This is a team in transition, a young team. They'll win. This is group that's going to get better."
But how soon?