Coach Don Coryell and the San Diego Chargers were making like the canary-swallowing cat yesterday as they awaited arrival of Chuck Muncie from New Orleans. General Manager Bobby Beathard of the Redskins intimates they may have, instead, bought a dog.

"We had an opportunity to gain a Pro Bowl running back," Coryell said after his AFC West club took Muncie off the Saints' hands in exchange for an undisclosed draft choice (presumably, a No. 2). "We think Chuck is one of the finest running backs in the game and we are happy to have him."

So he's skipped a practice or three in New Orleans. So he has a first-class contract and a second-class attitude. So he did gain a grand total of 10 yards on five carries against Miami on Sunday and fumbled on the goal line with the Saints ahead, 9-0, in a game they lost, 21-16. Still, he is regarded as "cat-quick," a pass-receiving threat yet at 6-foot-3, 233 pounds, big enough to protect the passer -- and as for carrying the ball, how many in pro football top his 3,386 yards over the past four years?

So we asked Beathard if --

"Do you know Chuck Muncie?" came the reply. "New Orleans never contacted us to say he was available, and if they had, we'd have said, 'Not interested.' We don't need any problems like that."

Coryell, on the other hand, noted that Muncie had asked to be traded to a club in California and said he was not concerned about the one-time Berkeley Bear's attitude. Or whatever "problems." Said Coryell:

". . . We feel that with a change of environment to a winning football team, he'll be a great player. It's a great opportunity for him to come in and start over again and have a great year."

Back to you, Mr. B.: "We do not need -- He may be the biggest problem in the NFL."