There probably are as many theories as to what is wrong with the Redskins as there are players on Washington's roster. But yesterday, after the club went back to the basics that had been the foundation of almost every summer training camp workout, quarterback, Joe Theismann said the team will get on the right track "as soon as I raise my level of performance."
Theismann, who rested his several aches and bruises while Mark Kruczek ran the offense during practice, said that "being quarterback and being in the middle of the decision making, if I do my job and make the right decisions, then a lot of good will come.
"We will start heading in the right direction that way. I'm not very happy with the way I'm playing, especially the last game. I made a lot of very, very bad decisions and it hurt the team.
"My major goal right now is to take care of Joe Theismann. If I can do that, things will work themselves out."
Theismann was criticized indirectly Monday by Coach Jack Pardee, when Pardee said he wasn't getting the leadership the club needed either on offense or defense. As quarterback, Theismann is regarded as one of the offensive unit's major leaders, a distiction he earned last season through outstanding play.
Yesterday, Theismann said he didn't consider Pardee's statement a slap at him.
"The quarterback position by its very nature is a key one," he said. "But Jack is right. You can't lead through talk, you have to perform. That's what I mean about taking care of myself. If I do that, then I think everyone will respond to that. But if I mess up, they'll be wondering about me. We have to have everyone feeling so confident in themselves and each other that no one is worried about anything but their own duties."
Theismann said he didn't think his teammates "have lost confidence in me. You can't be a successful quarterback if you don't believe in them and them in you. I know I still believe 100 percent in what they can do.
"But I can't go and tell them, 'I'm a leader, follow me.' That's baloney."
Theismann and field goal kicker Mark Mosely are considered the key players in the Redskin offense, which was shut out by Seattle Sunday and has scored only 47 points in four games. Only one team, Green Bay, has scored fewer.
Theismann had hoped to complete at least 65 percent of his passes this season, but currently is at 50 percent (64 of 126). He also has thrown six interceptions, including four against the Seahawks. All of last year, he had just 13 interceptions.
Of course, inconsistent pass protection has contributed to some of Theismann's problems. Unlike last year, when he was able to depend on a steady pocket, he has found himself this season scrambling much more and frequently throwing on the run. And as long as the Redskins can't run the ball well, defenses can hang up more successfully on the passer.
"Joe's play against Seattle was just a part of the overall offensive troubles," Joe Walton, the offensive coordinator, said. "Joe didn't play well and he knows it. He's been told. But it's more than just Joe. We have to execute, cut down on our mistakes and play with confidence. Remember, he's been playing under some duress."
But there is concern about at least two passes Theismann threw up for grabs Sunday, a habit that characterized his play near the end of the 1978 season. Last year, he usually either tossed the ball away or took a sack when he was under heavy pressure.
"I'm not being affected by the pass rush," he said yesterday. "I just made some bad decisions. I'm sore, sure, but nothing that bad. My arm feels fine, but my groin is a little tender. I'll be okay on Sunday (against the Philadelphia Eagles)."
Theismann's main theme -- "I'll take care of myself" -- reflected what Pardee told his players during the first team meeting since Sunday's embarrassing loss.
"If everyone makes sure they are playing right and that they are executing, we will be okay," Pardee said. "We can't be worried about the other guy, and what he is doing."
Pardee said he thought the Redskins "were embarrassed by how they have played, but I think we had good response in this workout. We know we have to work hard, that is the only way we will win. We have to stay together and execute and run things the way we are supposed to run them."
There was a lot of slow-motion, walking-through-the-plays work during the practice. And cries such as "rally around the ball" from the coaches, a familiar sound during training camp. Review and repetition. That apparently will be the core of workouts this week.
"We're the type of team, especially on offense, that has to be playing on all cylinders to function properly," Walton said. "To do that, we have to get our timing down and execute properly. But we aren't virgins, we've been here before.
"We'll drill, drill and drill some more until things work their way out. You keep it simple and do it right. Right now we aren't capable of making major blunders and getting away with them. We've got to be a machine. That's the bottom line."
Some players said there was apprehension about yesterday's return to basics.
"No one knows what to expect," safety Mike Nelms said. "We were all uneasy.But I thought once the meeting was over and we got out on the field, things picked up."
Added safety Mark Murphy, "You'll be surprised what one win will do for us. All of a sudden, things won't be the same. We need to win one to get our confidence back.
"Certainly, we haven't been as consistent as we need to be. But we all realize there is enough time in the season to straighten things out. There isn't any panic. If we get to Philly and make three big plays, you'll see how enthusiastic we can be."
Where that enthusiasm is now is perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the Redskins' 1-3 start. Even Sunday, when they knew they had to win, they didn't play with the same zest as they did last season.
"Everyone is so sick and tired of losing," tight end Don Warren said, "that I think we'll do anything to win. Enthusiasm has to start in practice and I think you'll see it pick up this week. I know the guys on the team and I know myself and we are too good to keep going like this.
"Is lack of confidence a factor? I suppose so. But we are ready to take off."
Pardee received some discouraging reports about the injuries of Warren, fullback Clarence Harmon and guard Ron Saul and their availability for Sunday's game.
Warren, out three of the first four contests with a fractured leg, still is unable to run. Pardee had predicted he could play this week, but Warren said "it just doesn't feel very good . . . maybe one more good week of healing and I'll be okay."
Harmon, who twisted an ankle against Seattle, suited up for practice, as did Saul (bruised calf), but neither participated. Harmon was limping noticeably. Pardee said Dan Nugent likely would start at left guard if Saul was unable to go full speed.
Middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz, who has not played this season because of a knee injury, took on a full practice load yesterday. "He will play Sunday," Pardee said.