With their playoff chances virtually gone, the Redskins were given a new season's goal yesterday by Coach Jack Pardee: protecting their jobs with the team.
"We can't see ourselves going to the Super Bowl anymore," said Pardee, who admitted his staff may have outsmarted itself by getting too specialized on defense. In a lengthy interview, Pardee made it clear he expects his players to react to Sunday's 39-14 loss to Minnesota with renewed enthusiasm and determination.
"I don't like the position we are in either," Pardee said, "but we all have to face up to it. We're in it. Whether you are fighting to win each week or whether you are fighting for a job on the team, you better play with aggressiveness and determination.
"It's a mistake to use the Super Bowl as a carrot. You better use professionalism and play right every day and you have a chance to succeed. Of course, everyone wants to go to the Super Bowl. But there are more important things for us now. We have to be good enough to recover from the Viking game and get ready for the Bears on Sunday."
He also said he and his staff would be reviewing his multiple-substitution-by-down-and-distance philosophy on defense. Although the Redskins will not abandon this approach "because we aren't good enough just to line up and beat people," he indicated there probably will be fewer substitutions, than were made the last few weeks.
"We have to make sure we can handle the multiple offensive sets and the multiple substitutions. We have to be aware that teams are trying to combat what we are doing. Everyone is trying to foul us up, but the Vikings did a better job of it than anyone," Pardee said.
"We are still going to play the percentages and the odds and make substitutions. But we have to be careful we don't get to the point where we are outsmarting ourselves. If we are, we lose the edge we are trying to get. And no matter who is in the game, you still have to be able to tackle and pursue."
Pardee's change of thinking will be welcome news to his defensive players, many of whom thought the multiple substitution approach had become a good idea gone wild.
The use of role players on defense last season contributed greatly to the team's unexpected 10-6 record. But this season, opponents have found ways to exploit what was considered a fresh, imaginative strategy. Teams have run effectively when Washington has been in passing defenses, and when the Redskins play for the rush teams have been able to pass on them.
Sunday, Washington was thrown off stride when the Vikings waited until just before the start of every offensive play to make substitutions. Frequently, the Redskins did not match up well.
"Teams are hurting us by using what we call an 'Ace' formation," Pardee said. "They go with one running back and either two or three wide receivers. What they want to do is spread us out on defense, so we have to be balanced. We can't overload on one side or the other, and that takes away our edge.
"The Vikings aren't dumb. They saw that we had been hurt by that approach and they used it maybe 50 percent of the time. We see what teams are doing, and we have to make some adjustments to it."
But the Redskins lack the quickness, strength and overall defensive talent to go back to standard defenses. That is why Pardee went to the role-playing concept. But now that the advantage of this tactic has been diminished, the team's obvious defensive weaknessess are being exposed.
"We can't sit back in zones and think we can win," Pardee said. "We know our personnel and our strengths and weaknesses. When we play right, our substitution philosophy works. But that doesn't mean we can't make changes in it and refine it."
But he said he would not make changes simply to give younger players more game time.
"I'm playing to win, to get the right matchups, to put the best team on the field," he said. "I don't care if the player is young or old, it's who can help us win the most. I can't worry about the future. I've got enough problems with the present.
Pardee said he still believes his players are capable of competing against the teams remaining this season.
"We are still a good football team, when we play the best we can," he said. "But we can't win making the mistakes and being as inconsistent as we have been. The Vikings certainly aren't that much better than we are. There are a lot of teams bunched in our ability area, and it becomes a matter of who plays the hardest from week to week.
"Am I disappointed in this team?" I'm disappointed in our record. I thought we could do better."
What makes the Viking loss especially devastating was Pardee's stated belief the last two weeks that the Redskins finally were as good as last year, even after a 1-5 start.
"We did have it rolling for a few weeks," he said, "but I think the Viking game proves what I've been saying all year. We can't just show up and expect to win. If we don't play to our potential, we aren't going to win. If we do play very well, we will win. It's that simple."
Pardee said he hopes guard Jeff Williams, who has a bruised thigh, can resume practice Wednesday. . . Tackle Terry Hermeling aggravated his sore thumb Sunday and was in considerable pain after the game. . . Linebacker Pete Wysocki tore ligaments in the middle finger of his right hand and severely bruised that hand. "I think Pete will be able to play," Pardee said. "It's sore and it looks worse than it really is."