The truth is so plain no one will see it. These Redskins are bad because George Allen gave away the team's future. What is happening now is what would have happened last season except for a run of unbelievable luck that misled the unseeing. We called it magic then. We said Houdini in a lockbox at the bottom of the Thames was no greater escape artist than the Redskins. This is not a good team. It was 10-6 when it had 6-10 players. You can run from the truth but you can't hide, and the truth is smashing the Redskins upside the head these days.
Memo to Jack Pardee: get rid of these old guys. Yes, back the truck up and haul them away. This is show business and this act isn't playing anymore. The Eagles' No. 1 offensive and defensive lines have two players over 29; the cowboys' lines also have two players that old, and the Redskins have not two or three or even four -- the Redskins have eight guys over 30. The Cowboys have eight rookies -- the Redskins have three. The standard excuse this fall has been "all the injuries." Old people get hurt a lot more than young people.
When Bobby Beathard became general manager, he said it would take three to five years to make the Redskins into a contender. In this, the third season, the team doesn't deserve to be in the same sentence with Dallas and Philadelphia, let alone in the same league. Because Allen traded away draft picks to get immedaite help from old-timers, Beathard has had only one draft to work with -- this year's -- and he produced only one player, wide receiver Art Monk.
Professional football teams work with a built-in friction between the personnel people and the coaching staff. The personnel people, the Bobby Beathards, believe the coaches don't recognize the quality of their prized picks. The coaches, on the other hand, often don't think the personnel people could find Dick Butkus in a ballet class.
Some of that is going around Redskin Park. Beathard and Pardee are not at each other's throat, but neither man is standing in slack-jawed awe of the other's genius. There is a difference of philosophy afoot, as obvious as Beathard's California beach-boy look is different from the hardscrabble furrows on Pardee's Texas plains brow.
Beathard, if he is like every personnel guy ever, would want to suffer a while. He would want to play the kids. Personnel guys want their prizes on the field learning. If the kids lose at first, well, isn't it better to lose and learn than to lose and grow old?
Pardee wants to win. Now. This week. His team is 3-6 now and headed for 5-11. But all he talks about is the need to win this week. The owner, Jack Kent Cooke, best understands wins and losses; not excuses, not injuries, not bad luck -- just wins and losses. So Pardee, trying to win every week, is playing Diron Talbert at defensive tackle. Good heavens, only Ronnie Reagan is an older football player than Diron Talbert. Perry Brooks, 25, is bigger, stronger and 11 years younger than Talbert. But Pardee starts Talbert because the old guy doesn't make the mistakes the kid does.
Like his old coach, like George Allen, Pardee believes the future is the minute. However good Perry Brooks will be two years from now, if he makes his mistakes now, Pardee doesn't care. The way Pardee id doing it, the Redskins will lose now with an old man and next year they will lose with Brooks still learning the job.
It is indefensible that these Redskins should have only three rookies on the 45-man roster. We could say this is Beathard's fault, for the general manager signs the new kids. Or we could say it is Paradee's fault for not recognizing the rookies' abilities. The ultimate blame, however, is George Allen's. He left this team bankrupt. In three seasons under Pardee-Beathard, the Redskins have had only one real draft. Although it is convenient to say they added only one significant player, fairness demands the recognition that a particular year's draft is not fully judged for two or three seasons.
The Redskins' No. 2 pick this year, defensive lineman Mat Mendenhall, is on the injured-reserve list and may yet be a player. Two offensive linemen, Melvin Jones and Jerry Scanlan, are hurt, too. Maybe they will all be good next year. But wouldn't it have been better to play them this season (all are practicing now, having recovered from minor injuries that enabled the Redskins to keep them under contract without putting them on the roster)?
To keep these kids, however, even to keep them around for special teams and second-string duty, Pardee would have to drop some old-timers who helped the Redskins win a year ago.
The coach couldn't bring himself to go with the kids.
And that's because he misjudged how good this team is.
The Redskins are the best team in the NFC.
That's what Pardee said at the end of last season.
The Redsins were flat lucky last year. They beat St. Louis when a linebacker fell on a fumble for a touchdown. They beat the Giants after a defensive end ran in an interception for a touchdown. They beat Cleveland on a touchdown pass with 27 seconds left. They beat Detroit on a last-minute field goal they missed once but got to try again because the Lions had 12 men on the field. We could go on: No injuries . . . Joe Theismann's greatest year . . . John Riggins' greatest year . . . 26 interceptions and 21 fumbles recovered, which is evidence of a serendipitous marriage of luck and skill.
No such luck this year.
This year, we are seeing the real Redskins, the Redskins created by George Allen, who left the cupboard so bare the team has no depth with which to survive the front-line injuries inevitable in most years.
Suddenly, Mark Moseley is missing the field goals that last year he kicked from everywhere, field goals that gave the team confidence. Suddenly, the breaks are going the other way (last season John McDaniel would have blocked that punt last Sunday instead of running into the kicker and helping the Vikings to a killing touchdown).
We could go on. We will. John Riggins deserted. Brad Dusek is still hobbling on a leg that has been bad all season. The defensive line is 133 years old (if you add up the four guys' ages). The team is so desperate to succeed that it has gone from the least penalized team in the NFL a year ago (only 86 penalties) to the most-punished this time (71 crimes already, barely halfway through the schedule).
All this spawns talk. You hear that the front office is uspet with Joe Walton, the offensive coordinator. You hear that Cooke is quick on the trigger and might dump Pardee while keeping Beathard. It is all the talk that surrounds a losing team. If you listen hard enough, you can hear the strangest thing of all: You can hear that George Allen wants his old job back, that he is politicking for it by keeping his face fresh in Washington.
The day the Redskins rehire George Allen is the day Ronnie Reagan plays first base for Jimmy Carter's softball team.
One thing more: While the Redskins try to win this week this old guys, free agents and one class rookie, the Atlanta Falcons are dramatic proof that kids can win, too. As bad a team as there was last year, the Falcons now are 6-3, largely because they drafted five players who now, as rookies, are playing full time.
You'd think the Redskins might have drafted one or two of those fellows before Atlanta got them all.