Amid growing reports of major philosophical differences between Jack Pardee and Bobby Beathard regarding the direction of the Redskins, owner Jack Kent Cooke yesterday said he would meet with both men this week to try to salvage a season he called "a bitter, bitter disappointment to me."
Cooke, who was convinced before the season that the Redskins were a Super Bowl contender, said his major concern now was to see if "the seeming lack of determination and desire, the seeming lack of pride I sensed Sunday (against Chicago)" exist.
"I'm not clear, I'm not positive that there are these lacks," he said. "That's why I will reserve final judgment until I talk it over with the coach and general manager. But if these impressions are true, they will be corrected."
Asked if both Pardee and Beathard would remain as coach and general manager next year, Cooke said he was not going to answer "that type of question. I'm not going to get into that. Let's say I'm satisfied that if we can get the team pulling together, including the coaching staff and the general manager, we still will have a good organization."
But even before the planned meeting, Pardee indicated he was contemplating steps to snap his team out of its slump, which has seen the Redskins lose their last two games by a combined 74-35 to opponents with a combined record of 9-14. Washington is 3-7, with games coming up against Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta and San Diego, all prime playoff contenders.
Pardee, who said he didn't think his club was flat Sunday against Chicago, said he would consider lineup changes this week that would involve giving more playing time to players "who will lay it on the line and play to their abilities. Some players could get more playing time and some less, depending on their level of enthusiasm."
"I don't have any moves specifically in mind right now, but we want to play the players who are ready to play. We might use players less in situation-type circumstances and just give them more game time, period. l
"All these people are professional football players. That should be enough to push them. There is a job evaluation on every down. And it will be easy to evaluate them now under our present adverse conditions."
Although Pardee refused to call his possible changes a "youth movement," it's obvious he has drastically altered his views since last week, when he ruled out lineup shifts to younger players as a compromise of his desire to win with the best athletes available "and not worry about the future. That will take care of itself."
He said he would consider seriously activating tackle Jerry Scanlan and wide receiver Zion McKinney, both rookies, off the injured reserve list "if we can find roster space. Who do you move off? But it would be good to give these young players some time." Others who may receive more time could be linebackers Monte Coleman and Rich Milot, defensive tackle Perry Brooks, cornerback Jeris White and running backs Ike Forte and Rickey Claitt.
Team sources say the major philosophical differences between Pardee, who tends to be conservative in personnel matters, and the more impulsive Beathard are their attitudes about using younger players.
Beathard vigorously denied yesterday that there was any "rift or major problems between Jack and me over anything, that's just not happening." But he said the two "aren't in total agreement about everything. Who is to judge who's right?"
"Is this the time to use younger players? Certainly. But a coach wants to win today and I can't blame him. I want to win as badly as anyone, but general managers look to the future and the coach has to prepare every week for another game. I'm not against anything Jack is doing, and I never have been."
Beathard said he would like the team "to see if there is someone sitting out there who can help us, and if so, we should consider signing that person. The trouble will be roster space. But we need to keep building and become stronger, that's very important."
Sources say Beathard would prefer, at this stage of the season, to go with as many young players as possible without stripping the team of its best talent. He has long maintained that the rebuilding of the Redskins, which he and Pardee began two years ago, would take up to five years.
Pardee, however, is much more hesitant to purge the roster during the season. He would rather wait until the postseason to make such decisions.
But his team's inept performance Sunday against the Bears, in a game they lost, 35-21, after trailing, 35-0, at halftime, apparently has shaken him sufficiently to move him off his previous stance.
Cooke said he "can't say I know that Bobby and Jack have major differences, but if that condition does exist, you can be sure it will be corrected. Everyone will be working together."
In an interview with The Washington Post last month, Cooke said, "I agree with Bobby Beathard's feeling that we have to continue to build, but I even amplify on that. No matter how good you are, you always must worry about the future. You can never stop working and trying to get better."
Whether the differences between Pardee and Beathard can be straightened out will have a major effect on the team's future. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for the Redskins' two major front-office figures to work together in a rebuilding program if they don't agree how to go about it.
Pardee, who generally is regarded as one of the league's best coaches, is almost at a loss to explain what has happened to his team, which only three weeks ago showed signs of becoming highly competitive.
"We don't have any secret weapons," Pardee said. "We know what is on our roster right now. We play mostly everyone all the time anyway.
"There is so much negative input into the squad right now. The way to stop that is to have success, because that breeds more success. But we are sort of waiting for something bad to happen instead of making something good happen. And I don't know why that is the case.
"We have to become more aggressive, play with more abandon, be reckless, make things happen. It's not as if we are playing bad all the time, we have a lot of good plays, but we are having too many bad plays for 60 minutes.
"I think we still can compete with the remainder of our schedule, but to do that, we have to play our best. And we certainly aren't doing that right now."