Jack Pardee must be steaming. He can't like what is going on. He can't like the owner making a public spectacle of the Redskins' suffering. Jack Kent Cooke could scold his coach in private. He could keep it in the family. But no. The owner is telling the newpapers that his coach's team has no spirit. The owner says it is the coach's job to bring the Redskins to life. Do it this Sunday, the owner says in the newspapers. Readers are left to finish the thought by saying, "Or else."
Or else the coach will be fired.
If not now, at the end of the season.
Jack Pardee must be steaming.
Not that we'll ever know.
They are opposite kinds, Cooke and Pardee, the Redskins' odd couple.
Cooke is laughter wearing Gucci loafers.
Pardee is stoic in combat boots.
Cooke drives his Mercedes 80 miles per hour.
Pardee goes under the limit in his four-wheel drive jeep.
Cooke loves little more than the vigorous exercise of his voice, such excercise taken in large doses several times a day, and the woods are full of folks who will swear that this exercise has produced a voice strong enough to send Hamlet's soliloquy from Upperville to RFK without electronic assistance.
Pardee talks only when he can't avoid it.
Cooke is theater, live and in color.
Pardee is black and white TV.
Cooke is 68, a bridegroom, a man who, the first thing after a $42 million divorce, spent $80 million to buy New York's Chrysler Building, who last month realized $95 million profit on a business merger, a man who for 45 years has made gold of everything he touched, a man who refused to cooperate on a book about the world's five greatest salesmen because, "I am not one of five anything."
Cooke is master of all he surveys. Jerry West, the great basketball player, once coached Cooke's Los Angeles Lakers. "This sounds crazy," West said, "but it shows you how involved Mr. Cooke was. We brought in Johnny Neumann, a guard. Johnny was overweight, about eight pounds we figured. Mr. Cooke called me. He told me, 'Jerry, I want you to go down to the supermarket and get an eight-pound roast. I want you to tie it around Johnny Neumann's waist. He'll soon know how heavy eight pounds is.' I didn't do it, but you can bet Neumann got that weight off."
Most likely, Cooke is up to more motivational shenanigans here.
If they are an odd couple, this Sphinx of a coach and the owner who struts and frets on a grand stage of his own making, it is yet true that Cooke genuinely likes Pardee and dearly wants him to succeed with the Redskins. The owner recognizes Pardee's basic goodness and decency. All Cooke wants now, it seems plain, is for the Redskins to show some fire at RFK this Sunday.
If Pardee perhaps has lost control of his team momentarily -- any of a hundred events in a 3-7 season might explain why this happens even to the best of coaches -- Cooke by his public criticism may be hoping to prod Pardee, as he did Johnny Neumann, into a realization he can do better.
There is another possibility, of course.
Cooke may be so distrubed by this losing season that he is building a public case now for firing Pardee later. Always an activist executive, be it with his sports teams or his businesses, Cooke only last season moved to Virginia and assumed control of the Redskins. He has owned 87 percent of the stock for six years now, but because of his divorce proceedings he gave control of the team to his minority partner, Edward Bennett Williams.
It was Williams, remember, who hired Pardee.
It was done with Cooke's approval, but it was Williams work.
Cooke may want his own man.
He praised Pardee to the limit a year ago, when the Redskins went 10-6, even as Pardee and the general manager, Bobby Beathard, dumped the George Allen geriatric wonders and built a new team. Off that 10-6 season for which Pardee was named NFL coach of the year, the coach and general manager -- and owner -- believed this would be a good year. As the Redskins reel toward a 5-11 season, perhaps a generous estimate, Cooke wants to know why this enterprise of his is turning to dross instead of gold.
He understands that the desertion of John Riggins crippled the offense. Proof of that is his approval of the trade of two No. 2 draft choices to get Wilbur Jackson. Injuries hurt too. But Cooke also knows the defensive line is nearly helpless against the run. He believes it is time to play younger people more, a move that Pardee -- this is instructive -- first resisted but now embraces.
This much is certain. A man who is not content to be counted as one of the world's five greatest salesmen, a man who would lash a rump roast on a player, a man who buys skyscrapers and gets married at 68 -- such a man can hardly be expected to be happy as owner of a 5-11 football team. He will do something about it.
Then, too, there is this. The only way to know if Jack Pardee is mad, his wife once said, is to watch his knuckles turn white. He will grip the arms of a chair so hard his knuckles are drained of blood. The back of his neck turns red. Never demonstrative, never the clever politician/con man George Allen was -- when he worked for Cooke, Allen made the owner a gift of a pair of swans and named them, cleverly, Jack and George -- Pardee believes a man is best measured by his work, not by his words. "An empty barrel makes the most noise," Pardee has said.
So Pardee won't do a Reggie Jackson and tell his owner to get lost. He won't call his team's owner a spoiled brat, as Reggie has George Steinbrenner. No Pardee honors the chain of command. Pardee will take Cooke's criticism in silence. He may say the cirticism is something to think about. He may say the owner is trying to help.
But he will be steamed.
Football coaches don't like owners who take them away from their practices and projectors for an hour and a half. Coaches don't like owners suggesting ways to use people and strategy. Jack Pardee had been pubicly angry only two or three times here, always when his players have questioned his work. They have their job, I have mine, he said.
And if Pardee believes Cooke meddles too much, here's what Pardee will do: He will quit.