Some despondent deep thinkers blame Jack Kent Cooke for the gloom over this town. Had Cooke struck a deal with John Riggins, the reasoning is, the Redskins would be a decent football team yet. These thinkers say Riggins' absence crippled the offense and subjected the defense to more work than it can handle. To this I say piffwaddle.
"Where does Cooke get off pointing a finger at Jack Pardee and saying the players aren't trying?" said a fellow afflicted with the twin indignities of being a Redskin zealot and a liberal Democrat. "That's like Jimmy Carter getting blown away by Reagan for good reason and then laying it off on Amy for ever bringing up nuclear proliferation. Carter killed Carter, and now Cooke has killed the Redskins with the Riggins thing."
No, no, a thousand times no. Cooke is not the villain of the piece. The curling mustache belongs on George Allen, who slinked out of town when he saw no way to avoid mediocrity here. Allen's indescribably bad trades (No. 1 and No. 2 draft choices to get Duane Thomas, for heaven's sake; two No. 1s and a No. 2 to get Dave Butz) guaranteed the deterioration of the Redskins.
"Get off George," our suffering friend said. "Talk about today, not ancient history. Today's problems can be laid at the feet of Jack Kent Cooke for not keeping Riggins."
Well, let's see.
Riggins is a 230-pound fullback strong enough to get the tough inside yards and fast enough to go outside. With 1,000 yard seasons back to back, he proved himself a durable battler of unquestioned importance to the Redskins' offense.
A bright guy, Riggins had seen Billy Kilmer, a limping old malcontent talk the Redskins into a two-year contract with the second year guaranteed at $250,000. If Kilmer could get a guarantee, Riggins figured he could, too.
But one thing had changed. Kilmer dealt with the team president, Edward Bennett Williams, who didn't want a public fight with the quarterback. (As it happened, Kilmer didn't play that second season; he exited laughing with his loot.)
When Riggins tried to pull off his robbery-by-renegotiation, the man at the cash drawer was not Easy Eddie. The man was Jack Kent Cooke, newly arrived in town to take over the football team he had owned 87 percent of for six years.
Cooke told Riggins that if he didn't want to honor the contract he signed four years ago, a contract worth $1.83 million, he should get lost.
"What Cooke should have done (the Demo/Skinno fan speaking again) was to make a secret deal with John to give him a $50,000 bonus for this year and another bonus next year. That's what Ed Williams would have done. Certainly, what Cooke did was right on principle.But it was wrong on football."
Yes, it was wrong on football.
But not that much wrong.
"Sure we miss John," said Joe Walton, the Redskins' offensive coordinator.
But they don't miss him that much.
Not so much his desertion would change a 10-6 team into the present 3-7 bunch.
Even without Riggins, the offense is as good as ever.
Whatever heat Joe Walton is taking now is unjustified. The Redskins' offense is not San Diego's circus of invention, to be sure, but then the Redskins' receivers are not John Jefferson. If Joe Theismann to Ricky Thompson is not Terry Bradshaw throwing deep to Lynn Swann, that is not Joe Walton's fault. Walton has created a conservative, efficient, low-risk offense to fit the middling abilities of these Redskins.
Here's a question. With Riggins at fullback and with the Redskins winning six of the first 10 games last season, did the offense produce more yards than it has in winning only three of the 10 games this year?
Last year the Redskins averaged 281.6 yards a game those first 10.
This year they are averaging 320.8 yards total offense.
The Redskins' offense was mighty in last year's last six games, scoring more than 30 points five times, and yet at season's end its average was only 306.5 yards.
"But Riggins was important because he got the yards that kept drives alive and yards that made it second-and-short so they could either pass or run," DemoSkinno said.
You could look it up, or you could ask Paul Attner, The Post's Redskin man, but Riggins' importance as the big man on long drives is overrated, too. Attner's research uncovered another unexpected answer to a question that goes like this: Through the first 10 games, did the Redskins last year have more long scoring drives than this year's team?
Again, the answer is no.
Eleven times in those 10 games the 1979 Redskins drove 60 yards or more to score. So have the 1980 Redskins done it 11 times.
In those 11 drives last year, Riggins contributed 172 yards rushing and pass receiving. In the 11 drives this season, Wilbur Jackson, brought in at the dear cost of two No. 2s to replace the deserter, has gained 135 yards.
Not a big difference. In fact, this year's three main running backs -- Jackson, Clarence Harmon and Rickey Claitt -- have gained only 60 yards less than Riggins and Benny Malone had after 10 games a year ago.
No, it's not the offense's fault. Riggins would help some, but not all that much.
Statistically, the defense's work is virtually identical to what it did last season, having given up only 35 more yards through 10 games.
A second look at the defensive stats shows the primary difference from 1979 to 1980. Everyone is running against the Redskins now. By running, the opponents keep the ball longer. That particularly hurts the Redskins, who do not have the big-play ability to score quickly. Last season the Redskins' opponents gained 58 percent of their yards by passing; this year the enemy is gaining 54 percent of its yardage by passing.
This transformation of the defensive line from a rock into a sieve has hurt the Redskins more than Riggins' desertion.More eveidence is Bobby Beathard's response when someone asked the general manager his first priority in improving the Redskins.
"Defensive linemen," Beathard said.