Jack Pardee is a very good football coach. He showed us that last year. He cannot work miracles. The rest of the National Football League showed us that this year.
Coaches can hide ordinary players only so long -- Pardee and his staff have covered for mediocre offensive and defensive lines as well as anyone possibly could, in part because most of the other NFL teams are not overflowing with talent, either.
Pardee is immensely confident, reasonably sure that if you gave him five Supreme Court justices, six guys off the Reagan transition team and three months to train them he could stop the Eagles for a half and the Packers forever. The man should be sure of himself, for he has done about as much with as little as anyone in his profession.
Last year and this, however, Pardee has been trying to accomplish the impossible, something nobody in modern coaching has been able to do. He has tried to rebuild and win at the same time. Somebody sometime might be able to do it, but Lombardi and Landry, Shula, Weeb Ewbank and Chuck Noll either couldn't or wouldn't try.
George Allen came about as close as anyone to those two galactic goals, though failure to execute his future-is-now philosophy near the end of his seven years here created the stew Pardee has tried to turn into filet these last three years.
With the sort of tools available, with, in fact, an expansion-level team, Pardee fooled everyone by increasing an 8-8 record his first season to 10-6 last season. He may have fooled himself this season, by believing he -- or anyone -- could get this team into the playoffs.
Still, there is trouble afoot for Pardee, and for General Manager Bobby Beathard to some extent. If his team's future was not vastly more important to owner Jack Kent Cooke than team spirit during that show-cause meeting with Pardee and Beathard this week, it should have been.
Sometime -- and it ought to have been at their first meeting three years ago but evidently was not -- Pardee and Beathard are going to have to decide how Redskin reconstruction is going to take shape. There are two ways: the traditional, win through the draft with young players way, or Allen's mortgage the future method.
Both can be effective, but not at the same time.
If he has not done this already, Cooke had better get his coach and general manager on the same philosophical page. He might misquote Ben Franklin to them: either you both hang together with this policy or one of you surely will hang separately.
Perhaps Cooke will have to be firm about which path to choose, for the nature of Pardee's and Beathard's jobs push them toward contrary opinions. A coach is paid to win. He wants men who can play in three minutes instead of three years. The personnel man generally is more secure, and thus can push for a more patient policy.
The problem with the Redskins is that there seems to be no long-term direction. Last year we discovered Pardee can coach. This year we discovered most of the Redskins can't play, or not at the sort of level that makes championships possible and regular. We still have no notion of how the Redskins plan to be consistently excellent.
How is that possible?
By deciding to copy either Noll or Allen. But not both. Which is what Pardee and Beathard have been doing for three years. The merits of allowing older defensive linemen to play over younger ones can be argued for weeks, but the truth is that none of them is very good. Or ever will be. And allowing Joe Theismann to call his own plays is a wonderful way to get him -- and the offense -- wiped out.
Those are short-term solutions, some of them patently awful. What this team seems to lack is somebody looking past the next play, the next game and the next year, somebody to search for cornerstones and a way to get them.
The Redskins desperately need one on the defense, a Bob Lilly or Randy White, a Joe Greene, Merlin Olsen or somebody who can stop a tank by himself and make otherwise ordinary players around him seem better than they are. Defensive linemen are the second-most precious commodity in pro football, behind a quarterback.
A Redskin source the other day wondered aloud, "Sure we looked awful against Seattle, Minnesota and Chicago. But what do those teams have in common?"
Decent runners and a strong defensive line.
"Exactly," he said. "You absolutely cannot win in this league without at least a very good defensive line and one strong runner. We don't have either at the moment."
They also seem to be patching instead of building.
This is Pardee's and Beathard's team now. Allen still is convenient to kick around -- and clearly the reason Redskins became ordinary. But Allen did not trade the No. 1 draft pick in 1979 to Cincinnati for Lemar Parrish and Coy Bacon. Allen did not trade second-round choices in 1981 and 1982. Or a fourth-round choice in 1981.
Parrish is an exceptional player. Bacon is useful, though he seems much better when measured against his linemates. But both are too old to be much of a long-range factor. That is hindsight, of course, for the trade seemed spectacular last season.
Football is cyclical because a core of gifted players, perhaps four on offense and four on defense, are necessary to fuel Super Bowl teams. Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Ham and Franco Harris came to the Steelers within four years of each other. So did Too Tall Jones, Randy White, Danny White and Tony Dorsett with the Cowboys.
Splendid players were waiting for Lombardi at Green Bay and Shula at Miami. Shula, in case you missed it, has not won a playoff game in seven years. Landry did not have a winning season his first six years with the Cowboys. Noll was 12-30 his first three seasons in Pittsburgh.
At the moment, the Redskins are a washout on the field and adrift in the front office. After such a surprise last season, Pardee had to be given more rein this season. Even with John Riggins, the Redskins probably would have reached their natural level this year -- a .500 team at best.
Without the draft choices they needed to surrender for Riggins' replacement, the Redskins will not improve as quickly as possible. Joe Cribbs, after all, was a second-round choice. So was Ham. Why can't everybody give Cooke the credit he deserves for the Redskins' demise? A man cannot deny the team its second most valuable player with one breath and predict a Super Bowl appearance with the next.
But Cooke must take firm control of the Redskin rudder, give Pardee and Beathard a realistic timetable for how quickly he wants a consistent winner and then meddle no further. He might opt for the quick route, bringing in veterans and giving up future draft picks, and be justified. Theismann is 31 -- and might be reduced to sitting on his endorsements by the time a cast of competents is assembled around him.
Whatever, it is time for Cooke to think beyond rah-rah and the Eagles. NFL history suggests a deep commitment is necessary to win in style. So rush toward the Super Bowl with enthusiasm. Tell Pardee and Beathard either to trade all the future draft choices or none.
And then don't penalize the coach for failing to reach a playoff plateau before that is possible. Landry was in a Pardee-like quandry during one of his early years with the Cowboys. The team had not won as often as expected and Landry was said to be unable to motivate men, that he was too cerebral for such an emotional game.
Management reacted to that pressure brilliantly. Instead of firing Landry, they extended his contract 10 years.