A judgment about the Redskins has been forming, week by week, and it now seems clear that two things are wrong with them: their personnel and their coaching.
The Chicago thing, 35-0 before the end of the first half, was merely showing again the quality of the Redskins' players, beaten seven times in their 10 games. The three games they won were, significantly, against teams with an aggregate record of 5-25.
Coach Jack Pardee, the old outside linebacker, understandably made the Redskins' defense his special province. In the last two games, with the Redskins often caught in wrong defenses dictated from the sideline, Pardee's troops have yielded 74 points to the Bears and Minnesota, neither a powerhouse in the NFC.
Pardee each week has prescribed more team pride and better execution, tempting some people to paraphrase Luke IV, 23: Coach, heal thyself.
A finger also is easily leveled at Joe Walton, assistant coach in charge of offense. His legions are averaging an inadequate 15.8 points per game, which leaves them tied with the 2-8 Giants as weakest offense in the NFC East.
Walton has been conspicuous on the sideline by his habit of wearing his cap backward, catcher-style. But based on the plays he sends in to Joe Theismann, it often appears Walton's cap is on straight; it's his head that's screwed on wrong.
The consensus hero of Redskin fans has to be Theismann, given the material he has to work with, both coaching and playing. In the Redskins' worst season since he graduated to No. 1 quarterback, the irony is that Theismann, is at last commanding the recognition that long ago should have been his.
Teammates call him The Mouth, an allusion to Theismann's readiness to talk about anything, on radio shows and elsewhere. A lot of his comment is pap, ra-ra stuff, and with care to avoid criticizing teammates, coaches or the opposition. But unlike his predecessors at quarterback for the Redskins, he doesn't hide from the press after a defeat or make for the secret exits that were the escape routes used by Sonny Jurgensen and Bill Kilmer.
But it is on the playing field that Theismann is a stick-out.If his passing arm isn't the best, it is surely one of the best. In the pocket he is cool, and on the roll-out he is nimble. He doesn't panic. He'd run more if the coaches would let him, a wise decision because without Theismann the Redskins this year would be nothing. Almost alone, he and his rookie receiver, Art Monk, represent hope.
Theismann is the team leader who claps hands and jumps for joy not when he has thrown one of his touchdown passes but when Clarence Harmon or somebody has gotten the Redskins that first down. In the pregame introductions he goes leaping onto the field, fist raised high to generate some of the spirit he wants that day. Later, in the game, unless he is leveled by the hardest kind of sack, he shakes off tackles with scorn.
The dreary thing in Chiago, oddly, showed Theismann, the athlete, at his best. When the Bears decided to sit on their 35-0 lead and gave him some playing time, he got three touchdowns back, albeit late in the game. In each touchdown he involved himself big with the scrambles that totaled 64 yards. Twice he connected with scoring passes, once he took it in all by himself the last seven yards.