On Jack Kent Cooke's spirit meter, the Redskins registered acceptable yesterday. The owner was publicly satisfied that the plucky little fellows were trying their hearts out. Which means that against a fine team bearing down for little more than half the game, they lost by only 24-0.
Only the 1980 Redskins, bless 'em, could turn a 26-yard gain into an Eagle possession quicker than Cooke could take a sip of wine high above all the nonsense. Only the 1980 Redskins would suffer an interception AND a motion penalty AND an ineligible receiver downfield on the same play. Only against the 1980 Redskins would the Eagles actually decline 25 yards worth of penalties.
This is a team now to be pitied, before it is disassembled and put back together -- with new parts -- at season's end. How much longer can we kick these helpless souls? How much longer can we belabor the obvious?
These players are giving an honest effort for the most part, but their best simply is not very good. A blocker holds not because he doesn't care about his job but because he can't -- pardon the expression -- hold it any other way.
None of the defensive linemen especially enjoys being planted on his spinal column regularly each game. Yet the Redskins had their grass knocked into them right from the opening play yesterday and the Eagles essentially won the game by charging 81 yards for a touchdown on the first series of downs.
Even Curley Culp, undoubtedly down to his last NFL paycheck, took a large gulp and decided whatever the Redskins were offering to play right defensive tackle was not enough. It was a dumb move by the Oiler castoff, because left tackle would have been more dangerous.
If Culp manned left tackle, that would mean the Redskins' best lineman, Dave Butz, would either be out of the game or shifted to an unnatural position. And any man, even the Culp who as a collegian broke Mike Reid's leg during a wrestling match, might wilt under those circumstances. When the Eagles wanted to run yesterday, they ran. When they wanted to pass, they passed. Except for the time Ron Jaworski could have run well inside the Redskin 10-yard line but pulled up -- past the line of scrimmage -- and fired an incompletion to a wide-open teammate a few yards away.
Trying, in fact trying desperately, the Redskins lulled the Eagles into falling for some gimmickry early in the third quarter. They actually had a chance to score a touchdown -- and failed in a way that symbolized their season. Their one imaginative play of the afternoon died on the drawing board.
Washington had run -- and run and run -- to the disgust of the crowd and the delight of the Eagles. But that apparent run to the right by Buddy Hardeman on third and one from the Philadelphia 36 was nothing of the sort.
The Redskins had practiced the play over and over during the week. Hardeman, a collegiate quarterback, recalled passing accurately each time and that intended receiver Art Monk always broke free, cradled the pass and sped into the end zone.
In reality yesterday, Monk broke free. He had a step on the Eagle defender and Hardeman had the other Eagles suckered into believing his sweep to the right would be just another run to get the daylights beaten out of him. But Hardeman suddenly stopped and floated a sort of Kilmerish effort downfield.
"He was not quite open when I threw the ball," Hardeman said, "but I had to get rid of it. On the films, it looked like a good way to score."
From the stands, it looked like Monk should have made the catch near the five-yard line.
"It was just an inch or two overthrown," Monk said. "It was on my fingertips -- but I couldn't pull it in."
Hardeman and some others were jumping up and down with frustration. They had worked for so long to set up a play that theoretically should have worked -- and might have for any other team but this one at this time.
"We always seem to dodge one bullet and then jump into a volley of 'em," said quarterback Joe Theismann.
The Eagle volley came immediately after the Redskin blank. Being bold, for there was no other choice, Washington followed Hardeman's high pitch with a fourth-and-one run by Wilbur Jackson. Somebody let Carl Hairston grab Jackson in the backfield -- and he caused a fumble. Jerry Robinson recovered and ran 59 yards for an Eagle touchdown.
It was a 14-point swing, seven the Redskins should have had and seven the Eagles did get. Theismann might have grabbed the loose ball, or pushed Robinson down, or at least gotten in his way, save for the leg injury he suffered earlier in the game.
This time a pulled right hamstring hamstrung the Redskins.
"I knew I was in trouble," Theismann said, "when two Eagle tackles ran by and didn't even try to block me."
So where do the Redskins go from here?
Trying for humor, Hardeman said: "Where do we play next?"
Just in Dallas.
And that puts an ironic cap on the Redskin fate so far. This was only supposed to be the most important game of the year. Or so much of the NFL believed before the season started. This rematch was going to have the playoff-bound Redskins against Cowboys thought to be all but buried with their boots on by now.
Instead, some Redskins are so obsessed with their own troubles the name of the next opponent does not leap to mind. Only that there is one. Even with no Staubach to kick around, it is the Redskins with almost no hope.
A Philadelphia reporter quoted Clarence Harmon as saying some Redskins "laid down and quit" after that first touchdown.
Harmon denied it to a Washington reporter, adding: "To see everybody on the team trying hard is what makes this so bad."
Nearby, Hardeman was leaving the Redskin dressing room when he finally completed something to Monk -- a look. From across the room, Monk returned the slightly embarrassed smile.
"Just a little too long," Buddy said to his buddy.