The Redskins now have two losing streaks going. Not only have they lost four straight (WDVM-TV-9) game with the Falcons, but they also have struck out twice in the last two weeks trying to strengthen the team by picking up veteran players off the waiver list.
Tom Banks became the latest veteran to have a short-lived career in Washington today, just two weeks after Curely Culp lasted less than 24 hours on the active roster.
Banks was waived by Coach Jack Pardee for showing up late the last two mornings for team meetings, it was learned.
"The first time he was late he was really late," said one source. "Jack told him not to be late again, and the next day he was late again. So that was it."
Exit Banks, who has signed to a two-year, $10008000-plus-per-year contract Wednesday after being picked up off waivers from St. Louis, where he had been a four-time all-pro center.
Enter Dan Peiffer, who had been released to make room for Banks. Peiffer has earned his salary this season mostly by watching from the sidelines. Other than one start -- he lasted a half before being replaced by Bob Kuziel -- Peiffer has hardly seen any game time.
Pardee tried to explain Banks startling departure as gracefully as possible, completely ignoring the player's tardiness problems.
"Maybe in the future we can get Tom back, but for right now having Dan is better for the team," Pardee said. "He knows our system better and is better prepared to play Sunday.
"I hated to let Dan go in the first place."
The New York Giants also claimed Banks off the waiver list only to lose a coin toss with Washington. Pardee was asked if he thought the Giants still would try to sign him. "Well probably so," he said.
Culp, 34, was waived by Houston but never even practiced with the Redskins. He told the club he wanted to either play left defensive tackle or be compensated for playing right tackle. His demands were refused and he went back to his home in Texas.
Banks, 32, at least practiced, and Pardee kept saying he thought he could help the team next year. "He still has a couple of good years left," Pardee said, "That's the kind of player we think can help us."
It's been that kind of year for Washington and its coach. Almost everything they've tried has seemed to backfire, almost from the day John Riggins reported and then departed from training camp to turn the season into turmoil.
Meanwhile, Pardee tried to focus his attention as best as he could yesterday on Atlanta, which has a one-game lead over Los Angeles in the NFC West title race and is favored by 10 points over Washignton.
Pardee is counting heavily on his revitalized defense to keep the Redskins competitive. Ideally, he'd like to play what he calls a "field goal and field postions game," in wich Washington stays conservative (lots of runs and few passes) and relies on the kicking of Mark Moseley and its defense to win.
To pull it off, Atlanta's quick-strike offense must be kept under control, which means the Redskins' defense has to play as well as it did against Dallas last week.
If the Falcons jump to a sizable early lead, the Redskins will be forced to break out of their shell and open up the offense, something Pardee would rather not do with Mike Kruczek starting at quaterback for the injured Joe Theismann.
Pardee said he regretted not being ultraconservative against Dallas. "If I had to do it over again, I would have played for more field goal ties for Mark," he said. Moseley was successful on his only attempt of the day in the Cowboy game, his first kick in four weeks. But Pardee also admits he never dreamed his defense could hold the high-scoring Cowboys to only 14 points.
"I'm anxious to be used more," Moseley said. "It's been a while, and I'm really kicking well. The last two weeks, I've been hitting them from 60 yards in pregame workouts, I'm ready if they need me."
With Kruczek playing in place of Theismann during the second half last week, Washington tried only one pass in the third quarter and didn't have any net passing yardage until late in the contest
Pardee and Kruczek believe things will be better this time around, since Kruczek is much more prepared. "I'm more comfortable and confident," Kruczek said. "Things won't be as shaky as they were last week when I played. Knowing I'm going to play helps."
This is an important test for Kruczek, who normally played well when he replaced Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh. He has yet to prove in Washington that he is a capable backup for Theismann, much less a candidate for a starting job next year, as he thinks he should be.
"If our defense can keep playing hard and hold Atlanta like it did Dallas and if the kickers have a good day and if the offense can make a little progress in spots over how it's been playing, we can play with them," Pardee said of his 3-9 team. "We aren't looking for a drastic turnaround by the offense, because that isn't going to happen. But if we can complete some passes and get some more consistency on offense, it would help.
"With our situation and with the way our point production hasn't been too high the last couple of weeks, I certainly don't want to get in a bombing contest with them. We have to control the tempo a little."
The Falcons have a fine offensive mixture of a potent ground game, led by fullback William Andrews,a nd a talented passing attack, led by quarterback Steve Bartkowski and receivers Alfred Jenkins and Wallace Francis.
He has been sacked 27 times, but has tossed only 12 interceptions. That is bad news for the Redskins, who have a woeful pass rush but a ball-stealing secondary. Pardee would like to increase the pressure on Bartkowski, so he doesn't have as much time to pass as opponents have been getting against Washington.
Atlanta specialized in winning games on last-quarter combacks. But the Falcons also have shown they can lose at the end, too. All three of their defeats have come with their foes scoring the go-ahead points with fewer than 90-seconds on the clock.