Ken Houston, who has officially announced his retirement, won't be the only Redskin making his final RFK Stadium appearance in a Washington uniform today. In the wake of the team's disappointing performance this season, a number of aging players, including Diron Talbert, will not be with the club next year.
Coach Jack Pardee also could get caught up in the rebuilding project promised by owner Jack Kent Cooke.Pardee's future with the team is precarious, and he needs two lopsided, season-ending victories to strengthen his bid for job security, starting with the 12:30 p.m. game against the New York Giants (WDVM-TV-9). The Redskins are favored by 6 1/2 points.
Besides Houston, who will be honored in a pregame ceremony that begins at noon, other Redskins identified by club sources as unlikely returnees include defensive tackles Talbert, 36, and Paul Smith, 36; offensive tackle Terry Hermeling, 34; linebacker Pete Wysocki, 32; guard Ron Saul, 32; running back Bobby Hammond, 28; quarterback Kim McQuilken, 29, and guard Dan Nugent, 27. Defensive end Coy Bacon, 37, could hold on as a pass-rushing specialist if he can accept a nonstarting role.
Talbert, who has been with the Redskins since 1971, already has acknowledged he won't be back here next season. It was learned that he turned down an opportunity to be honored with Houston today because he wants to play another season in the league.
Talbert's contract with Washington has expired and there is no option clause. Team sources say the Redskins will not attempt to retain rights to him by sending him a mandatory qualifying contract offer before Feb. 1. If he doesn't receive an offer, he will be free to negotiate with other teams, and the Redskins will not receive any compensation if he is signed.
There are six other Redskins who either have played out their options or have no options in their contract. One of them, Smith, also is unlikely to get a qualifying offer. Two others, McQuilken and Nugent, both were released before the season and then resigned later to no-option contracts. McQuilken has talked about retiring while Nugent wants to continue playing. Also in this category are halfback Ike Forte and Bacon, both of whom will get a qualifying offer, and Hammond, who may not.
Wysocki was a starter this season until he hurt his hand and was replaced by Monte Coleman, who the Redskins feel will become a star one day. Wysocki could be traded in the offseason in an attempt by Washington to build up extra draft choices. Otherwise, he probably will be brought to camp and will have to earn a roster spot.
The Redskins also have a logjam at center, with Bob Kuziel, 30, and Dan Peiffer, 29, currently competing for a starting job, and rookie Jeff Bostic as the punt and placement snapper. It is doubtful the team will keep all three next year.
Hermeling, a starter, at either guard and tackle since 1971, said he will not officially announce his retirement. Although teammates say he has talked openly about retiring, he evidently would like to play another year although he realizes it won't be with Washington.
General Manager Bobby Beathard will have a busy offseason negotiating contracts. He also has 14 players entering the option year of their current pacts, which signals the time for new negotiations. Among those are Coleman, Dallas Hickman, Buddy Hardeman, Kuziel, Rich Milot, Ray Waddy, Mike Connell, Bostic and Perry Brooks.
The extent of the upcoming roster purge will depend heavily on whether Pardee returns. Sources say Beathard would like to have a drastic turnover, which would include players like Wysoski and Nugent. Pardee, who gradually eliminated George Allen's Over The Hill Gang after being named coach in 1978, said last month he didn't think a large-scale purge was needed.
Pardee's future with the Redskins is entering the critical stage. Cooke has refused to say he would retain Pardee, who has two years left on his contract, and sources aren't sure whether even victories in these last two games would be enough to save his job.
But it is obvious that Cooke has not yet made a decision, and he could be influenced by two decisive wins, considering that 40-17 victory over San Diego. Cooke certainly has left the door ajar, if slightly, with his statement this week that Pardee was still his coach "at this time."
Until the San Diego upset, sources thought Pardee's chances of staying were bleak, considering the team was in the midst of a five-game losing streak and Cooke had been openly critical of the players' enthusiasm, a direct slap at their coach. But the Charger victory contained all the elements Cooke says he wants from his club: aggressiveness, spirit, a solid defense and a consistent offense.
He will have a chance to see if the Redskins can duplicate those characteristics today.
The Giants will be starting Scott Brunner, backup to the injured Phil Simms. Pardee expects New York, which has been devastated by injuries this season, to run often, throw a few bombs and test Brunner as little as possible against the Redskins' veteran secondary.
A key for Washington will be the status of defensive tackle Dave Butz, who has an injured thumb. Pardee feels Butz will play. Otherwise, Talbert and Smith will be the tackles.