Now that all the evidence is in, it is time to hear the final arguments. By television today, Jack Kent Cooke watched his Redskins flail the spineless Cardinals, 31-7, for a third straight victory at the end of a miserable season. The owner said, "I will have a series of meetings with Jack Pardee and Bobby Beathard this week." Beyond that, nothing was said to comfort or condemn.
It is fair, though, to assume that Pardee will keep his job only if he mounts a defense of his work that is definitive in its substance, stunning in its oratory. The coach must satisfy Cooke that he and Bearthard, the general manager, respect each other's talents enough to be the effective top-level partners an NFL team must have to win. The coach also must persuade Cooke that this 6-10 season was an aberration beyond the control of any coach.
What Pardee must do eloquently is build a case that he can win big with the Redskins, for everything in Cooke's history as a basketball and hockey owner suggests he is not satisfied with anything less than the very best. With Jerry West and Elgin Baylor in his basketball employ -- maybe the best guard and best forward ever -- Cooke whipped out big bucks to add Wilt Chamberlain. This is a football owner who wants a Dallas kind of quasidynasty, not the dead-flat break-even .500 stuff of Pardee's first three seasons (8-8, 10-6, 6-10 for 24-24).
Though it seems that Cooke has spent at least the last six months publicly despairing of the Redskins, the fact is he never said a critical word until after the 10th week of the season. The occasion then was the Redskins' gawdawful first half at Chicago, where the mostly inept Bears led, 35-0, at halftime. Had a George Steinbrenner been subjected to such pains of ownership, he might have called for the coach's head that day, special delivery.
More patient than a Steinbrenner but no less demanding, Cooke put Pardee on trial that day six weeks ago. Pardee has two years left on his contract with the Redskins. But by refusing weekly opportunities to say Pardee's job is secure, Cooke has told us he is thinking of firing the coach.
The owner says, "I don't know what I'm going to do." He keeps saying it -- even after a 40-17 victory over a good San Diego team three weeks ago, even after the season-ending three straight victories by a combined score of 87-37. He says it so often it seems certain Pardee is gone.
Cooke vigorously denies any decision has been made. "Hypercautious" the Wall Street Journal once called Cooke, the businessman who at age 68, after a divorce cost him $42 million, bought the Chrysler Building for $80 million and closed a merger of his Teleprompter Corp. and Westinghouse that earned him $95 million. Cooke's sports backgroud suggests caution, too, for in 20 years as an owner he has fired only four coaches -- and only one in midseason. Cooke says that midseason dismissal was "a mistake that I'll never repeat."
Just as vigorously as he denies any decision has been made, Cooke likely will deny that all the evidence is in.
He has seen the football and loathed it.Off last year's performance, when the Redskins were 10-6 and (to quote Pardee) "the best team in the National Conference," Cooke dared dream of the Super Bowl. Even after six games, when the team was 1-5, Cooke was brave, insisting the Redskins "will win eight of the last 10."
Seldom has the owner carried such great expectations for so long with so little reward. What's more, he was bored to tears with the team's Neanderthal-style offense designed to minimize NFL teams win by being bold. n
That evidence, Cooke has. A hypercautious businessman will look at his account books and see the cold numbers. Then he will call in his top men for an explanantion of those numbers.
That's what Cooke will do this week with Pardee and Beathard in an attempt to see if their differences of opinion -- on player ability, on how to build a solid team -- are irreconcilable. By way of gathering all the evidence he can, Cooke will want to know why the Redskins were so inconsistent, why they so often seemed uninspired, why they could win only one game this season against anybody better than 5-11 when last year they beat three teams with at least nine victories.
What Pardee and Beathard say to Cooke this week may determine the future of both men.
Most likely, though, the die is cast.
As often as Cooke has laid the burden of proof on Pardee, not once has he suggested the Redskins are mediocre because the general manager has supplied the coach with mediocre players. Beathard succeeded as player personnel director with the Miami Dolphins. Also on Beathard's side is this: general managers don't get fired for a team's poor work, the coach does.
The coach is Pardee. Were Pardee a silver-tongued orator with an angel whispering lines into his ear, it yet is improbable that he could persuade Cooke to disbelieve his eyes. The owner sees a 6-10 record . . . he sees more than 17,000 no-shows for the last two home games, a distressing development of apathy . . . he sees Dallas and Philadelphia leaving the Redskins a poor third cousin in their division.
And remember this.As decent and honorable as Pardee is, he is not Cooke's kind of guy. Cooke is flash and thunder, all there is to see, and Pardee is a whisper, a mystery.
Edward Bennett Williams, operating the Redskins while Cooke lived on the West Coast, hired Pardee. When Cooke moved to Virginia last year, he told EBW thanks for minding the store. So Cooke took over a football team with a football coach not of his own making, not of his own personality. And the coach, in a year of great expectations, produced a team that won only six games.
What can Jack Pardee say this week that will change that?