Owner Jack Kent Cooke, who already had acknowledged he has not decided whether he will retain Jack Pardee as coach of the Washington Redskins, declined yesterday to say whether General Manager Bobby Beathard would be back next season.
Cooke's refusal to endorse Beathard, whose job had seemed to be safer than Pardee's, apparently is an indication that any decisions the owner makes about the future of his two top executives will hinge greatly on whether he thinks their differences of opinion regarding the operation of the team can be patched up sufficiently to allow them towork together.
Pardee said last week the organization had problems that prevented it from producing a winning team. Although he denied he was cirticizing Beathard, it was obvious Pardee was singling out the general manager, his coequal in the front office.
Beathard and Pardee will meet with Cooke this week, perhaps as early as today, to begin lengthy discussions that ultimately will determine whether anyone is fired. Cooke has indicated he will hold a series of meetings with the two men, and that he will not make a decision unitl Jan. 1 at the earliest.
"It is going to be an exhaustive, thorough process, a lengthy investigation," Cooke said yesterday. "I have to ascertain all the facts."
Pardee's future with the team appears to be in serious jeopardy. But Cooke maintains he still has an open mind and has not made any decisions.
Some team sources believe Cooke will find the schism between Pardee and Beathard is too wide to eliminate and that one will have to be replaced. Pardee declined yesterday to elaborate on his charges. Beathard has maintained that his differences with Pardee are minor.
"There just isn't agreement between Jack and Bobby over how good this team is or how it can be made better," said one source. "We're three years away from being a legitimately strong team. I don't think Jack agrees with that. He also isn't ready to make a lot of roster changes, where Bobby would be more inclined to do that.
"It comes down to this: does Bobby think Jack is a very good coach? And does Jack think Bobby is a very good GM? If the answer to those two questions is no, then Cooke hasn't got much of a choice but to get rid of one of them."
Said Pardee: "No one likes to lose. But as a coach, you want all the factors going for you all the time. The coach has to be able to control those factors if you are going to have any chance at all to win. If there are distractions from your main job, things become more difficult."
Pardee said he would prepare for his talks with Cooke "by taking some time to collect my thoughts. You always go through a withdrawal after a season, a letdown. Now is the time for me to think things out. I'll be happy to discuss anything. All Cooke wants is a good team; that's what we all want. If it means replacing people or changing things, then he'll do it."
If Cooke expects Pardee to promise instant miracles with the Redskins, he will be disappointed. Although Pardee rejected any notion yesterday that the Redskins have to undergo major rebuilding program to improve dramatically on this year's disappointing 6-10 record, he admitted the team was quite a ways from being a Super Bowl contender.
Pardee said the Redskins would not start to rank among the elite of the NFL until they add at least two major elements: A top-flight, speedy running back and an intimidating, pass-rushing defensive lineman. He also said the offensive line must make significant improvement.
Pardee said he would welcome back fullback John Riggins, whose premature retirement triggered many of this season's difficulties. And he said the Redskins were capable now of contending for the playoffs, although they would need "to have the breaks and injuries and the bounce of the ball go our way to break away from a pack of teams. If those things didn't happen, we wouldn't make the playoffs."
He refused to say how long he thought it would be before Washington became an NFL powerhouse, although he didn't envision the need for a major roster overhaul for improvement.
"We certainly aren't there now, and a lot will depend on how our young players develop," he said. "We need some time, but I don't know how much.
"We need to have a better team speed, we need to get stronger and more physical in some spots. We need to make some changes along our offensive and defensive lines and in the offensivebackfield.
"But rebuilding is the wrong word to describe our situation. In my opinion, we can stay competitive while we upgrade if things fall right for us. We fall in place with quite a few other teams in the league. Things other than the caliber of players wind up separating teams when they are that even."
Pardee said he thought the Redskins should use their first round draft choice to pick an offensive lineman, a defensive lineman or a running back. He said he did not favor one over the others because all three needs are equal in importance. Washington will select anywhere from eighth to 10th on the opening round, depending on how the league breaks a deadlock among the three clubs that finished with 6-10 records.
He also said the team would attempt to pick up a quality running back in the offseason -- "someone opponents respect because of his speed even when he doesn't have the ball" -- but he wasn't optimistic that the Redskins would be successful.
"We tried to do that after last season and failed," he said. "No one is going to have to give you a good player; you have to pay a price and if that price is too steep, that's the end of it. We already paid a heavy price (two second round draft choices) to get Wilbur Jackson to replace John Riggins.
"But we need to fill our touchdown void. That's the major problem with our offense. Statistically, we showed we could move the ball, but we never could replace the 10 touchdowns Riggins scored and the four (tight end) Jean Fugett scored last year. We have to get on the scoreboard more often.
"We'll get some of those points from Art Monk as he keeps getting better. But he's not the whole answer. We've got to fill our fullback void too."
Pardee said he thought the Redskins would have finished at least 8-8 if Joe Theismann hadn't pulled a hamstring two-thirds into the season and missed almost two games. Pardee said he is coaching "a good team, as good as we were last year, one that could have been in the run for a playoff berth if we hadn't had so many problems at the beginning of the season.
"Our progress will depend on our young players," he said. "A guy like (offensive) tackle Jerry Scanlan could be a very good player, but how soon? The same for people like (guard) Melvin Jones and (defensive linemen) Mat Mendenhall and Pat Ogrin. If they come on and contribute next year, like I think they can, we can get better through a normal roster turnover."
Pardee declined to say what older players he would cut, although he acknowledged Diron Talbert wasn't in his plans and that veterans like Terry Hermeling and Paul Smith would have to be judged "on how well they could hold up over the length of a long season. If they are going to be injured a lot, we may not be able to afford to keep them."
Pardee said he would consider moving Jackson back to fullback from halfback in the offseason. Jackson was a fullback with San Francisco. . . The coach highly praised to two defensive linemen, Dave Butz and Karl Lorch, who were standouts the last part of the season.