It is not a pretty spectacle that Jack Kent Cooke is making of the Great Redskin Coaching Crisis. His drawn-out indecision has had the effect of leaving both Coach Jack Pardee and General Manager Bobby Beathard cut and bleeding in their ordeal, while waiting on the pleasure/displeasure of the All Powerful One.
Cooke and his postseason game of who shall stay and who shall go has already gone into overtime. Unnecessarily so. It raises the question of whether the Redskins' owner is privately enjoying his eminence as supreme judge of the fate of the men, and of deciding all by himself the pattern of coaching that Redskin fans can expect next season. Cooke's ego has never been a subject for debate.
Heretofore, Cooke has been a man of decision, who in accumulating one of America's great fortunes, has not been given to the sluggish inaction that has marked his behavior in the Pardee-Beathard affair. What should have been a simple, matter-of-fact judgment to be made weeks ago has degenerated into a serialized mess of leaks and hints of some kind of action to come.
Will he fire Pardee or Beathard or both? Cooke isn't saying yet. Meanwhile, pick your own metaphor to describe the plight of the two men. In mythology, they have inherited Damocles' sword. In Watergate terms, they are left to twist slowly, slowly in the wind. In any terms, they are being reduced to supplicants and unnecessarily demeaned.
At first, it was only Pardee's job that was supposed to be in jeopardy. Later, by withholding all expressions of confidence in Beathard, too, Cooke began to expand speculation in the direction of his general manager. Cooke says he still wants to satisfy himself about several things.
But he started holding meetings with his two subordinates in early November after the awful thing in Chicago where the Bears squooshed the Redskins to take a 35-0 first-half lead. After that one, Cooke publicly questioned the Redskin spirit and will to win, the equivalent of telling his coach he's not a leader, can't inspire his men. There have been numberless meetings since with Pardee and Beathard. One of them Cooke called "a summit." Out of it came the announcement they will have another summit next week.
Cook's favorite line has been: "I want all the facts; just the facts, ma'am," paraphrasing that old TV detective. But to other club owners, the essential facts would seem to be self-evident, needing no more gathering. Pardee's team had a miserable 6-10 record, despite winning its last three games. It did have a glorious victory over San Diego. It did not come close to complying with Cooke's own extravagant preseason boost about "this team having Super Bowl potential." It had injuries and it didn't have John Riggins, a decision traceable to the owner.
Where Beathard comes in for blame is speculative. He could bask in the effulgence of his No. 1 draft choice, Art Monk. But he didn't pull any other spectacular deal for a regular player.As Cooke's companion on Sundays in the royal box he did have the owner's ear constantly, and if his job is in jeopardy then he may have failed at, among other things, self-sell.
This essay is no pitch in defense of Pardee or Beathard or the merit of their performances, nor equally is there any demand that either or both be separated from their jobs. Some of the facts say that a case could be made for retaining both of them. Others allow for Cooke's displeasure.
But the enduring question is: what is taking Cooke so long? This isn't SALT II, or another rewrite of the St. James version. It is a simple decision to keep a football coach or get rid of him.
Cooke has said that he would not want to make any announcement during the Christmas and New Year's holidays. This could be proper sensitivity. But it also could be taken to portend bad news for somebody later.
But if Cooke has good news for one or the other, or both, then out with it.
Let us have no more folderol. It was once well said by somebody: the delay of justice is injustice.