They said all the right things, the things you say when a decent man loses his job.
The Redskins reacted to the firing of their coach, Jack Pardee, with some shock that was in itself surprising, and sadness at a business that translates job security into wins and losses.
"I hate it," said Ken Houston, who was benched during his final season with the Redskins. "I hate it for him. I hate it for his family because they seemed to like it here in Washington. Last year, he was coach of the year. This year, we didn't win as many as we probably should have. It wasn't his fault. We had injuries that hurt us. When we started winning, it was too late."
Kicker Mark Moseley said, "It makes me sick in the stomach. It upsets me. I liked the guy. But, I think it was impossible for him to operate under the circumstances. I liked him and (General Manager) Bobby (Beathard). Both have their own ideas. It's hard for two individuals to work together, unless their ideas are so much alike. The way it is, the way it was, it was impossible. . . You have two guys with equal power and two different philosophies, it's hard to make the team go."
Pete Wysocki said, "I feel bad. And I don't mean this as lip service. This year, he felt he had to sit me down. But, he's a very honest fellow and I appreciate that honesty."
Several players echoed Moseley's sentiments that you could take Pardee's word, whether you liked what he had to say or not, "to the bank." And, like Moseley, several felt that the decision, which was so long in coming, might have meant a reprieve for the coach who had been dangling in the wind for so long.
"I made a comment to my wife this morning, that his needed to be settled," Moseley said. "It wasn't fair to the team, it wasn't fair to Bobby and it wasn't fair to Jack. The team was in limbo."
Linebacker Rich Milot said, "Usually, from what I see, if a coach is going to get fired, he gets fired. It doesn't take that long to discuss it. I thought that as time went on, Coach Pardee would be around.
"I thought Jack was a fine coach. We sort of proved that. We had problems in the beginning of the year with injuries but toward the end the defense, which Jack has a lot to do with, played real well. Playoff caliber. dI think a majority of the players would stick up for Jack."
Houston, who announced his retirement during a season that saw him predominantly on the bench, including his final game at R.F.K., said he was not surprised because of "his (Pardee's) ultimatum that unless changes were made, he would leave."
Quarterback Joe Theismann, reached at home where he was watching football films, said he was somewhat stunned. "This could be journalistic history, me being speechless," he said.
When he recovered his faculties, Theismann said, "Jack's a hell of a guy. The first thing you learn is that football is not a merciful business. Mr. Cooke is a very emotional man. It's his football team and what he feels is good for us is the way it is."
When told that Wysocki had said on radio that many of the Redskins would like to see Q.A. (Bum) Phillips as the new coach, Theismann said, "I don't think Pete Wysocki can speak for everybody. Unless he's in contact with more guys than I am, which I doubt, for him to make that kind of assessment is not quite accurate. I couldn't begin to tell you who's available."
"Bum Phillips?" asked Diron Talbert, who may have found a new life here. "I wouldn't be surprised if they brought back George Allen."
Football players are accustomed to seeing coaches come and go. Sometimes, as Moseley said, the situation puts players in a tough position. There are always new bosses to please, jobs to secure.
"It's a crazy business," said offensive lineman Terry Hermeling. "One minute you're in favor, the next minute you're out. I've learned to expect anything."