If some deep thinkers around the National Football League are correct, the Redskins and pro football will undergo some significant changes over the next five years.
RFK Stadium wants to add 3,500 seats and some luxury sky boxes (the plan is on hold), but Redskin tickets still will be the hardest buy in town. And they'll be highly priced, too, ranging from $15 to $25.
Instead of playing Dallas and Philadelphia twice yearly as divisional rivals, the Redskins will be in a new division, the result of continuing inflation and realignment brought about the league expansion to 30 clubs. Most likely new divisional rivals include Atlanta, Baltimore and possibly a new team in Birmingham.
The Redskin roster will grow to 50 players, seven more than its present limit, and the athletes will be enjoying the free-agency system that their baseball counterparts pioneeredd during the 1970s. Salaries will skyrocket and a number of superstars will be switching teams.
A new television contract will guarantee the Redskins and the other teams $12 million a year until its expiration in 1986, when Cable TV will make its first inroads into the NRL ratings game. And George Allen, still out of work, will continue to complain that this abundant income eliminates the owners' incentive to win.
All games will have instant replay capabilities in the stadiums, which the officials will use to review controversial plays. And overtime games will not end until both teams have touched the ball at least once. And players will not look as bulky, since newly developed, safer pads won't take up as much room.
The first undergraduate college players to sign pro contracts will be making an impact, although the exodus from the university level won't be as heavy as in the National Basketball Association.
Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke, tired of escalating player salaries, will retire for the second time, turning over the team to his son John. But the elder Cooke will remain active as consultant on all trades.
"I don't see a dropoff in ratings or an interest over the next five years or so," said Chicago General Manager Jim Finks, one of the league's most respected spokesmen. "Pro football keeps getting better and better. There is no reason to suspect any kind of reversal."
But beneath all this optimism is a fear of the known: Ed Garvey and his NFL Players Association. The players' collective bargaining agreement with the league runs out next year, along with the television contract. In 1977, Garvey signed before the television negotiations ended, a mistake he won't make this time.
Garvey is proposing a landmark change in collective bargaining philosophy. He is playing down everything but one point: he wants the players to share in 55 percent of the gross revenue of every team. He says this is not a bargaining chip to be tossed away in exchange for a more liberal free-agency system. And he says that the players are willing to strike during the 1982 season if their demands, as expected, are rejected by the league.
"His gross-revenue idea is preposterous," one league executive said. "There is no way anyone is going to agree to it and he knows it. A strike seems inevitable."
Garvey, however, says the league had better listen. "We are on the verge of a real technological revolution with cable television and all," he said. "Anyone who negotiates a contract in the entertainment business who doesn't get a fixed percentage of the gross is making a big mistake.
"But it's not the NFL history to listen to reason. We've had to fight for every inch of turf since 1970. The last contract has become a cruel hoax that we created in an attempt to make individual negotiations work. The league outsmarted us and, in the meantime, agents have become an impossibility for the most part. By sharing the gross revenues, the players can become partners with the owners as the league grows and you won't need individual bargaining. It will eliminate holdouts and bad agents."
A strike could harm football more than baseball. Wipe out a couple of football weekdends and an entire season is jeopardized.
But the players' contract won't be the only hotly debated area. Expansion, the effect of Al Davis' suit against the league and the push for realignment also will cause considerable controversy.
Davis has his eye on Los Angeles because of that city's lucrative cable television market. The league wants him to stay in Oakland, explaining that if he is allowed to move without approval, it will open up uncontrollable franchise-switching.
But even a Davis court victory probably would have minimal impact. The other franchises are so successful now and will continue to flourish with the new television contract, that there should be no reason to call in Allied Vans.
Since Commissioner Pete Rozelle already has said expansion will take place within two years, it seems inevitable that two cities, perhaps Birmingham and Phoenix, will have teams. Many people around the NFL believe that will be a good time to realign in order to cut travel costs and make more sense out of division composition. Still, of all the pro leagues, the NFL certainly has the soundest financial base to handle rising costs.
Realignment will be fought vigorously, since it will mean the end to some longstanding rivalries, such as Dallas against Washington. But just as the AFL-NFL merger came about through cool heads and some eventual give by key franchises, new divisions should emerge fully grown in the same manner this time.
A change makes sense. Right now, Atlanta and New Orleans are in the same division with San Francisco and Los Angeles. There already are enough West Coast teams to form a five-team division -- with one left over. Add a team in the South and Washington, Atlanta and Baltimore would have a natural rival. The same regional groupings can be determined for the rest of the league.
And by 1984, the Redskins' Joe Gibbs-Bobby Beathard brain trust should be a success, or both will be looking for new jobs. Each is beginning a three-year contract with an edict from Cooke to rebuild the team and turn it into a Super Bowl contender.
They will need at least those three years. Whether Cooke, a naturally impatient man, will keep still that long is another question.
"I don't see the game changing a lot for a while," Beathard said. "I don't think there will be any reason to legislate against violence because we do a good job regulating ourselves. It should be a fun game with constantly improving athletes."