No other team in the National Football League has been able to match the frenzied pace set by the Redskins since the end of last season. But all the trades, forced retirements, free-agent signings and draft picks make perfect sense to Coach Joe Gibbs.
Gibbs is convinced no one has the patience today to wait for gradual improvement, especially when it involves sports and winning. "People aren't going to wait around and let us build a program," said Gibbs, who begins his first Washington training camp Tuesday in Carlisle, Pa.
"We've got to produce good results right away and not think we are working on some long-range plan. That would be a foolish approach on our part."
That's why Gibbs and the Redskins have been on the move almost from the day he replaced Jack Pardee in January.
So what if most of the NFL's reigning powers have used the draft to build patiently a solid franchise? So what if 6-10 teams are supposed to improve gradually and not expect instant success?
Gibbs will hear none of this talk. He and General Manager Bobby Beathard are fashioning their own rebuilding system, even if it rubs against the grain of the Establishment.
Before Gibbs was hired, Beathard predicted it would take three years for the Redskins to become a legitimate playoff contender. Any playoff appearances before then, he felt, could be classified as flukes.
Now all such evaluations are on hold. No one, not Gibbs, not Beathard, not the players, not even Jack Kent ("No Predictions This Year") Cooke knows how good this Redskin team will be.
That's what makes this training camp so intriguing.
Gibbs will need the six weeks of camp at Dickinson College to make some sense out of what he and Beathard have wrought, even though there already is a feeling at Redskin Park the club has ended its downward slide, which began when John Riggins walked out of camp last July.
This much is known before camp opens:
The Redskins will be much younger. Gone are Diron Talbert (37), Ken Houston (36), Paul Smith (35), Pete Wysocki (31), Mike Kruczek (28) and Dan Nugent (27). Terry Hermeling (35), Ron Saul (33) and Bob Kuziel (31) all will have to struggle to avoid being cut in camp. Filling the roster could be as many as 12 rookies and first-year players Beathard has drafted, including Mat Mendenhall (24), Melvin Jones (24), Russ Grimm (22), Tom Flick (22) and Mark May (21), if and when he signs a contract.
The Redskins will be quicker and deeper in the offensive backfield. They also have the potential to score more points. Such rumors as Terry Metcalf, Joe Washington and Riggins ("I'm bored, broke and I'm back") give the offensive-minded Gibbs more talent and versatility than former offensive coordinator Joe Walton ever dreamed of having during his tenure at Washington.
Win or lose, the Redskins should be exciting. Gibbs loves to throw the ball so much that he has trouble pulling back even around the goal line, a habit that may not change despite the presence of kicker Mark Moseley.
"I've been criticized for passing too much inside the 10," Gibbs admits, "but you have to try to score seven. That's always my goal."
A lot of the untested players have to live up to expectations. If they don't, Gibbs has left himself without alternatives. And injuries, especially at linebacker, a position woefully thin in depth, could have the same effect on this team as they had on Pardee's last club.
There are some significant questions, however.
Who will be the leaders, now that Houston and Talbert are gone?
Will the club avoid the contract problems that have plagued it the last three seasons, or are May's current negotiating troubles just the start of another round of Beathard versus assorted agents?
Is Riggins back for good? Can he make a successful comeback after a year's layoff? Is Joe Washington worth a No. 2 draft choice or did the Colts know something Beathard didn't? Can an effective offensive line be constructed fast enough from the wealth of inexperienced talent available? Is there enough quickness on defense to make the club truly competitive? Can Brad Dusek recover from back surgery in time ot contribute?
"I wish I had the answers to those questions right now," Gibbs said. "This is a team in search of an identity, a character. It will have to find itself. Anyone would be crazy right now to predict a record for us. There is no way you can do it."
There is another major unanswered question: How good will Gibbs be as a head coach?
This is his first head-coaching assignment on any level. As an assitant, he gained a reputation as a players' coach, a driven, Dick Vermeil type with a more ready smile than the hard-line Philadelphia coach but with just as much emphasis on loyalty and work habits. He can be stern and forceful, but he seems to have a lighter edge that eventually could help to make him a popular figure in Washington.
But he still is untested. And he already talks like a maverick coach. In a town accustomed to a cautious, don't-make-mistakes approach to football, Gibbs almost is a radical. He is among a handful of young NFL head coaches who believe they have found a better way to win.
"I want to have a smart and aggressive football team," he says. And this is no smoke screen. He intends to go after opponents, attacking them on offense, gambling on defense, trying to block kicks on special teams.
If he is correct, there will be no sit-back-and-wait attitude with his Redskins. His pass-oriented offense, with its multiple sets and more-than-occasional deep passes, will be change enough from a decade of Woody Hayes-type thinking in Washington.
"I want to coach as if I was playing," he said. "I want to make it fun. I want them to look forward to coming out each day. I don't want them to get stale."
That must be music to the ears of Cooke, the man who fired Pardee in part because the Redskins were so dull last year (25th in scoring, 23rd in total yardage). Cooke wants his team to be exciting, to be in the forefront of innovation. He isn't so sure that a strong defense necessarily has to be the foundation of all championship teams. Neither is Gibbs.
Gibbs also has gained favor with Beathard by producing a dramatic movement toward younger players, a major hangup between the general manager and Pardee. Beathard, who thought Pardee never gave his draft picks or free agents a fair chance, has attempted to help Gibbs by trying to correct a majority of the club's major weaknesses.
The result is, for the time being, a return to harmony at Redskin Park. The upheaval caused by last year's turmoil has disappeared. Beathard clearly is in charge, for now.
Gibbs, like most coaches, says there will be plenty of competition at training camp. In some cases, he will be right.
The offensive line, which needs to be quicker and stronger than last season, will be watched closely. Guard Jeff Williams already is gone, traded to San Diego for defensive lineman Wilbur Young. And Hermeling, Saul and Kuziel all could be cut before opening day, leaving George Starke as the lone retuning starter from last season.
But before such a massive, unprecedented upheaval takes place, a lot has to fall in place. Gibbs considers veteran Dan Peiffer ("a real stud, a tough man") the probable starter at center, which should free Grimm (6-foot-3, 250) to challenge Jones (6-2, 270), a 1980 seventh-round selection, for Williams' guard spot.
Fred Dean, (6-3, 253) a sometime starter to tackle last season, is expected to beat out Saul at the other guard, although Saul has fought off younger players for years. Likewise, big Jerry Scanlan (6-5, 270), a 1980 free agent, has been ticketed to take over for Hermeling at tackle.
Even if these changes occur, the question remains whether any NFL team can have a consistent offense with such an inexperienced line. Quarterback Joe Thiesmann certainly will be interested in an answer. And who will be the long snapper, Jeff Bostic or rookie Darryl Grant? And is there room for such promising youngsters as guard Gary Sayre and free agent tackle Joe Jacoby (6-7, 282)? And how soon would Flick be ready to replace an injured Theismann?
Gibbs also is uncertain who will be his wide receivers, other than steadily improving Art Monk. Free agent Charlie Brown, who has speed and good hands, seems a likely starter if he can build on his showing in minicamps. But Ricky Thompson just outworks people and Ken Harrison has the quickness to fit into Gibbs' long-range bombing plans. Rick Walker could double as a receiver and tight end, where Don Warren is entrenched as a starter.
Riggins and Joe Washington are a talented backfield pairing, with Metcalf, Clarence Harmon and Wilbur Jackson in reserve. If Gibbs keep a sixth runner, he'll have to choose from a half-dozen candidates, including Ike Forte, Buddy Hardeman, Bobby Hammond and Rickey Claitt.
Defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon, who favors more blitzing than Pardee employed, needs to shore up his front four, which once again couldn't handle the run last year.
Tackle Dave Butz and end Karl Lorch are set. But Young, the other giant bookend tackle, has to nudge out Perry Brooks (who has to nudge out Perry Brooks (who has to worry about free agent Pat Ogrin). And Mendenhall, who has been projected by the coaching staff as a starter, has to prove he is capable of replacing Coy Bacon, so Bacon and/or rookie Dexter Manley can concentrate on being pass-rushing specialists.
Gibbs even feels Jeris White, last year's camp-long holdout, could push either Lemar Parrish or Joe Lavender for a starting cornerback position. But he's not so certain about who will be the team's seventh defensive back, or how soon Dusek will return from the back operation, or how well young Farley Bell will play as a backup linebacker.
"I'm as excited as I've ever been about anything, just waiting for camp to begin," said Gibbs. "I'm as anxious as anyone to see how good a team we can create from everything that has happened."