Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday that Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke had been "very supportive" despite the team's five-game losing streak and that he was certain Cooke would give him time to "straighten things out with this team."
Gibbs also reiterated that Joe Theismann would be his starting quarterback Sunday against the Chicago Bears. He said he would not hesitate to remove Theismann from any game in which he felt the veteran quarterback was not playing well.
Gibbs said he met yesterday morning with Cooke at Redskin Park and came away feeling Cooke understood the problems he was encountering in trying to rebuild the Redskins.
"I think the hard times are sometimes the best judge of a man, and he's been great," Gibbs said. "We sit down almost every week and talk, face to face, and he's been nothing but supportive. He's been good to me. Both he and (General Manager) Bobby Beathard are intelligent men. They are aware of the problems we've been having.
"I know I am going to be given the time to straighten things out. We took the approach that we are starting something here and no matter how long it takes, we can work it out. I'm confident I'll be here when we do get it straightened out.
"Anything we do, the personnel decisions we make, are for the long haul. We aren't keeping anyone who won't help us build for the future."
Cooke declined to comment on the Redskin situation, other than to say that "patience is the key."
But a well-placed Redskin source said that Gibbs' job "is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar."
And Beathard, who was responsible for hiring Gibbs, said the Redskin front office "is aware we are in a rebuilding program. It was our choice, and Gibbs is the coach who is going to rebuild this team."
"He shouldn't feel the least bit pressured. We need to get him some more players and we need more healthy players. He's been told there will be patience. Mr. Cooke has told him that, I've told him that.
"This is not a one-year, win-or-else deal, no matter what our record winds up. And anyone who thinks it is doesn't understand what we are trying to do here . . . Joe Gibbs is going to be our coach for years to come, and he's going to be a great coach."
Beathard said the Redskins could trade away more draft choices to fill in holes and possibly improve things temporarily. "But we aren't going to do that," he said. "We are going to do this correctly, the way it should be done. Pittsburgh didn't win under Chuck Noll his first year either, they were 1-13, but no one gave up on him.
"We are prepared to live with whatever happens this year. But I still feel we are going to win a number of games."
On other matters, Gibbs said yesterday:
Guard Russ Grimm and cornerback Lemar Parrish would be able to play Sunday after missing the San Francisco game. He was "pretty sure" tackle George Starke also would be back and he hoped both defensive end Mat Mendenhall and linebacker Monte Coleman could return. He expressed little hope that fullback Wilbur Jackson could play.
He sometimes thinks about how it would be if he still was a San Diego Charger assistant coach. "But I don't think about it much. This is where I should be. You don't squirm out of hard times, you 'fess up to them."
He didn't think the fans' booing at RFK Stadium hurt the team's chances. "I want our fans to be emotional," he said. "I don't want a bunch of wet diapers. I just want to change that emotion into cheers."
He thought his players were frustrated and upset. But he said he didn't think they lacked enthusiasm or motivation. "The younger players are probably doubting themselves, wondering if they can win. We have to make sure they stay confident."
The team is capable of winning soon. "We aren't that far away. We have done some good things, but we just have to put everything together in one game. The main thing is, we have to stop making turnovers and cut down on long drives by our opponents."
Gibbs said he made the decision to remove Theismann Sunday "strictly on how I feel. I reserve the right as a head coach to make that decision. He's our quarterback; he's our starter. He's been real productive. There are more aspects to any team than the quarterback, but I felt that we had reached a point in that game where it was better to put Tom Flick in.
"Being pulled won't hurt Joe's confidence. He's a very confident guy."
Gibbs said he never envisioned when he took the Redskin job "that it would take this long to win a game. You can't ever think you'll be 0-5. I didn't think it when we left training camp, either. But we started off badly, got some people hurt and ever since we haven't been able to have any lineup consistency. It seems like a different person is running the ball every week, things like that.
"This is hard to live with, and I don't like to live through it, but I have no other choice. I'm prepared to take the heat."
The Redskins re-signed quarterback Mike Rae, who had been released Saturday, put halfback Clarence Harmon on injured reserve with a fractured shoulder, dropped cornerback Trent Bryant and signed rookie Cris Crissy, a defensive back-wide receiver from Princeton who was drafted by New England in the 12th round . . . "But we aren't going to have any wholesale personnel changes," Gibbs said . . . The Redskins lead the NFL in turnovers (21) and are tied for fewest takeaways (six). They are second in penalty yardage to the Jets (401). They are second in the NFC in total offense and, just as surprisingly, could be No. 1 in defense, pending the results of last night's Philadelphia-Atlanta game. But they are last in the league in points surrendered (149).