Jack Kent Cooke, majority owner of the Redskins, said yesterday he expects to sign quarterback Joe Theismann to a new contract, that he would like fullback John Riggins to return next season and that he is "pursuing every avenue possible" to obtain a 1982 No. 1 draft choice, including trying to purchase one from another team.
In a far-ranging interview about the state of the Redskins and the National Football League, Cooke also said:
* He predicted privately, before the season, that the Redskins would be 9-7 but he is proud of the team's 7-8 record. "Except for that damnable Dame Misfortune, we'd be 9-6 right now. I'm forced to accept the record book as the final arbiter, but in my heart and head, we will be 9-7 (when the season is over). I honestly believe, given time, we can become a truly dominant force in the NFL. We have made a very productive and solid start toward that goal this season, even though at first we had to patch, wire and glue the club together."
* Coach Joe Gibbs has done an outstanding job in his first season. "He has my confidence . . . he is first class all the way . . . When we were 0-5, I was asked if I would give him a vote of confidence. I refused. I didn't have to. He knows how I feel about him and I rather think he feels the same about me."
* The Redskins will concentrate their offseason efforts, "through the draft, trades and signing free agents," to shore up the team's defense. "(Defensive Coordinator) Richie Petitbon was a miracle worker this season, and we will strive to give him more help." Cooke refused to discuss Bruce Clark, the former Penn State defensive lineman who will be a free agent this spring after two years in the Canadian Football League. But he said the Redskins would not confine their offseason personnel pursuits "to the boundaries of the National Football League."
* The NFL should station a "master referee" at every game with access to three to five camera shots. The master referee would be consulted by game officials about controversial calls. "I feel the (officials) are honest, decent men, but it seems to me on occasion their eyes may betray their judgments on the field. I shudder every time the game officials go into one of those interminable conferences during games. I feel they will reach the wrong decision because most conferences or meetings usually do. I'm not complaining about the referees. I'm criticizing the system itself that fails to take full advantage of the advanced techology the viewer at home has."
The league informed the Redskins last week that the officials in the Buffalo game made an incorrect call on a fumble by Mike Nelms that set up the Bills' winning touchdown. That all but ended Washington's playoff hopes. Cooke refused to discuss that specific call.
He said he doubts the owners would accept, as a bargaining point, the NFL Players Association concept of sharing 55 percent of the teams' gross revenue. "It may well work in Russia where they have socialism. We don't have that form of enterprise in this country.
"In 1980, I know personally of three teams that lost money. That's not hearsay. In 1981, there will be more than three who will lose money. Our revenues are stable, yet our operating costs are appreciating and expanding."
Cooke acknowledged that signing Theismann, who is making $215,000 a year, and Riggins, who is being paid $300,000, to new contracts would mean a substantial financial commitment. Theismann will be a free agent Feb. 1; Riggins also could be, depending on how an arbitrator decides his pending grievance against the team.
"Joe Gibbs says he wants Riggins back and so do I," Cooke said. "And it is my intent to sign Joe Theismann. I think he has done a credible job this year. It will be difficult (to sign him), but I don't know how long it will take.
"All I want is a first class club, no matter what it takes."
Cooke said he already is "trying mightily" to secure a No. 1 draft choice. "I may or may not be successful. If I am, we pretty well know who we intend to choose, should we get the position (in the first round) we are trying for. If we aren't successful, we will make do the best we can.
"If I could buy a No. 1, I would. We also are exploring trades.
"My goal is to be the dominant NFL team, even more dominant than the Dallas Cowboys. And they've been in the playoffs 15 of the last 16 years, I believe . . . I am completely in favor of (Pete Rozelle's) parity goals the next few years. Then I will be fully endorsing parity for the other 27 clubs."
Cooke reserved some of his harshest words for Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association. Garvey said last week he didn't think Cooke would be willing to spend the money necessary to outbid Green Bay for Clark. The Packers drafted Clark in 1980 and would have the right of first refusal on any contract offers by other clubs.
"I don't give a damn about what Ed Garvey says," Cooke replied. "He doesn't know me. We are committed to upgrading this team and (team president) Edward Bennett Williams is with me 100 percent.
"Ed Garvey always is the man who says the owners don't care about winning. That's a lie, so why should I believe him about anything else?"
Cooke said he hopes the NFL players and owners "don't make the same mistakes that the baseball players and owners did this past year. No one won (in the baseball strike) yet the worst losers were the fans.
"I believe a football strike would be a monumental form of masochism . . . if both sides enter into it (negotiations) with goodwill and good spirit and a genuine desire to resolve it, it will be."
The NFLPA contract expires July 15, 1982.
With the Redskins having won seven of their last 10 games after an 0-5 start, Cooke was in particularly good spirits yesterday. He admitted that in the midst of the losing streak that "my hopes of a good season became dim. I knew that the law of averages had to look after us eventually. Whatever could go wrong for a team had gone wrong for us.
"I received numerous obscene, filthy, savage letters during that time. I threw them into the wastebasket. But my confidence always remained unshaken throughout because of the excellent coaching staff and because of the spirit of the team itself. Joe Washington, Mike Nelms, that formidable front line, Theismann, Riggins, oh my, we should list 60 odd players as well as the entire staff. And Bobby Beathard should be at the top of the list, the way he never was shaken.
"This has been proof that patience pays large dividends, by golly. My patience was sorely tried at 0-5, but that patience will produce fruit in time. And I hope it bears an orchard in time."
Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday safety/kick returner Mike Nelms definitely would be moved to offense as a wide receiver and wingback next year, on a tryout basis. The switch became possible when the Redskins signed Curtis Jordan off waivers from Tampa Bay. Jordan started 16 games last year at cornerback, but will be used probably as a weak safety here.