Like the rest of us, Chris Hanburger is interested in knowing just who will be playing for the NFC East in that RFK Stadium strike game 10 days from now. It's kind of important for Chris, he being in charge of the NFC East team.
On the field, Hanburger very likely was the most important and least appreciated of the Over the Hill Gang, the defensive quarterback almost always praised first by George Allen in victory. Even after a Redskins loss, Allen usually would offer: "Chris called a good game."
Hanburger actually hopes to be a former coach before he coaches his first game, that the NFL players and owners will settle this strike nonsense before his NFC all-stars play Tom Matte's AFC all-stars at 4 p.m. Oct. 10. If negotiations remain stalled, well, Chris can cope.
"Quick, isn't it?" he said.
From the owner's box at Chris Hanburger Ford yesterday, he admitted that the players for this unique affair very likely will not be announced until the weekend, possibly not much before Tuesday's first scheduled practice. He said it would be more game than war.
"Like the Pro Bowl, I'd imagine," he said. "Blitzes ruled out, except in short-yardage situations. And from a safety standpoint, no blocking punts. Practices won't be that long, although after four days and a light workout on Saturday the game shouldn't be disappointing."
Yes, he allowed, the defense will be way ahead of the offense.
The fact that a Redskin might be directing a Cowboy blocker and throwing to an Eagle will not be difficult to coordinate, he insisted. Most teams talk the same language, which made it a wee bit easier for Hanburger the coach-on-the-field player to thrive.
"It's a cliche that every defense has a weakness," he said, "but every offense also has a weakness."
For a player who studied as intently as Hanburger, any deviation from habit was disaster for an offense. A blocker might plant his back foot closer to his body on runs than passes. The way a quarterback walks toward the center might tip off his cadence. A runner might actually glance toward his intended route before the snap.
Face it, more than a few players would be road's scholars if not for football.
Almost always, Hanburger would give a laser gaze toward the opposition sideline during timeouts. Frequently, he could lip read well enough to know if the play would be run or pass.
"And just staring right at the coach as he's sending a player in," he said, "can drive the other team crazy."
He is not crazy enough to coach full-time.
"No more security there than the automobile business right now," he said, "and I'm doing fine here."
Hanburger will have five assistants; who they will be he also has not been told. There will be adequate medical attention, including an insurance policy that even covers career-ending injuries, he said. Rosters are supposed to be 40 deep.
Real coaches, such as the Redskins' Joe Gibbs, will be watching the game with mother's concern. For them, a sprained ankle would be nearly as critical as a permanently-damaged knee. The consequences of a slightly-rusty Joe Theismann coming out of a meaningless game with a sore arm would be disastrous.
Washingtonians assume Theismann will be the starting NFC East quarterback, for he leads the conference in passing by a decent margin over the fellow he also beat in team-to-team situations, Philadelphia's Ron Jaworski.
In truth, Hanburger's team should be quite good, assuming everyone worthy wants to play. The Redskins' John Riggins is just a yard behind the NFC rushing leader, Eddie Lee Ivery of the Packers. The Cardinals' Stump Mitchell is the top kickoff returner; Dave Jennings of the Giants is first in punting.
The East also has four of the conference's five leading receivers. Washington's Charlie Brown and Philadelphia's Wilbert Montgomery are tied for first in touchdowns and Mark Moseley has the most points (22).
Hanburger was an obscure draftee from North Carolina who never doubted his ability to play in the NFL. He remembers no career alternatives. If he'd failed that first season with the Redskins, well, somebody else surely needed a linebacker prospect who hit like a bolt of lightning on special teams.
"Just a job," he said of the fantasy of much of male America. "People find it hard to believe that I find it embarrassing to bring it (his rich career with the Redskins) up. I enjoyed it, but there were other things in life to do when I couldn't play any longer."
Allen's defensive playbooks seemed thicker than automotive repair manuals, but Coach Hanburger will be keeping things simple. He was advised to keep a sharp watch on the coach of the AFC West, Bobby Layne, if -- heaven forbid -- the strike lasts long enough for their teams to meet.
Layne's game plans likely will be less complex -- and durable -- than Hanburger's. If form holds, they will be jotted on soggy cocktail napkins. Given his previous coaching track record, Layne might see the rules a bit differently than everyone else.
As the coach of a Texas high school all-star team for a few years after his retirement, Layne had the reputation during exhibitions against Pennsylvanians of, say, blitzing linebackers when that was forbidden. His teams always won, big. Hanburger said he'd keep that in mind.