Federals owner and attorney Berl Bernhard is first and foremost a Democrat, but he deferred to a Republican, a Bull Moose at that, for his defense of Coach Ray Jauch.
"I go by the Teddy Roosevelt line, 'It's not the critic who counts,' " Bernhard said yesterday. "Ray 'dared greatly' Sunday. People could have called it differently, but he did what he thought was the winning thing."
Bernhard was referring to difficult coaching calls Jauch made in the Federals' 23-22 loss to the New Jersey Generals Sunday.
After Joe Gilliam's 52-yard scoring pass to Craig James brought the Federals within one point with 8:40 to play, Jauch elected to go for a two-point conversion, rather than tie the game with a kick and try to get the ball back and score again.
The two-point conversion attempt failed when defensive back Keith Moody batted away Gilliam's errant pass. After the Federals stopped the Generals' next drive, Gilliam led Washington downfield, but Ken Olson's 33-yard field goal attempt on third down with 11 seconds remaining failed.
"I stick with him," Bernhard said of Jauch. "He deserves support. We will start winning."
Jauch said, "There's a couple of ways to look at it. With eight minutes left to go, I wasn't playing for the tie. Had there been less time, with no chance to get the ball back, it would have been different. I wanted to take the lead and put (the Generals) in a tough position. To attack and win the game--that's what we try to do."
Jauch also said he had Olson attempt the field goal on third down rather than risk a turnover on another play from scrimmage.
After the game, reporters in the visitors dressing room at Giants Stadium made it clear that viewers of the nationally televised game were likely to wonder why, considering the Federals season-long difficulties with the kicking game, Jauch would count on a late-game drive for another chance to win on a field goal.
"It's part of the business," Jauch said yesterday. "There isn't a coach in the world who hasn't been second-guessed. Do you try to work from an offensive position or a defensive position? That's what I based my decision on."
Although the Federals now are alone with the worst record in the U.S. Football League, Jauch said he was not worried about his team or his job.
"I think we should be a 4-3 team without any problem at this point--a middle-classification team," he said. "We could turn it around quickly with the right attitude."
Certainly, the new starting backfield of Billy Taylor and James should improve Washington's running game, and the play of receiver Joey Walters, quarterback Gilliam and safety Mike Guess, who replaced Donnie Harris, is encouraging.
In the meantime, though, the record is still 1-6. And the Federals face the Tampa Bay Bandits, one of the league's most explosive teams, this Sunday.
"I've had some tough starts before," said Jauch, who coached 12 years in the Canadian Football League.
In his first two years at Edmonton, Jauch was 15-17, but he followed with a 39-24-8 record, five straight playoff appearances and one Grey Cup championship between 1972 and 1976. His first two years in Winnipeg, Jauch again had a mediocre record, 13-19; then he achieved a 33-16 mark and three playoff appearances in as many seasons.
Jauch said he has enjoyed management support since he was hired by the Federals.
"I don't worry about things I have no control over," Jauch said. "I just do the best I can do. If that's not good enough, and the people in charge feel that way, well, then I guess we shake hands and say goodbye."
With Bernhard's support, Jauch is able to concentrate on matters at hand. One of his concerns is the Federals' inability to find a quality place-kicker.
Olson, a 23-year-old rookie who played college football for Salisbury State, missed all his kick attempts on Sunday--two field goals and an extra point. Jauch previously used Obed Ariri and Dana Moore at the position; Ariri was released and Moore handles the team's punting.
"Olson's only been with us two weeks," Jauch said. "He's missed some things but he hasn't had much of a chance to practice. With the weather, we've only really had one good day of practice in the last two weeks. A kicker needs to get his bearing.
"Of course, if we're able to find a professional kicker with experience, we'll look into it."