Through four quarters of football burlesque, Berl Bernhard smoldered. After the game, a 35-3 loss to the Birmingham Stallions, the normally diplomatic owner of the Washington Federals exploded.
"At some point, forbearance is no longer a virtue, and if these people don't have the same zeal to win that I do, we will make moves," Bernhard said.
Asked specifically if Coach Ray Jauch or anyone else's job was in jeopardy, Bernhard said, "Is it the players? Is it the coaches? Is it management? We're going to find out. There are no reasons the fans should be as disappointed as they were. I watched the entire game in agony."
Some of the 12,818 in attendance who booed the spectacle appeared to agree. There were 11,369 no-shows.
Bernhard said he could not predict what moves he might make, but he said he would determine them soon. "I'm prepared to look at everything," he said. "Whether it's a meeting or a telephone conversation, there will be a discussion tomorrow."
The loss was Washington's fifth in a row. The Federals' 1-8 record is the worst in the USFL.
In the beginning of the season, Bernhard and the coaches would say they were interested in developing a team, that the victories would come in good time. And in the past few weeks, as they lost close games, they promised the breaks and victories would soon go their way.
Today the mood was altogether different.
"It was a general, total breakdown. It's inexcusable," Bernhard said. "This is the first time I've had the feeling that they don't have the drive for success . . . At this point excuses are not acceptable."
Told of Bernhard's comments, Jauch said, "It's understandable. What can I say? All you do is your best. Everybody has decisions to make and I'm sure those decisions will be in the best interest of the team. If my best isn't good enough, then fine."
And when General Manager Dick Myers was asked what he might tell Bernhard, he said, "I wish I knew the answers."
Two factors seemed to be in the Federals' favor before the opening kickoff. They had defeated the Stallions, 31-21, in a preseason scrimmage. Also it was announced just before the game that quarterback Reggie Collier, Birmingham's first-round draft choice, would not play because of a bruised right knee.
In the end, it didn't matter.
The Stallions began their scoring with Billy White's one-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds left in the first quarter. After another 15 minutes of football that might best be described as uneven, a play excruciatingly typical of the Federals' unfortunate season took place.
Still leading, 7-0, Birmingham's final drive of the first half appeared stalled by penalties for holding and illegal motion. The ball was brought back to the Washington 44 and there was only enough time for one play.
Coach Rollie Dotsch called a "Big Ben Right," in which three receivers, Johnny Dirden, Greg Anderson and Ron Frederick, in the middle, lined up on the right side of the field. As they all ran for the end zone, Bob Lane's pass arched toward Dirden, who was well covered.
But then, by design, Dirden lifted his right hand in front of his face and tipped the ball backward. The ball fell into the hands of Frederick for a touchdown with four seconds left.
When the Federals returned to the field for the second half, Jauch replaced starting quarterback Mike Hohensee with Joe Gilliam, but it made little difference. Hohensee was six of 14 for 69 yards with one interception.
Gilliam's first pass was intercepted. He completed 11 of 34 for 164 yards and had four interceptions.
The team's third quarterback, Kim McQuilken, is on the 10-man developmental squad and ineligible to play.
With Cornelius Quarles, former Howard University running back, leading the Stallions' running game with 58 yards on 11 carries and Lane completing 13 of 29 passes for 192 yards, the Stallions increased their 14-0 halftime lead.
Dale Castro's 47-yard field goal--a team record--at 10:33 in the third period was the Federals' only score.
"I don't know what it was," said Hohensee. "Maybe it was that pass at the end of the half. I don't know. But everybody seemed to think 'Here we go again.' "
Melvin Williams, the Stallions' third-string quarterback, set up the final score with 10:12 left in the game. From the Washington 20, Williams ran a quarterback draw play. After defensive back Mike Guess jarred the ball loose at the four, running back Earl Gant recovered it in the end zone for the score. Birmingham is now 4-5.
The Federals' players knew they had played a dreadful game.
"I'm tired of this," said James, who had 40 yards on 16 carries. "Something's got to be done because this is ridiculous."
"We put our own backs against the wall," said defensive back Doug Greene. "I don't know what Berl's talking about, I just hope he doesn't split us up."