The Washington Federals have an internist and an orthopedic surgeon, an executive director of cheerleaders, two lawyers and heaven knows how many ticket takers and balloon blowers. What they have not had since the start of their sad slide this season is somebody devoting his life to finding football players.
All anyone who wishes them well can do is shake his head.
The worst team in the high-minors of football does not have a director of player personnel. Or whatever title is attached to a sick-over-sport fellow who does not mind a steady diet of half-cooked burgers and getting lost eight times on the way to Alcorn State. And, most vital, who knows what he's looking for when he finally gets there.
Such people exist.
A football team not having an excellent one is like a car sponsor spending millions on the glow of an Indy machine without hiring anyone brilliant at engines. The thing might run, but it'll be passed every few laps.
So Berl Bernhard could have spent a much more productive afternoon yesterday searching for a player wizard instead of calling a press conference to explain that he and president Jim Gould agreed to publicly part company agreeably.
The 33-year-old Gould admitted to being "a little bit aggressive in personality and nature" and "probably not the best person suited for an everyday detailed type operation." Then he illustrated that, in heavy strokes, by twice interrupting his boss of another week or so when he assumed Bernhard had fumbled a question.
Gould ain't the issue with the Federals.
Unless you care to wonder whether he slapped an organization together without paying much attention to its foundation. What other conclusion is there from a 1-11 team whose executives keep saying, over and over and over, that most of the football players who reported to training camp could not play football very well?
The general manager, Dick Myers, is strong in the details of how a team survives in intraleague battles, but has had almost no experience in how one is built on the field. The U.S. Football League teams that seem most solid so far, the Philadelphia Stars and Chicago Blitz, are led by two of the brightest minds in all of football, Carl Peterson and George Allen.
"I've said all along," Myers said, "that I can tie things together. But I'm not an evaluator of talent. That's not my background. I can go look, but I'm not going to spend my time on the road."
Not having a personnel director since Mike Faulkiner left a week before the season opener "has made my 14-hour days into 16- or 18-hour days," Myers admits.
"When Mike had an opportunity to leave," he added, "it was the spring and we decided it wasn't that consequential (to find a replacement in a hurry). We had the (scouting) combine, and I wanted to wait and see who was available in the NFL. There are a couple of NFL personnel people interested. I plan to wrap that up very shortly. That'll be a big plus."
Myers insists not having a personnel person since early March "hasn't hurt us." That's impossible to believe. There have been players popping off NFL and USFL rosters every day being evaluated, essentially, by a general manager with almost no scouting knowledge and a coach, Ray Jauch, who was in Canada the last 13 years.
Because he is the most visable and easiest target, Jauch has been peppered with the most public flak. But he is the only man in the entire Federals' hierachy with a history of football-related success. He's made bad teams good in a hurry before. Maybe he's never been stuck with one so dreadful.
Almost anybody, even newspaper columnists, can correctly judge a Craig James as football prime. The trick is to be able to scurry about the country and find the unheralded blockers capable of allowing him to achieve his potential.
This recalls the time Muhammad Ali rebuked a stewardess who told him to fasten his seat belt by saying: "Superman don't need no seat belt."
And the stew snapping back: "Superman don't need no plane."
Craig James still is a very good running back; he needs help.
Just guessing, Bernhard said the team needs upgrading at 10 positions. Or about half the ones who stay on the field more than 10 seconds at a time. He and the others are exactly right to use injuries as one reason for their dismal record and lousy weather as an excuse for sagging attendance.
It even was drizzling outside when the Federals press conference began yesterday. And when the quarterback, the best runner and best receiver are hurt at the same time, even the most thoughtfully constructed team falters.
But not forever.
The Blitz lost quarterback Greg Landry last week--and still won, with a passer who rarely played for a school that needed one, Notre Dame. Tampa Bay keeps winning with quarterbacks unknown outside their own back lawns. The Stars signed a runner at least as gifted and expensive as James, Kelvin Bryant; they did not neglect to also spend heavily on offensive linemen.
"There's no way we'll be able to continue part-time, using the scouts for the league," Bernhard said after the press conference. "Or our own one or two people. Dick, Ray and I have been talking about that for two weeks. I just don't want to get someone I'm not gonna be able to live with . . . We know we're gonna have to get a first-rate director of player personnel."
Damned if a small ray of sunshine didn't sneak through a nearby window.