Despite the strained circumstances facing both his management and football team, Washington Federals owner Berl Bernhard said yesterday that "we'll improve the team this year and we'll be vastly improved next year. We're here for the long run."
Bernhard took full executive control of the 1-11 U.S. Football League team when Federals President Jim Gould announced Wedensday he was resigning. Gould will join John F. Bassett Enterprises Inc., a holding company that includes the Tampa Bay Bandits and a number of entertainment and real estate interests.
At a press conference at Bernhard's downtown law offices yesterday, Bernhard and Gould attempted to explain the events of the past week, as well as how the team could find itself in such a lowly position and what could be done to improve it.
"We're always going to be close," Gould said of his personal relationship with Bernhard. "I'm the kind of person that is a little bit aggressive in my personality. I'm probably not the best person for an every day, detailed operation. My goal is to get an organization set up, develop and try to motivate people. I think I did that initially, but frustration set in as it does with any organization."
Gould acknowleged that his style was that of a development wildcatter, a trait that may have proved alienating to some in the front office. Gould said, "I came here with the hope of being here for a long time. Soon it's going to be Tampa and who knows after that.
"Berl is better able to handle the situation on a day-to-day basis. He's got the experience and the patience to deal with the people and that's something that over the years that maybe I'll learn."
Bernhard answered questions about the future of Coach Ray Jauch and General Manager Dick Myers by saying, "The only pressure on Ray and Dick is the pressure they put on themselves, not from me. What they need is our unrelenting support and they have it."
Bernhard said that the team went to training camp in February with inadequate talent, and when the front office tried to improve the roster as the season wore on, there were difficulties in integrating the new players. He also pointed to the serious injuries sustained by quarterback Mike Hohensee and running back Craig James in the second week of the season as factors contributing to the team's misfortune.
Bernhard said the team still needs to upgrade itself at ten positions. Since Mike Faulkiner left before the season opener to join the New York Jets as an assistant coach, the Federals have been without a director of player personnel, a role that Myers admitted was not his strength.
"That's not my background," Myers said. "I want somebody I can trust to do the personnel.
"Let's face it. We're not going to the playoffs this year, but we're not kissing the year off, either."
Gould, who officially leaves for Tampa on June 7, and Bernhard both said that the team's poor record and rainy weather on game days have led to poor attendance. For six home games the Federals have averaged 15,425 fans a game, including a low of 7,303 last week against the Boston Breakers.
The Federals are hoping the presence of Herschel Walker at RFK Stadium Sunday will boost attendance when they play the New Jersey Generals, whose 3-9 record is the second-worst in the league.
"We will win," Bernhard said. "I don't exactly know what week it's going to be, but we will win."