Chuck Garcia, the Federals' new director of player personnel, had never seen a U.S. Football League game before he watched Washington finish its season by upsetting the Philadelphia Stars Sunday, 21-14.

As he watched from the press box, he must have wondered what all the commotion was about, why the team had the league's worst record (4-14), why owner Berl Bernhard had ever thrown into doubt the employment futures of Coach Ray Jauch and General Manager Dick Myers.

He did not see the Stars trounce the Federals as expected. He did not even see one of those patented finishes in which the Federals wrestle for victory and end up hugging defeat. Instead, he watched the Federals outplay the league's best team.

He watched defensive back Jeff Brown, who had been beaten often for touchdowns all season, knock away a number of key passes. He watched Craig James, who had been hampered by injuries and a porous offensive line earlier in the year, run with agility and strength.

In short, he saw the Washington Federals play their best game of the season, the sort of game they had intended to play since leaving the Sam W. Wolfson training field in Jacksonville.

"They're pretty damn good, I thought," Garcia said amid the celebrants in the locker room. "It's the kind of win that can build you up for next year."

Garcia's judgment is not so naive. That the Federals are a better team than their record indicates is undeniable. The question is how much better.

Jauch, who appears to have regained Bernhard's confidence by leading the team to victories in three of the final four games, said that while the team will no doubt improve next year, so will all the rest. "Nobody can relax in the NFL, and theres no way anyone in our league can," he said.

If the Federals can be said to have a core, that list would include running backs James and Billy Taylor, receivers Joey Walters, Mike Holmes and Mike Harris, offensive linemen Dave Pacella and Myke Horton, return specialist Eric Robinson, punter Dana Moore, defensive backs Doug Greene and Mike Guess, and linebackers Joe Harris and Mike Corvino.

On offense, Jauch said he expects quarterbacks Mike Hohensee, Kim McQuilken and Joe Gilliam all to return to camp and compete for the starter's role. McQuilken has proven himself a capable leader and a consistent, if limited, thrower. Hohensee's injuries prevented him from developing as a rookie.

If they could, the Federals would dearly love to acquire a top-ranked college or professional quarterback, but they may use their funds and top draft choice elsewhere.

Jauch said he would like to get a more powerful fullback and perhaps a "speed" receiver like Michigan's Anthony Carter or Chicago's Trumaine Johnson.

The defensive line played well at times this year, but two of its best performers, Coy Bacon and Ron Estay, must count age as a factor. The defense would benefit from an experienced inside linebacker and another consistent defensive back.

If Bernhard is successful in gaining businessman Gordon Davenport's increased financial interest in the team, the chances are better that the Federals will be able to pursue quality players.

Garcia can scout every last player in the Lesser Antilles, but it is money, to no one's suprise, that will attract the talent.

"We are going to do what we have to do to win," Bernhard said in the locker room after the Philadelphia game. His hands were halfway into his pockets.