He had a remarkable knack for penetrating offensive line schemes to block field goals and extra points, and he still could rush the passer effectively. So what if Kilmer's passes often wobbled instead of hitting receivers with the classic spirals launched by Jurgensen? He picked up the offense almost immediately.
Kilmer also picked up the starting position he never thought he would get when, in the next-to-last preseason game, Jurgensen busted his shoulder trying to tackle Miami defensive back Dick Anderson on an interception return.
In truth, Allen had always preferred Kilmer. His coaching philosophy was simple enough. He wanted his offense to score a few touchdowns the safest way imaginable and leave the rest to his defense. With Larry Brown and hard-blocking fullback Charley Harraway around, the Redskins would be a running team. The days of Jurgensen throwing 40 and 50 times a game downfield were over. Kilmer, already being called "Whiskey" by his teammates for obvious reasons, was perfect for the safety-first offense directed by offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda. His passes weren't pretty, but they didn't have to be with receivers like Charley Taylor, Jefferson and tight end Jerry Smith. Harraway and Brown also could catch the ball out of the backfield, and Kilmer had no qualms about checking off from his primary receivers to dump the ball off to his backs.
The fans, of course, weren't so sure about the quarterback choice. Jurgensen was one of the most popular players in the history of the franchise, and any time he was healthy, fans clearly were split. Soon bumper stickers sprouted, proclaiming either "I Like Sonny" or "I Like Billy." It was not a bitter quarterback controversy, however, because the two men never let it become one. In fact, they became close friends and often went out on the town together (far more than Allen would have preferred).
"I'm the first to say Sonny Jurgensen might be the best [passer] ever to play the game," Kilmer said. "I was there to win. He and I never had any problems, and I had no ego problems. All I wanted was for us to win it all."
The Redskins certainly started the 1971 season as if that were possible. With Kilmer at quarterback, they took the opener, 24-17, against the favored Cardinals as the defense came up with seven turnovers. "It's pretty hard to lose when the defense takes the ball away seven times," Allen said. The next week yielded a 30-3 victory over the Giants that included a late-game melee when three Redskins were thrown out for fighting.