The final threads are being clipped. Eddie Brown was the first to go, then Len Hauss and Rusty Tillman, Frank Grant, Ron McDole and Chris Hanburger. And now Billy Kilmer, followed swiftly by Jake Scott and Bill Brundige.
As of late yesterday, George Allen's Redskins officially became Bobby Beathard4s and Jack pardee's.
There are Redskins who played for Allen and who will play well for Pardee this season. But the collision of wills and philosophy btween the coach who both built and broke the team and the coach hired to regenerate it has made parting company with some of the most memorable men of sport more bitter than anyone imagined.
Although he was among the last to feel Pardee's ax, Kilmer was among the first to see it coming. He sensed it more than a year ago, when he demanded that the two year contract he negotiatied be guaranteed. He had been calling too many plays for too many years not to recognize a stacked defense.
If the sentimental Redskin fan is saddened by the abrupt dismissal of so many men who played so well for so long, the realists must wonder: shouldn't they have left the game long ago?
Kilmer symbolized the entire Over the Hill Gang. Hanburger was supposed to be too small to excel at outside linebacker, McDole too fat to last at defensive end. Tillman had to be daffy to spend eight years running under the kicks and into players 60 pounds heavier. And Hauss? There could be no prouder or more stubborn athlete.
Unless it was Kilmer.
On good days, when he was feeling fine. Kilmer limped. His passes were so wobbly John Unitas once joked, "He throws an option pass-the receiver has the option of catching either end."
Kilmer was Allen's first acquisition, a 1971 steal from the New Orleans Saints. Allen knew Kilmer was one of those special leaders who could make a good team better. And even Sonny Jurgensen loyalists grudgingly admired Kilmer's style although they booed him anyway.
That may be the most enduring memory of Kilmer as a Redskin, that love-hate relationship with the RFK Stadium faithful. They would boo time and again, and time and again he would produce a touchdown to mute their howls.
On the way off field, he could be seen throwing a fist at the crowd-and curses.
Kilmer wears his heart on his sleeve. He is so emotional and so intense, so easily wounded-bodily and spiritually-and has such enormous pride. In eight seasons, he left little room for shades of gray where he and the Redskins were concerned. He was the ultimate team player, though he seethed when Joe Theismann was given his position without much of a chance of a fight last year.
"Jean Fugett came up to once during a game in disbelief," Hauss said after Kilmer's I-won't-play-in-this-town snit three years ago. "He'd offered to help Billy off the ground and Billy said, 'Get away from me.'
"I said, 'What's new?' If Billy Kilmer were bleeding, if his head and one arm was off his body, I wouldn't help him up. I tried that years ago, and he did the same thing to me. I was mortified, and I said, 'You'll never have the chance to do it again.'
"He must get up himself."
Other teammates felt that fire.
"There was one time I even wanted to punch him," former offensive lineman Ray Schoenke said, "but Lenny would say, 'No, that's Billy.' And yet I admire him so much I didn't have much in common with Billy-and yet I'd have died for him."
Had there not been football, Kilmer easily could be imagined as an infantry sergeant, one of those who would be first out of the foxholes, hell-bent toward the enemy machine-gun nest, yelling, "Follow me!"
"Tact is somthing that has no meaning to Kilmer," defensive lineman Brundige said. "You're either with him or against him. That may be bad, but that's the kind of guy you want with you out there."
Kilmer exmplified most of what is good about football and somw of what is sad, especially at the National Football League level. Jurgensen was the exciting cavalry charge; Kilmer was a trench warfare. Washington probably will not see either kind again.
When his competitive fire can no longer compensate for the aging arm, as the Redskins are saying already has happened, some believe Kilmer will be more troubled than most former players, because the game has meant so much to him.
But how typically Kilmer it was for him to tell Len Shapiro of The Post yesterday, "Somebody has got to need a quarterback who can still move a football team."
Somebody just might give him a chance, for the right price.
Kilmer is recalling that his last pass as a Redskin went for a touchdown. No matter that it was in near-hopeless relief of Theismann, with 77 seconds left and the Redskins 11 points behind and that the ball bounced off Ricky Thompson's hands and into Fugett's in the end zone.
Results are all that matter to Kilmer.
As Hauss suggested, Kilmer must get up himself. Until he can't. CAPTION: Picture 1, In October 1972, Billy Kilmer replaced Sonny Jurgensen, who limped off the field with an injury to his Achilles' tendon. With Kilmer solidly at the helm, the Redskins went to the Super Bowl, losing to Miami, 14-7. By Richards Darcey-The Washington Post; Picture 2, Starting free safety Jake Scott also was released by the Redskins yesterday. By Richard Darcey-The Washington Post