Bert Jones was being interviewed by a Baltimore sportscaster last week and was asked to talk about his counterpart on the Washington Redskins, Joe Theismann. "He's a smart kid," said Jones, a regular old graybeard at 26.
"Yeah, I heard about that," Theismann said today. "Considering I was a senior at Notre Dame when he was a sophomore at LSU and the fact that I'm two years older, well, let's just say I got a kick out of it.
"But as far as NFL experience, I am a kid and he's the old pro, the MVP last year. So I'm looking forward to playing against him. He's the established star, and if people want to compare us, that sure doesn't bother me."
And so, on Monday night the match between the Redskins and their Parkway cousins, the Baltimore Colts, is shaping up as a classic duel of daring young quarterbacks, with the whole country looking on.
The bombs will begin bursting in air over Baltimore at 9 p.m. in Memorial Stadium and the game is a sell-out. So Washington television viewers can turn on Howard and Company over WJLA-TV-7.
The Redskins, now 4-3 and still very much in the race for a wild-card playoff spot in the NFC, will meet a Colt team that is ranked low in most of the important statistics save for one - their 6-1 record that leads the AFC East.
While the Colts come into this game off an impressive 31-21 drubbing of Pittsburgh last week, the Redskins still are struggling to find their offense. That unit has not scored more than two touchdowns in six of seven regular-season games and all six pre-season contests.
For that reason, no doubt, the odds-makers have installed the home-team Colts as an 11-point favorite, even if George Allen's Redskins teams have won nine of their 10 Monday night games, including the last five in a row.
This matchup is going to be an emotional game for many other reasons.
Ted Marchibroda, the colt head coach, served as Allen's offensive coordinator in Los Angeles and Washington before leaving three years ago to turn the Colts into playoff contenders. Baltimore receivers are coached by another former Allen aide, Dick Bielski, and the defense is handled by former all-pro linebacker Maxie Baughan, who played and coached under Allen in Los Angeles and Washington and uses many of the same defenses he learned then.
The Redskins' starting outside linebacker Monday night, Mike Curtis, was the main man in the middle during Baltimore's glory years of the late 1960s and seems primed to go wild against his old teammates.
And Redskin receiver coach Pete McCulley played an important role in the development of Jones when he coached the Colts from 1973 until last year, when Marchibroda fired him in the aftermath of the head coach's struggle with former general manager Joe Thomas, one of McCulley's boosters.
To say these teams know each other inside out would be a vast understatement. "It's the Redskin offense and the Redskin defense playing one another," said Allen. "Beating the Colts would be such a big win for us. It would give us the life we needed, the confidence we need to go all the way."
But it the Redskins continue to waste field position, blow tochdowns and big gainers with silly penalties, and fumble or throw interceptions, they will go nowhere against a Colt team that already has picked off 17 passes and recovered 10 fumbles.
The Redskin defense is not likely to get much help from the Colts either. Jones has been intercepted only once this season, his offensive line has allowed him to be dumped but 12 times and Baltimore has lost only four fumbles.
And yet, even though Jones leads the AFC in passing Baltimore is ranked only 11th among 14 AFC teams in total offense and 12th in passing. The defense is ranked 10th in the AFC 13th against the pass.
Theismann and all the other Redskins speak publicily in reverential tones about the Colts' defense. Privately they say Baltimore's linebackers and secondary are vulnerable and that the key to offensive success is to stifle the Colt front four. "they let the front four destroy things," said tight end Jean Fugett. "And the other seven guys, kind of pick up the pieces."
"The big thins is to be patient," said Theismann. "You have to pick your spots and you can't go deep on them very often. Our offensive line had a great game last week against the Eagles. It think they know what they have to do this week."
Redskin defenders, meanwhile, know the Colts can move the ball on the ground or in the air. Tailback Lydell Mitchell already has 639 yards rushing and is the Colts' leading receiver, with 27 catches. Reserve fullback Don McCauley has 24 receptions and seven touchdowns and is the leading scorer - ahead of steady field-goal kicker Toni Linhart.
Jones' gaudy 57 completion percentage is a direct result of his propensity for throwing the dump-off pass to his running backs, who have caught 59 of the Colts' 91 completions this season.And Jones also can aim deep this week, because swift Roger Carr is healthy again after a knee injury forced him out of five of the Colts' first seven games.
"I'm sure that Jones is going to try to show off for national television," said middle linebacker Harold McLinton. "He's one of the best we'll ever face, plus he's got some cockiness about him that makes him even better.
"We have to frustrate him early, get an interception or a fumble, anything to disrupt his game plan. It's easy to say that now. But we better do something Monday night, because this guy can beat you a whole lot of ways."