Billy Kilmer and Joe Theismann, the Washington Redskin quarterbacks who battled for the starting job under coach George Allen last season, said yesterday they will remain with the teams next season despite Allen's dismissal.
"I'm still under contract with the Redskins and I'm a Redskin. I'll be loyal to the Redskins as long as I'm with them. I've got another year and I plan on playing," said Kilmer by telephone from Carmel, Calif. He is entering the option year of his contract.
"I'm still committed to the people of Washington and the Redskin organization and I intend to play my heart out," Theismann said. He recently signed a contract for three years and an option.
Both players said they were "shocked" that Redskin president Edward Bennett Williams fired seven-year coach Allen on Wednesday.
Williams fired Allen after contract negotiations reached a stalemate caused largely by a dispute over financial control of the club.
"I just heard about it this morning, so it's hard to put everything into perspective." Kilmer said. "I can't speculate on what might have happened. I don't know what went on in negotiations.
"I guess it was over control of the team. I guess this was a hangup. It's hard to say. But, I guess Ed's the boss, really.
"I just hate to see (Allen) go because of the record and everything. We had a good thing going in Washington."
"Nobody likes to see anybody out of a job or fired," said Theismann. "But there are two sides to football. The fans see the games at the sta dium and on television and that's what they think of when you say football.
"The other side is a roughly $26 million business or enterprise. It's a side of the game many people aren't aware of, that this is also a business venture."
Referring to news stories of the "extras" attached to Allen's job - a chauffered car, liberal insurance and vacation benefits and a $125,000 salary that was reportedly to be doubled under a new contract - Theismann said: "If what was represented was true, how much power and money can you ask for?"
Kilmer and Theismann spoke glowingly of Allen's accomplishments on the field, of his overall 67-30-1 record with the Redskins, of the past year's 9-5 record and of Allen's concern for his players.
Kilmer, a veteran of 15 years, and Theismann, who has been with the Redskins four years, inadvertently became a thorn in Allen's side as a result of public and managerial pressure over which to start. Allen often favored Kilmer because of his experience and familiarity with the Allen system.
How might the Kilmer-Theismann controversy fare under a new coach?
"I guess it depends on the coach," said Kilmer. "I can't sit here and speculate what he might do. A new coach might come in here and plan to get rid of all of us."
"I really don't know," responded Theismann. "You don't know who the new coach is going to be or what his philosophy will be. If it's someone who wants to sweep the slate clean, we both could be gone.
"But, I want to say this. George took two very competitive natures and put us together. He said in or what his philosophy will. It it's someone who wants to sweep the slate clean, we both could be gone.
"But, I want to say this. George took two very competitive natures and put us together. He said in order to win, both of us would be needed. And it worked. We had a winning season."
The quarterbacks said a lack of a large number of future first-round draft choices might hurt a new coach, depending on his philosophy. But both emphasized that such draft choices were not the key to fielding a successful team.
"It takes three to four years to build a team on draft choices and even then they're no guarantee. Look at New Orleans. I hate to hear people criticize George for that," said Kilmer. "Look at the players he's got now through draft choices - Butz, Riggins, Fuggett - they're young players and they've got a good future ahead of them."
Nothing that the Redskins have had winning seasons without such draft choices, Theismann said, "We've been a contender every year and every year people still come up with the same criticism. It's just not valid."
Neither Kilmer no Theismann wanted to speculate on how many, if any, of the veteran Redskins might decide to retire now that Allen is gone.
"The new coach who goes in shouldn't just say, 'I'm going to get rid of everybody over 33 (years)," Kilmer said, adding he hopes there will be a "gradual phase out" if the coach wants to emphasize youth.
"What it's all going to boil down to," Theismann said, "is when you come to that itchy time of year - close to training camp. Some players might feel like retiring now . . .
"But given the salary structure as it is today and the absolute fun of the game and the competitive nature of the players, if a man is able to come back, he'll probably come back and give it a try. Each guy is going to have to look at the situation then and decide what to do."
Allen's firing stirred surprisingly little response from the general public, in terms of calls to the news media. All four local television stations reported only a smattering of calls, with many of them simply inquiries about a possible successor.
Some callers praised Williams for his"guts" while others lamented Allen's dismissal and suggested petition drives to get him reinstated.
The Washington Post sports depatment received only about a dozen calls, evenly mixed on the situation.