No one will mistake the book for Shakespeare's work, but "Quarterbacking," a thin tome by that distinguished author, Joe Theismann, is enlightening for the advice it dispenses to aspiring quarterbacks.
"Telling the world whether you were a Champ or a Chump is the job of the media - radio, press and TV," the author says. "If you don't play well, you can't expect these men to cover up for you. . . . So just because you don't agree with a statement on TV or in the newspapers, don't criticize the media. Accept the comments with good grace."
Then, the kicker: "You may be able to learn from them."
As it happens, men with access to typewriters often have made kindly suggestions to Theismann who, when he is not writing books, is throwing footballs for the Redskins. These suggestions could be summarized this way: Quit doing all those crazy, unpredictable things, Mr. Theismann: it's truly exciting when you go running around and waving receivers deep, but it doesn't win games; be less like Superman, more like Billy Kilmer.
Good news at last, for Theismann said yesterday that his crazy, unpredictable days are behind him.
"I want to be a more disciplined quarterback than I've been in the past," he said.
Could he give an example of his undisciplined play?
"Say it's third and six with a minute and a half to play," Theismann said. "And I drop back to pass, and I don't set up, I just start scrambling around, hoping a receiver will break open deep."
Such desperate improvision is the stuff of defeat, for it destroys the careful design of teamwork that is essential in important games. When the coach can't trust his quarterback to do his bidding . . . when the linemen don't know what will happen next . . . when the receivers must run spaghetti patterns . . . when only the crazy, unpredictable quarterback's team is in deep, deep trouble.
That is why George Allen publicly embarrassed Theismann last season. Never was the coach's distrust of the quarterback more obvious than in the precious final two weeks of the '77 season.
Though the Redskins had won four of the previous six games with Theismann at quarterback, Allen put him on the bench when the Redskins came to the two games they had to win if they hoped to make the playoffs.
Allen sent in Kilmer, and the rationale was as plain as it was painful to Theismann: Theismann could win the little games, but Kilmer could win the big ones.
While it is no shame to be the backup man to a Billy Kilmer, who did in fact win both those big games last season. Theismann, like any competitive athlete, does not favor being No. 2 to anyone. As long as George Allen coached the Redskins, though, and as long as Billy Kilmer could stand upright on Sundays. Theismann would be No. 2.
Theismann knew it.
And that made him do crazy, unpredictable things.
"It's like anybody trying for a particular job," Theismann said yesterday, "You're trying to impress somebody. There are too many players who can do the job well: you have to be exceptional. I was always trying to be exceptional, to do the things that would get me noticed.
"I was trying to do a lot more than just my job."
Now Allen is coaching the Los Angeles Rams and Jack Pardee is the Redskins' main brain. Although Kilmer, as part of his contract hassle, said he wanted to be guaranteed the starting quarterback job. Pardee insisted the job would go to the man who earned it in training camp.
Theismann loves the idea.
Knowing Kilmer would get the call when it wattered most - Theismann remembers vividly a time three years ago when Allen thrilled him by saying, "You're going to be my No. 1 quarterback," only to follow those words with. "But you understand, of course.I can't tell anybody" - Theismann has waited impatiently for his chance.
"The last four years have made me mentally tough," he said. "I've been a starter, a backup, a punt returner. I've practiced as wide receiver. I'm the backup punter. I love football. I love the game, I love all aspects of it."
Theismann is feeling wonderful this summer because for the first time he believes the coach will decide the quarterbacking job on training-camp merit.
"I don't feel I missed many keys in reading the Minnesota defense" Theismann said of his weekend performance in the Redskins' 20-13 defeat. "I three the ball well, but mostly I was just doing my job and my job alone."
No cuhh-raaazzy and unpredictable things?
"I always tried to make things happen. I've found out that 98 per cent of the time, if you do your job and everybody else does his job you'll get it done the right way."
With the advice of the new offensive coordinator, Joe Walton - "He has great ideas and is excellent at relaying those ideas" - Theismann says he is working hard, "concentrating on the things I'm supposed to be doing: how many steps do I take, who do I go to in case the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers are covered, who . . ."
And Joe Theismann, the disciple of discipline, went on and on.