Coach Walt Michaels sat on top of a desk in the locker room of the New York Jets and slowly removed his glasses. "Football," he explained, slowly, "is a game of contact. The result sometimes are injuries - and some hurt more than others."
In this case, the injury to quarter-back Richard Todd in yesterday's loss to the Redskins hurt most of all.
It was around the talented arm of the former Alabama standout that Michaels patiently has been trying to rebuild his club. Now the anchor has been lost for six to eight weeks with a broken left collar bone, and Michaels has to wonder if he can keep his football ship afloat that long.
His new quarterback is Matt Robinson, a second-year man from Georgia who hadn't attempted a pass this season before yesterday's game. With him, the Jets stumbled badly on offense in the fourth quarter, so much so that they managed only six total yards in those 15 minutes.
"Just as long as it wasn't a late hit," Michaels said about the injury. "But I don't think it was. It looked okay to me from the sidelines. You don't like to see those things happen, but they are part of the game."
Todd was sacked on the first day of the fourth quarter by Dave Butz and Karl Lorch. As he tumbled to the ground, Todd tried to cushion the blow with his shoulder, but he failed to tuck it underneath his body. As soon as Todd hit the ground, Butz signaled for help from the sidelines.
The Jets had been struggling the second half to move the ball against the increasingly tougher Redskin defense. After picking up 167 total yards in the first half, Todd was able to add only two first downs in the third quarter.
"We got a good effort for the most part," Michaels said, "then it just stopped coming midway through the third period. Things seemed to get out of hand. Then when Richard got hurt well . . .'
Some of the Jet troubles were all too familiar: too many penalties, usually at the most inappropriate time, and a porous pass defense that seemed use a 4-3 (defense), but I probably will stick with the 3-4. I dont want to rush in a lot of young guys yet."
The unerring throwing of Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann was responsible for part of New York's problems. The Jets figured he had to cool off sometime, but as safety Burgess Owens put it: "He got on top and willing to give away 10 yards gains almost at the will of the Redskins.
"You can do two things on pass defense," Michaels said. "You either give up the bomb or give up something else. If you give up the bomb, what do you have left?
"We tried to mix up our defenses, and at times I thought we did pretty well. Other times we didn't. I'd like to never stopped. You have to hand it to him, he had a super day."
Owens attributed Theismann's success to what he called "the way thrir receivers were going out 25 yards or so and then coming back to the ball.
"Time after time, they'd (come back) five or six yeards. Our coverage really wasn't that bad, but he'd drill the ball right to them. It's hard to stop a passer when he can hit receivers coming back.
"He kept on finding the guy who was open.You have to hand it to him. He was seeing the field real good and finding our weaknesses.
"We knew he was a good quarter-back, and you have to respect him, but we figured we could settle him down after a while."
Instead, Theismann wound up completing 21 of 30 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. He avoided being intercepted although the Jets dropped at least two balls that should have been picked off.
"And then when they got the passing going," Owens said, "it loosened us up and they could start running. You didn't know which way to go. Once they had momentum, it was difficult to stop."
Owens reinjured a leg during the game and was replaced by former Maryland and back Ken Schroy. From his vantage point deep in the secondary, Schroy had a clear view of what was happening to his club.
"The short areas that they were passing to have to be covered by the linebackers," he said. "The linebackers have to get a good drop off the line and you have to get a good pass rush.
"Things broke down for us in there finally. We weren't meshing."
Todd wasn't the only Jet casualty, Former Maryland tight end Bob Raba broke a jaw and inside linebacker Greg Buttle was slowed by a sore rib.
"What happened today doesn't make it any easier for us," said Michaels, whose club is now 2-2. "Now it's up to MattRobinson. We will just have to see what he can do."