The lights were glaring, pens and microphones were poised and prepared for poison. Instead, Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann, who lost his job to Billy Kilmer yesterday, stood his ground with a wan smile, answering all comers and saying all the proper things.

Question: Could he have done as well as Kilmer yesterday against a horrid 49er defense?

"I have no comment," Theismann said. "Who knows? You could if yourself to paradise and back. I'm just glad we won."

Question: Was it frustrating watching from the sidelines?

"To say the least," he said, still smiling.

Question: What did he think about Jack Pardee's decision to switch to Kilmer?

"Geez, I sound like I'm on the witness stand taking the fifth. No, Coach Pardee makes the decisions. The most important thing is we won and we're in first place in our division."

Still, Theismann could hardly help hide his hurt, and slowly he began talking about the decision "I still can't believe has happened.

"I went through this same thing a year ago," Theismann said. "I'm not sure many quarterbacks have gone through this same situation twice.

"Last year, when George Allen told me, I sort of understood. I also said to myself I hoped it would never happened to me again, and I also said to myself that if it did, I would ask exactly why.

"This time I did (ask why), but I'm not really sure what the answer was . . . He (Pardee) told me (on Wednesday morning) that he was going to start Billy. After that, I've tried to remember his comments, and I can't find them in my head. Maybe when you hear something like that the shade comes down."

But Theismann insisted that he did not believe his future was finished with the Redskins. He said he would continue to prepare as if he would start the next game, and every one after that.

"I've never quit," he said. "I've been in this situation before. I don't like it, but I'll never quit, I'll never quit. And I'm not a loser, either. Look at my record.

"What do you look forward to? I'm a pro, and I'm a quarterback. When I go back and work a little harder, a little longer and I'll try and figure out the whys and the wherefores.

"But I honest to God don't know why this happened. I wish I knew a lot of things . . . The most important thing is that we are winning again, and I wouldn't want to hurt the continuity of his team.

"We are championship caliber team and I'm proud to be part of the team. I don't want to be determining factor in deterring this football team.

"It's funny though. Somebody made a comment to me that every week there's a new hero. But it didn't sound like they (the RFK Stadium crowd) had short memories. Yes, I heard them. People know.

"What did I hear? I heard something that sounded like 'Joe' I've always felt close to the people of Washington. They're the ones who get things fired up. And I appreciated what they were saying."

He admitted he had trouble concentrating on the football game, as well.

"I watched O. J. Simpson quite a few times," he said. "But I stood there and watched the game, and I didn't really have any mind on it. I was thinking about something else."

Thinking, no doubt, about what might have been, and wondering, always wondering, why.