Billy Kilmer had a fine analysis of his successful re-emergence yesterday as the Redskin quarterback - and, no, Joe Walton did not send in the words for him.
"Guess I'd better play good against a 1-7 team," Kilmer said after that 1-7 team, the 49ers, became 1-8.
Those searching for cosmic answers about the Redskins one game beyond mid season still are stymied, because Joe Thomas is in the tear-down phase of his rebuilding program in San Francisco.
Because both had been in similar positions with the Jets, John Riggins said he mentioned to defensive tackle Ed Galigher Saturday night that if the Redskins got two touchdowns ahead the 49ers probably would "quit."
"He just acknowledged it," Riggins said.
So Kilmer was exactly right in not applauding himself too lustily after the 32-20 victory. Probably, Joe Theismann also could have won - and the thought occurs that Jack Pardee almost had to switch quarterbacks last week to remain consistently honest with the team.
The dominant theme in Pardee's brief service as Redskin coach has been that a player either performs or gets benched - or fired. Len Hauss and Rusty Tillman were the first examples; Frank Grant and Ron McDole were among the latest.
Theismann had been playing poorly for at least two weeks. So why make him an exception, especially with Kilmer's record as a winner? Naturally, there were doubters - and Kilmer might not feel comfortable if he were greeted in RFK Stadium by hearty boos.
Among the doubters, undoubtedly, was Kilmer. He did not say so, but his face did. He is, after all, a 39-year-old man with a 79-year-old body who was being paid handsomely to keep his mouth shut while Theismann was given his job before the season.
If that was not enough to raise a question or two about his usefulness in Kilmer's mind, the first few series of downs yesterday were. One Kilmer touchdown pass was nullified: one important first-down pass was dropped: Tony Green fumbled. The 49ers grabbed a 10-0 lead.
So often a quarterback's fate lies in the hands of others. Kilmer knows this as well as any quarterback alive. Would this be another of those cruel days?
Kilmer's face seemed to say so. Even after the Redskin's first touchdown Kilmer was frustrated, if not angry. Riggins and he nearly fumbled the handoff a yard from the goal line, but the fullback held on an scored.
With 88 seconds left in the first half, though, Kilmer's face suddenly was aglow. The sunshine also would strike him. Danny Buggs held onto a 15-yard for the go-ahead touchdown.
The sideline frost had melted. Kilmer was satisfied with himself and, more importantly, so was everyone else. He and the offensive coordinator, Walton, were smiling and nearly hugging one another.
Publicly, the Theismann benching was a sting at Walton and his play selection. Kilmer's best asset is his mind. Could he and Walton work together?
"I like to think two, three, four plays ahead to try to set something up," said Kilmer, clutching a game ball. "Sometimes I'm not sure what he's trying to set up. Sometimes it's hard to adjust to him."
Sometimes the messengers mess up the message. Theismann has had to call time to correct this problem several times. Kilmer once was forced into the same embarassing situation yesterday.
Perhaps notes are in order. If the ends and runners and linemen cannot get across verbally to Redskin quarterbacks what Walton had in mind, surely they could pass along a slip of paper that contains the play.
The papers could be pre-addressed "Bear Billy" or "Dear Joe" or, given Pardee's quick hook, "To whom it may concern: Would you please call (fill in the play)?"
Just a friendly suggestion, Jack.
In truth, Walton and Kilmer ought to get along quite nicely. Each has a flair for a daring play, the gambler's instinct, and Kilmer has the patience to go with what works rather than trying to force something to work.
"I tried to play my game out there," Kilmer said. "Which is no mistakes and letting my team work for me."
As long as that works, Kilmer remains the quarterback. And less-featured players are reminded to carry out their assignment - regardless of the quarterback - or begin to look for another line of work.
Still, there was a squishy-soft side to Pardee, or Walton, or Kilmer, or somebody important yesterday - and it might have helped an immensely talented player become an immensely productive player.
The bottom line was Green scoring the Redskins' final touchdown on a five-yard run through the middle of the 49er defense - and some witnesses could see it coming even before the huddle broke.
Benny Malone had been stopped for no gain the play before, and in came Green. Against the Eagles in Philadelphia, Green had run into the middle, gotten a first down and then fumbled away the next-to-last chance at victory.
The same play was called again yesterday. Redskin blockers parted the 49ers, Green clutched the ball with both hands and sailed into the end zone. Redskin sinners do get second chances, but not too many of them.