Jack Pardee gave Billy Kilmer a quicker hook two nights ago than he gave Joe Theismann two weeks ago, suggesting that what the Redskins have are two No. 2 quarterbacks. Or was Monday night in Baltimore the final no-confidence vote for Kilmer?
It seems evident Theismann will get the chance Sunday to reclaim the job he also lost against the Giants. But on a different field - RFK Stadium - from the one that seems to grab his mind every working trip to New Jersey.
Because Theismann had not been playing well for more than two games, Pardee needed to see how much Kilmer had left. After one game against a bad team and 2 1/2 periods against a good one, Pardee clearly did not like what he saw. And the anti-Kilmer whispers at Redskin Park are growing louder, that he no longer will be trusted beyond short relief.
Theismann played well in his off-the-bench role against the Colts. He generated the go-ahead touchdown that actor-passer Bert Jones later overcame. And with a minute to play he would have had a first down 20 yards from the winnings touchdown if Terry Hermeling had not been caught holding.
Still, after 10 games, quarterback hardly is the only major Redskin concern. Some cracks have appeared that the Giants might be able to exploit even better than the Colts.
Offensively, teams have tried to soften the Redskins with telling blows at Diron Talbert and then tried for the knockout punch against reserve cornerback Gerard Williams. If they cover those two players, the Redskins might well leave themselve vulnerable elsewhere.
The Giant offensive defensive lines have been able to win their battles with the Redskins the last four games - and the loss of regular offensive tackle George Starke might emphasize this matchup problem even more.
Right about here, of course, is time to recall that the Redskin still are in first place in the NFC East by a game over the Dallas Cowboys. And before the season nobody was publicly saying that would be possible.
Before the season, at least one Redskin watcher peeked at the schedule and decided a 6-4 record at this point seemed reasonable. The Redskins are 7-3.
"So it's not time to panic," Pardee said.
The Redskin would have been in glorious position with a victory over the Colts, almost assured of the playoffs and in excellent shape to win the division.
"It would be easier to win the division, have that week off [while the wild-card teams in each conference play each other]," fullback John Riggins said. "Matter of fact, it would be much easier."
But then the Redskins never take the uncomplicated route to sucess. Like the George Allen teams, this one has started strong and lost to opposition not all that difficult for everyone else to beat.
The Colts, however, are not a bad team with Jones as a young Billy Kilmer. The Redskins saw him as a young Lionel Barrymore.
"You've got to understand Bert," safety Ken Houston said. "He's a good quarterback; he's also a good actor."
Indeed, when Jones reentered the game late in the third quarter with his throwing arm limp at his side, the Redskins assumed matters were not as they appeared. Washington had two defensive choices - and took the one least obvious.
If Jones could barely raise his arm, why were the redskins allowing him the only possible passes he could complete - the five- to 10 yarders? Why did they not blanket the short areas and make him throw what seemed hopelessly beyond his range?
Because they thought he could throw all long.
"He'd always go into one of his biggest acts before he'd throw deep," Pardee said yesterday. "We finally figured that out. It was pretty apparent after the first quarter, but it still didn't help.
"He carried the ball 10 times [seven runs and three sacks]. Not bad for an injured quarterback."
The instant reaction here was to come out swinging against Colt Coach Ted Marchibroda for allowing Jones to play at all after thatthird-quarter collisions with three Redskins. Squishy-soft proved wrong once again.
A Jones is expected to play with much more pain than a quarterback receiving a free education for his services or a quarterback receiving a shake and fries now and then at the high school hangout.
There are levels to football. The more money a man earns, the greater the risks he must take. This is why pro players deserve every penny they can wrestle from their owners, and also why I was not in total sympathy with Mike Thomas during his recent injury fuss.
One memory of Jones in the fourth quarter remains clear: when he needed a fast ball, he had it. Later, laughing, Marchibroda said: "He throws pretty well hurt, doesn't he?"