Joe Theismann's exile from the Redskin quarterback throne was a short one. Theismann will be Washington's starting quarterback again when the Redskins host the New York Giants Sunday at RFK Stadium.

"The guy has been through a lot," one Redskin source said. "A lot of people would have given up over some of the things that have happened to Joe in his five years here, but he's always bounced back. I hope he can again."

Coach Jack Pardee made no official announcement that Billy Kilmer, the starter the last two games, was out and Theismann was in. He didn't have to.

Theismann ran things in yesterday's abbreviated workout with Kilmer standing and watching most of the time.

Kilmer's reign was 1 1/2 games."It's obvious Joe has to be the man," one player said. "I love Billy, but he just can't do all of the things a quarter back has to do anymore. If Joe learned from his mistakes, we'll be fine with him. And if we ever have to go back to Billy, he'll come through, too."

Theismann said he has indeed learned from his mistakes and Sunday's game is one of the most important of his career.

"You bet the Giants' game is special to me and I'm going to study particularly hard," Theismann said. "It's personally special to me and it's special to us as a team. Despite all that, I still can't press, but I sure will be ready."

It was 2 1/2 weeks ago that the Giants beat the Redskins for the fourth straight time, 17-6.It was Washington's second straight defeat and was the last game Theismann started.

He was atrocious. He completed 15 to 38 passes for 169 yards, threw three interceptions and never appeared to be in control.

Because of Kilmer's physical limitations, which were exposed by the Baltimore Colts Monday night, Theismann is now back at the Redskin helm.

"You just have to always be ready to play," Theismann said." That's the key. The easiest thing to do when things go bad is to throw in the towel. But you can't do that, and I didn't when I was replaced. You just have to take everything in stride and do the best you can.

"I was down when I wasn't playing because I couldn't figure out the reasons why I wasn't.But I had some talks with Jack and now I understand some things that maybe I didn't understand before. You can't start feeling that you are too important. Everyone of the 45 guys on this team is just as important as the next guy."

Theismann has never made excuses, but there are reasons he ran into the slump that caused his benching. Through the Redskins' first six games, they were undefeated and Theismann stayed in the pocket, ran the offense to the letter and got the job done. Then against the Philadelphia Eagles, the week before the Giant game, he started roaming instead of staying in the pocket.


Theismann injured his knee against the Atlanta Falcons in the last preseason game and because it was sore and weak, he couldn't scramble. He stayed put out of necessity. Once the leg healed and grew stronger, the natural instinct for Theismann was to run when he was harassed instead of siting in the pocket. That, he now says, was a mistake.

From watching films and talking to coaches and teammates, Theismann said he realized that he was drifting in the pocket and now feels he has worked it out.

Theismann played the final six minutes of the third quarter and all of the fourth period against the Colts and almost pulled the game out for the Redskins. When he did pass, he stayed in the pocket and ran only when it was absolutely necessary. He always appeared to be under control.

"I realize that a sack is a lot better to deal with than an interception," he said.

Most of the players said the switching back and forth from one quarter-back to the other isn't as disrupting as it might seem.

"The last four weeks we've been struggling and we're down now to where we have only six games left," said center Bob Kuziel. "Changes are made because we are looking for ways to win, a spark from one guy or a spark from another guy. You can't get too involved in other people's positions. All you can do is your particular job and try to avoid a position change for yourself.

"I don't know why we haven't been winning more lately, but one thing is apparent and it's been pretty consistent lately - we've been getting real slow starts."

Though the Redskins have outscored their opponents 203-156 this season, they have been outscored, 40-23, in the first quarter.