George Allen will coach somewhere in the National Football League next season, there always being a market for eccentric genius, and the first thing he'll do is the same first thing he did with the Redskins eight years ago. He'll trad for Billy Kilmer. This afternoon, we see the last of Kilmer at RFK.
It makes sense. Happy with Joe Theismann, the Redskins have no more use for Kilmer and Desperately need the draft choices Allen would give for the quarterback fo his dreams. This afternoon agaiinst the Bears is the end for Kilmer in burgundy and gold, a sad sigh of an end.
Not that this farewell will be without honor. Unless Theismann is injured, Kilmer will not play. Head up, hands in his jacket pockets, Kilmer will pace the sidelines in his baseball cap. He limps on a leg he nearly left in a wrecked car 15 years ago.The limp somehow is done defiantly. He won't play, and there'll be no ceremony for Kilmer, but there will be honor: He believes he is the best.
"Billy thinks they'd have a better record and in the playoffs already if he'd been playing all the games and calling his own plays," a longtime friend said. "He's not really angry or disappointed. He wanted to play and to help, and they never gave him a chance. Frustrated is the way he feels."
If a newspaperman wants to write a story about Billy Kilmer's last season with the Redskins, he doesn't go to Kilmer. The quarterback refuses to be interviewed. So you talk to people around Kilmer and you come away-again, always-with a picture of a defiant man who isn't done fighting yet.
Kilmer believes his job was simply given to Theismann, not won away. The new coach, Jack Pardee, threw out the Allen offense and designed an offense for Theismann. The message was clear: If Theismann stays out of jail, he's the quarterback; Kilmer is disaster insurance, nothing else. Last summer the Redskins gave Kilmer a twoyear contract for around $500,000. For that money, Kilmer said, he would be the water boy.
No, he wouldn't. At the Super Bowl last year, late at night in a New Orleans bar, a man stood on his stool and said, "Fie on the Cowboys!" (Or something like that.) That was Billy Kilmer, who lives to play football, not sit on tall stacks of money.
Someone told him Theismann had done a screen test at Walt Disney Studios, and Kilmer said, "What's he gonna do-be Mickey Mouse?"
No water boy, this quarterback.
"But Billy is not a guy who sits around bitching," a player said. "If the subject of this season came up, he'd say something, but he's not the type who causes dissension on a team. He doesn't sit around and say, 'Boy, this is the toughest year of my life.' He's been using humor, laughing about it.
Laughing at what, for instance?
"Sony Jurgensen, on his TV show, said one night that the Redskins don't have two No. 1 quarterbacks, as Pardee had been saying, but they had two No. 2s," the friend said. "Things like that."
One night during the Redskins' miseries of the last two months, a local sports broadcast showed a picture of Kilmer smiling on the sidelines. The inference was made, without naming names but while showing Kilmer's picture, that no one cared enough about losing. Some people also believe (1) Kilmer does nothing to help. Theismann and (2) secretly gloats at the Redskins' defeats.
"Theismann is in-what?-his eighth year as a pro," said a Redskin. "And he's talking to Joe Walton all the time on the sidelines. How's Billy supposed to help? Anyway, Joe told Billy a long time ago that he didn't need his help; he'd do it on his own."
"The Redskins losing this year, not making the playoffs again, really hurt Billy," a friend said. "Sure, there's some problems there-Billy feels like they're laying the groundwork to get rid of him-but he wants to win the same as ever."
Several sources say there is friction between Pardee and Kilmer. That seems inevitable, given Pardee's job of revitalizing a decaying team and given Kilmer's combative personality. It was Pardee's judgement that Theismann, 29, is the future while Kilmer, 39, is the past. A friend said Kilmer's frustration reached angry heights Thanksgiving Day.
That's when Dallas led the Redskins, 20-0, at halftime, Kilmer had been in action for only the last play, taking over when Theismann was hurt.
"In the locker room at halftime," the friend said, "Kilmer told the coaches he wanted to call his own plays in the second half. He said he'd always done well against Dallas and he could beat them again."*tA less involved witness, looking back, believes neither Johnny Unitas nor Bart Starr could have taken that Redskin team from 20-0 down to a victory over those Cowboys. But Kilmer insisted on trying-and insisted on doing it his way, calling his own plays instead of having offensive coordinator Joe Walton call them as he'd done all season.
Kilmer's proposal was turned down. Theismann recovered from his injury in time, anyway, to play the second half. And Kilmer has not played a down since.
"He loves being a Redskin," a friend said of Kilmer, "but htis season has sort of soured him on football. It's like the Redskins are saying to anybody over 30, 'We don't want you.' The old young dissension comes from there. If you're 33, they want to can you.
"That's why Billy thinks they're laying the groundworks to get rid of him. He'd like to stay, he says, but he knows george Allen wanted him at Los Angeles and who knows what'll happen now?"