Kim McQuilken had his eyes on the starting quarterback spot at Atlanta when the Falcons drafted Steve Bartkowsi and handed him the No. 1 spot. So McQuilken is no stranger to his current predicament with the Washington Redskins.
After a year's apprenticeship as the club's No. 2 quarterback, McQuilken now faces the challenge of Mike Kruczek, obtained by Washington Monday night from Pittsburgh for an undisclosed, but probably medium-round, draft choice.
Although club officals went through the normal routine of saying the chore of backing up Joe Theismann is still open, McQuilken realizes the acquisition of Kruczek, who has been Terry Bradshaw's replacement the last four seasons, is hardly a vote of confidence in his ability.
"I wouldn't say Monday night, footballwise, was that happy a night for me," said McQuilken, who normally is one of the most outgoing, happy-go-lucky players on the team. "But I'm determined not to let this bother me. I've been through it before and I found that it's best just to worry about yourself and not Mike Kruczek or Joe Theismann or the coaches.
"I've been told by the team that my situation hasn't changed, that if I keep playing as I have I'll get my time and I'll hold my spot. I just have to accept that as the truth and go from there. I am sure they aren't going to come in and hand anyone any position before they earn it.
"But I also certainly don't want to create any ill will between Mike and myself. I'm not bitter about this, I can't be. It's part of this business. mEvery team is trying to upgrade their personnel and cover themselves. But I'd like to think I am capable enough of covering them at quarterback."
The question surrounding McQuilken's ability to replace an injured Joe Theismann led to the Kruczek trade.A team source said McQuilken's inconsistent performance in Saturday's scrimmage against Baltimore ended any indecision about the deal. Quarterback Fred Mortensen, who played poorly in the same scrimmage, was waived today after the early workout.
Offensive Coordinator Joe Walton admitted, "We still have some questions about Kim, although he has made great progress in the two years he's been with us. Doing it in practice is one thing and doing it under fire is another. It's an important spot and we've got to be sure.
"Kim has got the ability. He's had two years in the program. That has to give him an edge. We'll have to see what Mike can do, but I would think Kim has an advantage of experience right now."
Walton estimates it takes about a year for a quarterback to feel comfortable in his offensive system. "But I understand Mike is a fast learner and maybe he can come in and pick things up quickly," he said. "I've got an open mind about the whole thing."
It apparently will be crucial to both quarterbacks, particularly McQuilken as to how they perform in the remaining scrimmages and exhibition games. The Redskins are looking for consistency and dependability from the backup quarterback.
"We've invested a lot of time and work in Kim and we certainly have no intention of giving up on him," Coach Jack Pardee said. "But Mike has had positive game experience. Pittsburgh has had enough confidence in him to be their No. 2 quarterback. He's played in pressure games and he's had good success.
"Mike's got a long arm from holding those (two) Super Bowl rings. We think we have a guy who has proven he can run the team.
"Pittsburgh told us we were the only team to contact them about him. The Steelers knew he wanted to play for us and they accommodated him."
Kruczek, who reported in time to participate in this afternoon's practice, is noted as an accurate shortrange passer, which is made-to-order for the Walton high-percentage passing concept used by Washington.
"I've already found out that this system seems to be more complex than the one we had at Pittsburgh," Druczek said after the practice. "I'll have to get the playbook and put in a lot of hours of study before I can get comfortable.
"You have to take this step by step. You can't rush it too much. Then you get too confused and it gets harder. My main concern is to learn it right the first time."
Things have happened so fast that Kruczek admitted he hadn't had a chance to really think out. But he said that Pittsburgh's decision to trade him hurt. "It gives you a sort of empty feeling. But it probably is the best thing that could happen to me, considering that Terry (Bradshaw) will probably play five or six more years."
Kruczek played in eight games for Pittsburgh last year, mostly after the Steelers had the victory wrapped up. He completed 13 of 20 passes for 153 yards. His best season was his first, when Bradshaw was sidelined and he started six contests, all victories. He wound up hitting on 51 of 85 passes for 758 yards.
The Redskin veterans were quick to check out the new prospect as soon as Kruczek emerged from the locker room, wearing No. 15. Walton immediately had him take snaps from starting center Bob Kuziel. Usually starter Theismann works with Kuziel.
"See Joe, there goes your spot already," yelled out defensive end Coy Bacon. "Watch it, Joe. There's a new glamor boy on the block."
Earlier, Kruzek had been detained by television interviewers while Kuziel kept yelling, "Okay, quarterbacks on the line. Let's take some snaps."
McQuilken told Walton he had taken care of everything. "I took Mike aside," McQuilken said, "and told him that he had to be out here promptly at 3:30." The quarterbacks start snap work around 3 p.m.
Halfback Benny Malone finally signed his new contract, for two seasons . . . Fullback Don Testerman joined the list of camp departures today . . . He left a note saying he was retiring. Testerman was obtained from Seattle for two draft choices (the Redskins also got a choice) prior to last season, but he missed the regular schedule with an injury. He had been counted on as a possible backup to John Riggins, but was not enjoying a particularly good camp.
There were no new developments in the Riggins walkout. Pardee said he had talked to Riggins' wife and she did not know why he had left, nor where he was. Although almost everyone in camp expects Riggins to return, some persons here said they would not be surprised if he retired, as he has talked of doing for the last two years . . . Other cuts today besides Mortensen were veteran punter Mike Michel, tight end Tom Burgess of Maryland, defensive tackle Mike Faulkner, guard Mike Schook and linebacker Byron Hemingway . . .
The Redskins' latest offer to Jeris White, who is staging a contract hold-out, was turned down by White and his agent, Howard Slusher. "I told them again this was our final offer and Jeris should be prepared to sit out if that's what they want to do," General Manager Bobby Beathard said.