Quarterback Mike Kruczek was waived by the Redskins yesterday and now is a free agent, 10 months after being obtained from Pittsburgh to give the club much-needed depth behind Joe Theismann.
Team sources confirmed that Kruczek, a former star at St. John's High School, cleared waivers and now can make his own deal with any league team. He was dropped, it was learned, after the Redskins failed in repeated attempts to trade him.
Washington gave the Steelers a fifth-round draft choice in 1983 for Kruczek, who started one game last season when Theismann was sidelined with a pulled hamstring.
Kruczek became expendable when the Redskins chose two quarterbacks in the recent NFL draft, both of whom have shown well in ensuing mini-camps. They traded picks to get Tom Flick of the University of Washington in the fourth round, then selected Phil Kessel of Northern Michigan in the 10th round.
Flick is projected as Theismann's backup this season. Coach Joe Gibbs has said he wants to carry three quarterbacks, with Kessel and veteran Mike Kirkland candidates for that last position.
The staff of former coach Jack Pardee became disenchanted with Kruzcek last season after he performed inconsistently in place of Theismann against Dallas and Atlanta. Gibbs and his assistants decided they needed quarterback help after viewing Kruzcek during an early April minicamp. They were especially alarmed by his form and lack of zip on his passes.
The decision to release Kurczek now instead of during training camp was made, sources said, to give him as much chance as possible to catch on with another club. The Redskins begin training camp July 15.
Kruzcek, reached at his home in Pittsburgh, declined to comment on his release. "I don't feel like talking right now," he said."It hasn't been a good day."
When it was first reported in May that the Redskins were trying to trade Kruczek, he said he thought the club was making a mistake by giving up on him.
He acknowledged he had problems with his throwing techniques -- he releases the ball with his weight on his back foot -- but said he had worked hard in the offseason to correct the weakness. Kruczek also said that his attitude last season was affected by a shaky relationship with offensive coordinator Joe Walton and by the realization Theismann could not be beaten out.
"I like Washington and I'm impressed by the new coaching staff," he had said. "I just hope they give me a chance to prove myself. I think I can play quarterback in this league."
Things were much happier for Kruczek last summer when he heard he had been traded to Washington after four seasons as Terry Bradshaw's backup. He viewed the deal as a chance both to return home -- his parents live in Fairfax -- and to compete with Theismann for a starting spot.
But he wound up playing less than he did as a Steeler. He attempted just 31 passes for the season, completing 22 (71 percent). He was sacked five times and didn't throw for any touchdowns.
In Pittsburgh, the former Boston College standout had some fine moments. He started six games as a rookie and the Steelers won all six before the injured Bradshaw returned. In 1979, he appeared in eight games and kept up his streak of having never lost a pro game in which he was the starting quarterback.
That streak was snapped last season when the Redskins lost to Atlanta.