Joe Theismann, upset over criticism of his leadership ability, has told WJLA-TV-7 that he no longer wants to be associated with the television station and that he is resigning as a commentator.
The Redskin quarterback reportedly was incensed over a televised commentary by Morris Siegel last Friday, referring to his lack of leadership and suggesting that if the team didn't show improvement, Theismann would be replaced by rookie Tom Flick.
According to sources at WJLA, Theismann called the station as soon as the broadcast was over and complained bitterly about Siegel's comments. He said at the time, however, he would honor his contract as a commentator.
Despite a third straight loss Sunday in St. Louis, Theismann showed up Monday night for his usual interview with the station's sports director, Tim Brant. When asked on the air if Siegel's comments upset him, the quarterback said "No, they don't," but then complained about sensationalism and said Siegel shouldn't be on the air.
Theismann said last night that he had decided "to concentrate on football, so I'm not going to do any more television this year. I've been talking about this with my wife for the last couple of years and I felt this was the time to do it."
Theismann admitted that the Siegel commentary had influenced his decision.
"I have had my share of criticism as a player and as a person," he said. "And I've never stopped talking. But I believe there has to be some credence and foundation to it (the criticism). In what he said, there was no credence and foundation.
"I didn't want to get into a situation where I had to worry about giving a rebuttal every Monday night to something that was said on the air. I felt like it was in my best interest, at this time, to terminate my employment."
"I thought he had gotten it all off his chest," Brant said yesterday. "He was upset for several days, but he did his job Monday and I thought that was the end of it."
It wasn't. Accompanied by his wife Cheryl and attorney Bill Morris, Theismann went to the station and told the news director, Dow Smith, that he was resigning.
"I really don't want to get into it," Smith said when first queried about Theismann's status. Then he admitted that he had met with the quarterback Wednesday.
Early last night, Smith said that a second meeting had just ended at which Theismann said he wanted to get out of his contract with the station "in the best interests of the football team."
"We reached an agreement that ended his relationship with us," Smith said. "Joe said he wanted to concentrate his efforts on the football team and didn't feel he could do both."
Smith said the only people in both meetings were Theismann, Tom Cookerly, the station general manager, and himself.
Smith was asked if the resignation had anything to do with Siegel's comments.
"As a long-standing policy, as long as I hire a commentator and trust his opinions, I reserve the right to defend him," Smith said. "Siegel is a commentator, he's not a news reporter. Normally, he appears on the sports show, but his remarks always are labeled as commentary.
"This is Joe's decision. I regret his decision, but it was his choice."
Siegel, a former Washington Star columnist and a recent addition to the station's staff, alluded in his commentary to a statement made by Redskin center Jeff Bostic that "I think what the Redskins need right now is a leader." Siegel went on to say that leadership is Theismann's responsibility and that if the team didn't show marked improvement, he could be replaced by Flick.
"Joe hasn't talked to me about it," Siegel said. "I don't know what his stance is. I think he's foolish if he resigns, but that's none of my business. I voiced an opinion about Joe Theismann as a football player and the fact that he does a program here should not and does not affect what is reported about him."
"I didn't think Siegel's comments were that bad," said Brant. "I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion."