If Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann retires from football this season, a job likely will be waiting for him in the announcing booth at CBS or NBC, television executives said yesterday.
Terry O'Neil, executive producer of CBS-TV's National Football League telecasts, said his network is interested in Theismann, who broke his right leg last November and is not certain when, if ever, he will be able to return to football.
"What we are doing is standing by to see if Joe is available," said O'Neil, a classmate of Theismann's at Notre Dame. "If we find there is interest on Joe's part, then we are likely to make him a credible offer."
"There is great interest this year, if he's available," said Bob Woolf, a Boston-based sports attorney hired recently by Theismann to explore his television opportunities.
"But I think Joe expects to be playing football this year. We'll see how his leg responds. The first thing Joe wants to explore is football. I'm just keeping the doors open in the event that doesn't materialize."
NBC sports information director Tom Merritt said Theismann's performance as a guest analyst during Super Bowl XIX (televised by ABC) at Stanford, Calif., in January 1985 enhanced his chances of working for any network.
"He proved in the Super Bowl that he could do the job," said Merritt. "If he was to be available, we would surely be interested."
Theismann was out of town and could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Indications are that both networks are keeping a spot open for Theismann, 36, in the event he doesn't play this season, creating the possibility of a bidding war for his services.
Officially, though, both networks are pursuing a "hands-off" policy.
"We believe we should not have any real contact with a player until he announces his retirement," said O'Neil. "Our interest in Joe is tempered by this policy."
ABC, with no room left in its new, two-person Monday Night Football booth, apparently has expressed no interest in Theismann.
A move to CBS would be logical considering that Theismann has spent 12 seasons in the National Football Conference, which is televised by CBS.
"He certainly would know the NFC well after spending all those years there," Merritt said.
But that doesn't mean NBC is any less interested.
"Michael Weisman NBC's executive producer of NFL games has said in the past that Joe Theismann has great potential in this business," Merritt said. "There are players who, when they leave the game, become hot topics in broadcasting circles. Theismann certainly would be one of them."