For the first time in 12 years, the Washington Redskins' No. 7 jersey will go unused this fall. On the field, there are likely to be more bombs and a little bit less scrambling. The team's average age will drop a little. Cathy Lee Crosby will not appear at Saturday practices. And things will be quieter, much quieter.
When Joe Theismann was waived by the Redskins Friday, a lot of things went with him.
Yet, perhaps because they have been without him since the day he broke his leg last November -- and have done quite well, thank you -- many of the Redskins believe that, all things considered, the team is better off without him.
It's not just the fact that in 1985 the Redskins went 5-5 under Theismann and 5-1 under Jay Schroeder, the new No. 1 quarterback who will lead a more wide-open offense this fall. It's not just the fact that a man who was not particularly popular with bunches of his teammates is now gone.
The Redskins have changed dramatically, and, in very simple terms, Theismann was just another veteran who no longer had a place here.
If you have been noticing a trend (Mark Murphy, George Starke, John Riggins, et al.), you are not alone. "The Redskins are increasingly the creation of Bobby Beathard, Joe Gibbs and their staffs, and I find that all to the good," owner Jack Kent Cooke said Friday.
"As the veterans chosen by the previous general managers and coaches retire or leave the team or are traded, their ranks are being filled by players specifically chosen by the present administration ," Cooke said.
Beathard became general manager in February 1978, and to say the team has changed in eight years is quite the understatement. With Theismann's departure, only two pre-Beathard players are still on the Redskins roster: kicker Mark Moseley and defensive tackle Dave Butz.
They both were expected to report to the Redskins' Dickinson College training camp today to begin fighting for their football lives. Neither has a secure job. Moseley has four people trying to take his position, and Butz will be in a six-man battle for three or four roster spots in training camp.
It's possible, although not probable, that when the season opens Sept. 7 at RFK Stadium against Philadelphia, 45 players hand-picked by Beathard will be on the field.
Gibbs arrived in January 1981, and a vast majority of the players on this team have come after him.
"It's been a very tough thing for us to go through here, making changes," he said. "You're always affected by memories, thoughts and the past. But you have to go through it."
Beathard declined comment today.
The news that Theismann, 36, had been waived came as no news to most of the players and coaches on the steamy football field. They had expected the decision for several months. When asked, they said they would miss him, and they meant that. After all, Theismann led this team to its greatest glory, victory in Super Bowl XVII, and none of them will ever forget it.
But, in reality, Theismann has been a nonfactor for this team since about 10 p.m. Nov. 18, 1985, when a tackle by the New York Giants' Lawrence Taylor snapped his leg and the Redskins became Schroeder's domain.
In minutes, things changed. There were more completions, longer passes, fewer sacks. These are the on-the-field changes created by Theismann's departure, and, according to those who know the Redskins offense, it's only the beginning.
"I think we grew a little conservative under Joe Theismann," said quarterbacks coach Jerry Rhome. "You'll see what you saw last year under Jay, a more wide-open offense."
"I think you'll see some subtle changes in the offense," said quarterback Babe Laufenberg, Schroeder's backup. "Last year, Jay inherited Joe's offense. Jay inherited what Joe did well.
"This season, the coaches will probably be a little more comfortable with what Jay would like to do. Jay's going to be able to say what he wants to do."
Schroeder was at home in Virginia, taking a few days off, and was unavailable for comment.
It's still too early in the preseason to get specific answers about what will change, but consider that Schroeder, at 6 feet 4, is four inches taller than Theismann and is "probably the fastest quarterback" Gibbs says he has ever worked with.
"You do adjust, as you start seeing things that he really does well, just like in Joe's case, you start majoring in those things," Gibbs said. "Any team develops its passing game around its quarterback, the things he does well."
It was nearly impossible for anyone to get emotional Friday about the Theismann news at Dickinson College's Biddle Field. Perhaps the players and coaches have been numbed to the departure of a veteran because it has happened so often lately.
Gibbs, who perhaps is Theismann's best friend in the organization, probably was most sentimental, and this is what he said:
"What happens as a coach, you're here working with the guys and you don't think as much about last year or the year before. It's hard for you to remember that. It's when you back off from it and sit down for awhile that you think of Joe and a lot of the other guys who aren't here."
Said Laufenberg: "What's happened in the past four months, with John and now Joe leaving, is the denouement of the Redskins' transition. You look around and there are not a lot of guys left from the Super Bowl teams. What's happened recently is that so many identifiable guys are now gone, with John and Joe being the best known of them all, dominating figures, headliners, not exactly guys who will slip into the woodwork."
Which brings up a question Cooke addressed: "The so-called void of personality."
Riggins and Theismann, both with their own television shows, led high-profile off-the-field lives -- and loved doing it. Schroeder and George Rogers, their replacements on the field, don't begin to measure up off it.
But it's wrong to equate a massive public image with locker room leadership, several players and coaches say. Riggins and Theismann were not known as team leaders. They were respected, yes. But followed? Not often.
"I'm not concerned about missing the so-called personalities or leaders," Cooke said. "We have had strong personalities on this team, people who made a tremendous impact on the team.
"But others will fill the void, maybe even that fellow Koch rookie Markus, pronounced Cook -- and I don't mean this Cooke."
It remains to be seen if leaders will continue to emerge as the team slides through its most trying transition. When asked about this, Gibbs points to a core group of four-, five- and six-year veterans who have been with him from the beginning. This group includes most of the offensive and defensive linemen, and much of the offense in general.
"Let's keep in mind the first premise of football: You get paid to play," said Laufenberg.
"You don't think Russ Grimm is going to be that much affected if George Rogers is running up his back now instead of John Riggins, do you? Art Monk doesn't particularly care who gets the ball to him, as long as someone does. If Art catches 100 balls, he won't notice any changing of the guard."
Thus the mood among the Redskins: Why the fuss over Theismann?
Even Gibbs looked perplexed at times Friday when continually asked about Schroeder's official coronation as the new quarterback.
"I think he's known that was coming for quite awhile," Gibbs said. "He came in in one of the worst situations in the world and performed great. I've seen how he continues to mature, to shoulder different responsibilities. Being the quarterback of the Redskins, you take on a lot. There's a lot that is expected of you.
"Jay knows where his spot is and he's comfortable with it. I don't think he was ever worried about it. He's confident. I don't think you could ask for a much better attitude, or, so far, a much better performance." Last week, trainer Bubba Tyer was a man under seige, constantly being asked when Theismann would take his physical and what he thought would happen when he did.
One day, Tyer apparently had had enough. As he walked off the field after practice one day, a reporter called out: "What's up with Joe?"