Joe Theismann put on his black trench coat and walked alone outside the suites at FedEx Field on Sunday afternoon, still upset by what he had just witnessed in Washington’s 23-21 loss to Houston.
“I still have goosebumps,” he said as he stuck his hands in his coat and made his way to the field. “I can’t believe it. November 18th is such a horrible day for Redskins quarterbacks.”
Earlier in the morning, the former Washington Redskins quarterback reminded his wife that it was the 33rd anniversary of the broken leg he suffered against the New York Giants on Nov. 18, 1985 – an injury considered one of the most gruesome in professional sports history.
Later in the day, he watched from a suite as current Redskins quarterback Alex Smith suffered a similar injury against the Texans, his right leg snapping in the same grisly fashion. Smith broke his right tibia and fibula, requiring immediate surgery, and he will miss the rest of the season, Coach Jay Gruden announced after the game.
Theismann said he became sick to his stomach as Smith lay on the turf, writhing in pain.
“I saw the way his foot was, and I turned away,” Theismann said.
In the minutes after, as Smith’s leg was stabilized, and the quarterback was sent to the hospital and eventually diagnosed, Theismann sent out a tweet that compared his injury with Smith’s. He also texted Smith. He said he wrote to him: “I’m just so sorry.”
The memories of Theismann’s injury – which occurred after former Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor barreled into the back of his right leg during a Monday Night Football game and effectively ended Theismann’s career – were even vivid before Sunday’s game. Theismann and his wife talked about the moment and the anniversary as they drove from Virginia to the game on Sunday.
He pointed out after the game that both he and Smith were at the late stages of their career when the injuries occurred. “You’re not 26, 27 years old. Alex is going to be what, 34 this year? I was hurt at the age of 35.”
There were other chilling ties to the two injuries : Both games ended 23-21 (although the Redskins won in 1985) and Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was on the sideline as the Giants’ special teams coach during Theismann game.
While Theismann was injured after being hit from behind, Smith’s occurred after his right leg had become caught in the turf during a sack by Houston defensive back Kareem Jackson. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt also made contact with Smith as he went down and his leg buckled.
Theismann launched a full-throated endorsement of Colt McCoy as the team’s starter moving forward, and he wondered aloud who the Redskins might turn to as the second quarterback. He also wondered, as he hurried down a stairwell and made his way out onto the concourse, when he might talk with Smith again. They now are bonded by a ghastly anniversary.
“I’m still just so upset,” Theismann said. “I feel so bad for him.”