Commentary : Redskins Should Let Joe Theismann Go Out With Dignity

June 15, 1986|TONY KORNHEISER | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — What's new with Joe Theismann today? Any codicils in his contract that we aren't aware of? Is the payout greater for making the squad, or for promising not to show up? How about his insurance policy? Any rider in there pertaining to frequent flyer miles while attempting a bicoastal recovery?

It's tough keeping track of Theismann these days. Who do you call for the status report: his multiple agents, Lloyd's of London, People magazine or the Journal of the American Medical Association?

There doesn't seem to be any point calling the Washington Redskins. Through this whole protracted play--the longest fifth act in history--the one thing that is abundantly clear is that the Redskins want nothing to do with Theismann.

They've got plans.

He's not in them.

They didn't want him at minicamp, and they don't want him at training camp. They not only don't want him to make their team, they don't want him trying out for it. In their family he's like some distant cousin, the loudmouth with a big cigar who finds out about the Thanksgiving dinner and insists he's coming. What can the Redskins do but hope his car breaks down on the way?

On the other hand, as much as Theismann wants to play--make no mistake about it, he wants to play, he is one achievement-oriented, egotistical, competitive little monkey--he knows that he can't this year. His leg hasn't healed yet, and it may never heal soundly enough to support the professional quarterback in his workplace. Theismann tells us he has had to stop playing racquetball and tennis for fear he'd reinjure his leg. He limits himself to golf now. Does golf sound like the way one prepares to avoid a blitz? Is that how you get away from Dan Hampton and Richard Dent, in a cart?

Enough posing already.

It's hard to believe Theismann wouldn't go to minicamp on his own. He loves football and the spotlight too much to stay away. Even though he wasn't fit for practicing, he could have gone to meetings. The Redskins could have shown him, and us, how he still figured in their lives. Never forget that Theismann once wanted so desperately to play football--simply play the game--that in his early years with the Redskins he risked injury by returning punts. Theismann's a Dalmatian; the fire alarm rings, he's ready. Bail out on minicamp? Doubtful. Someone must have told him to lay low.

The facts point us in one and only one direction: that Joe Theismann's time as a Redskin is up.

Having embarrassed themselves in the Riggo Release--leaving their coach, Joe Gibbs, looking indecisive--the Redskins ought not to blow this one. Theismann might not be as beloved as Riggins, but he is every inch the star Riggins is. As Mrs. Willy Loman said, "Respect must be paid."

This must be particularly hard on Gibbs, who has made such a public display of espousing his Redskins "family" over the years. Gibbs had been a rock on the issue of loyalty, continuing to trust in Riggins, Theismann (Mark Moseley, too) even as criticisms of their performances mounted. Gibbs has already had to fire Riggo--talk about a public relations meltdown--and it appears he's hoping to avoid firing Theismann, hoping Theismann will spare him the hot seat by walking away. Gibbs can't be comfortable having such family problems. But if Gibbs doesn't want Theismann, he should say so.

Theismann, undoubtedly, is looking out for No. 1.

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