SI Vault
Ron Reid
August 21, 1972
When Jurgensen was hurt, Billy Kilmer became the No. 1 Redskin quarterback. However, don't count Sonny out, he's counting calories
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August 21, 1972

When You're No. 2, You Diet

When Jurgensen was hurt, Billy Kilmer became the No. 1 Redskin quarterback. However, don't count Sonny out, he's counting calories

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It is doubtful that one club ever had two quarterbacks with such disparate styles and got the same degree of effectiveness from each. Kilmer, voted Most Valuable Redskin last season, makes up in gung-ho leadership for his aesthetic failings as a passer. A Kilmer pass, in its wobbling flight, conjures up memories of Bobby Layne and Joe Kapp, while Billy's fiery inducements to his teammates are reminiscent of the take-charge attitudes of, right, Joe Kapp and Bobby Layne.

And while Kilmer's passes aren't pretty, they were good for 2,221 yards and 13 touchdowns a year ago, sixth in the NFL and ahead of John Brodie, Roman Gabriel and Fran Tarkenton. A more valid complaint is that Billy's offensive direction generally requires more time, but the Redskins can afford it since they have a stout defense and a great bunch of running backs.

By contrast, Jurgensen plies his trade almost aloofly, but he can strike like lightning with unerring passes that sometimes seem to be delivered from a point no higher than his Adam's apple.

"If you're talking about passing the football, there's nobody better than Sonny," says Bobby Mitchell, a Washington scout who, as a Redskin, led the league in 1962 with 72 receptions. "There may be some guys who can throw the ball longer, but I'm talking about the passing game from 10 to 20 yards out, when the receivers are running slants and stuff so that you've got to get the ball to their hands. He's the best. He drops back with that ball low in the saddle and he can ship it past a defensive man before he knew what happened."

Late Friday night in Washington's Kennedy Stadium, Kilmer and Jurgensen superbly demonstrated their respective styles in a 41-0 humiliation of the Denver Broncos. While each put 17 points on the board before No. 3 quarterback Sam Wyche unleashed a 52-yard touchdown pass with 1:34 left in the game, the best job was turned in by Jurgensen, whose first pass of the night resulted in a 65-yard scoring play to Tommy Mason. Eight minutes later, a 70-yard Redskin drive was culminated by Jurgensen's 16-yard touchdown pass to Tight End Jerry Smith. For the half-night, Sonny completed six of seven for 144 yards and made it look easy.

Kilmer overthrew his receivers seven times and completed only six of 17, but, while one Redskin drive consumed almost eight minutes and 68 yards before ending in a field goal, Billy showed some lightning of his own when he drove the team to a touchdown in 96 seconds after an interception, the last play being a six-yard pass to Roy Jefferson.

One suspects, however, that Kilmer will have to throw all 17 passes to a beer vendor before Allen seriously entertains any thought about changing his status. If the Redskins win, George sticks with his people as resolutely as he trades draft choices—including those he doesn't have—for players long in the tooth. "I don't think there will be any rookies making our team," he said last week. "Nobody's going to get experience at my expense."

Of his quarterbacks, Allen said, "So far they've been excellent. Each will continue to play a half. Quarterback has never been a problem, as long as you pick one guy so that the other players know what they have to work at."

But won't sitting on the bench get Sonny down?

"If we're winning, it doesn't matter what one individual feels or not," said Allen. "As long as we win, it wouldn't bother me."

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