On Thursday, former Redskins great Joe Theismann sat down for an interview on ESPN Radio’s “The Herd with Colin Cowherd”.
Theismann chatted with Cowherd on a variety of subjects ranging from his thoughts on the explosion of the pistol formation in the NFL to improved player safety.
Theismann also spoke about why he wore a single bar helmet during his playing days.
Find out what he had to say here (via ESPN Radio):
Theismann began the interview discussing his playing days. If you recall, Joe was a never-say-die player. He displayed a ruthless amount of determination, shaking off injuries and always finding a way back into the starting lineup.
Late in the 1982 season, the Redskins squared off with the New York Giants with playoff implications on the line. If the Redskins were able to get past the Giants, they would reach the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
On a cold, snowy December day in front of a rambunctious crowd at RFK Stadium, the Redskins struggled against the Giants. Theismann exemplified the team’s struggles, as it seemed like every time he put the ball in the air, it ended in the hands of a New York player.
While Theismann had been battered and bruised many times, he remembers a play where he got his front teeth literally knocked out of his mouth.
“I had thrown three interceptions, it was a crummy day,” Theismann said of his performance. “I turned to the left and [wide receiver] Charlie Brown was covered and I came back to the right to look for [wide receiver] Alvin Garrett and [Giants linebacker] Byron Hunt comes up underneath and just as I took my arm back, I raised my head to look a little and his helmet came up and caught my teeth and just knocked three of them out.”
If you’ve ever gotten your chompers smacked out of your mouth, you understand the excruciating pain that comes from that experience. If not, consider yourself lucky.
Theismann, being the ultimate competitor that he was, refused to let the injury pull him from the field.
“I got to the sidelines and I walk over to Coach [Joe] Gibbs and I’m just spitting out teeth and blood and everything else,” he said as he walked off the field. “He [looked] at me and I said ‘No I’m okay, I can still call signals. Don’t worry about this I can get this done. I’m okay. Don’t worry about it I’ll be fine’ and we finished that game.”
Washington would go on to knock off their rivals from the north with a thrilling 15-14 win as kicker Mark Moseley nailed his 21st straight field, a record for most consecutive field goals made as the ball soared between the uprights.
The game has evolved drastically since Theismann’s days on the gridiron. This season, the pistol offense has taken the league by surprise as it has had unprecedented success. The Redskins are just one of several teams that have implemented the scheme into their playbooks.
When asked of his thoughts about the revolution behind center with so many quarterbacks with running back-like speed, Joe said that you have to have the right pieces to run the formation effectively.
“I like it, but I think it’s a novelty specific to certain teams,” Theismann said. “You’re not going to see a lot of college kids that have the ability of a Russell Wilson, of a Colin Kaepernick, of a [Robert Griffin III]. I think they’re exceptions to the rule. I think this particular class is not only an exceptional class, but it has exceptional athletes.”
Theismann believes, however, that the pistol formation needs to be mixed with a traditional, pocket-passing offense in order for an offense to produce at a Super Bowl-caliber level, something he thinks the Redskins and Griffin III are capable of.
“I think you need a very exceptional athlete to be able to do it. If you’re going to be a successful, championship-winning quarterback, you have to be able to throw the ball from the pocket very well, which [Griffin III] continues to improve,” Theismann said. “Because he didn’t really do it in college.”
Theismann admittedly is unfamiliar with a mobile quarterback driven set. The shotgun formation is another staple for speedy gunslingers, but despite his own speed, Theismann never ran the shotgun.
“It was an offense that we didn’t even run with the Washington Redskins until Joe came back for his second tenure and the guys ran after that but you can talk to [Mark Rypien] and Doug [Williams], they didn’t run a gun,” Theismann recalled. “We all basically worked from under center so it was a different era in football where the rules were different, the protection was different. I would’ve loved it.”
If you look at the picture above, you will notice that Joe wore a single bar helmet, something of rarity at the position. Why you may ask?
“I wore the single bar for two reasons. No. 1 was because Billy Kilmer and Sonny Jurgenson both wore one and I couldn’t have two and them have one,” Theismann said. “The other thing which sounds really funny is if you put your finger up here [in front of your face] as a quarterback, you can see over the bar very easily when you look down the field. But when I [would] hand it off, it would bother me. The two bars were just an enormous annoyance to me when it came to handing it off. So I said ‘Okay, I’m going to go with the single for those two reasons.’ I couldn’t just be a guy who couldn’t wear it.”
The one bar helmet has since been phased out of NFL wardrobes as players have opted for larger face masks for improved safety.
“It’s a violent, collision game, that’s what it is. You can’t get around it. It’s part of the game,” Theismann said. “I’m all for safety. I think the owners and players are working very hard to make this game as safe as possible.”
Theismann would know, as a traumatic sack from Lawrence Taylor ended his career on the field in 1985. He has since moved to the broadcast booth and the sidelines, enjoying the safety and comfort of his new occupation.
That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t still suit up if he could.
“You know what’s funny, if someone said ‘Would you go play the game tomorrow?’ [I’d say] absolutely without hesitation,” Theismann said. “I would love to go back and be able to do it again.”
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