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Rex Vs Beck, This Generation’s Billy Vs Sonny?

August 5th, 2011 at 9:42 AM
By Josh McCain


In Washington D.C. there is an old saying, "The second-string quarterback is the most popular member of the Redskins' roster."

As a fan base, Redskins fans are some of the most intelligent and vocal in the NFL. No matter how well or how poorly the season is going the fans will always demand perfection from their starting quarterback.

They don't care how well the running game is going, how well the offensive line is playing, or even if the wide receivers are dropping every pass. If you are under center for the Washington Redskins you have the most pressure-packed job in the Beltway, and yes I'm including the President in that statement.

There have been times that the number one quarterback has been clear-cut. In the 40's it was clearly Sammy Baugh, in the early 80's the job fell to none other than Joe Theisman, and in the 90's Mark Rypien's laser rocket arm led the charge to the Super Bowl.

Today though we have controversy brewing out is Ashburn, a controversy that is reminiscent of when another member of the Allen family was the head coach of the Washington Redskins.

Today we have the young upstart John Beck versus the wiley veteran Rex Grossman, yesterday it was Sonny Jurgensen versus Billy Kilmer.

Quarterback Billy Kilmer came over to the Redskins in a trade with the New Orleans Saints on January 23, 1971 that sent Kilmer to D.C. and linebacker Tom Rousssel and two draft picks to New Orleans.

The trade for Kilmer was the first of many trades new head coach George Allen would make that consisted of trading away draft picks for veteran players, good thing for the modern day Redskins that his son Bruce (the team's general manager) doesn't share in his father's philosophy.

Kilmer was originally planned to be Sonny's back-up but when Sonny  injured his shoulder in a pre-season game against the Miami Dolphins, Kilmer became the starter.

Kilmer would lead the Redskins to a 5-0 start but during a mid-season slump the now recovered Sonny retook his starting position.

Both quarterbacks were well liked by the fanbase and both were successful and talented. This prompted a friendly rift amongst fans. From 1971-74 it was very common to see cars in the Washington area with bumper stickers that read "I like Sonny" or "I like Billy", soon fans were showing up to games with t-shirts and buttons that read the exact same.

Sonny and Kilmer were competitors and both wanted to be the starter, however that never got in the way of the two men helping each other on the field and remaining friends off the field (which they still are to this day).

The friendly competition between the two quarterbacks helped keep the team together as well. None of the players felt divided between loyalty to either quarterback. This was in-part due to the friendship and support between the two quarterbacks as well as their talent.

Sonny once said, "We realized there wasn't a good body between us, so the only way we were going to be successful was to help each other."

This was never more evident when once again Sonny was sidelined with a shoulder injury near the end of the 71 season allowing Kilmer to regain the starting job.

The next season Sonny would suffer an Achilles injury midway through the season and Billy would go on to lead the Redskins to Super Bowl VII.

After that Kilmer remained Allen's preferred quarterback. Kilmer didn't have Sonny's strong arm or tight spirals, but he was more conservative and less of a gunslinger and that was more in line with how Allen liked to coach. 

The two men would continue to split time until the end of the 1974 season when at the age of 40 Sonny retired. Kilmer would be the Redskins' unchallenged starter until the end of the 77 season when Allen was fired as the Redskins head coach.

New coach Jack Pardee would start the younger and more agile Theisman in the 78 season. Kilmer would serve as Theisman's back-up that year and then retire from pro football.

The question on many Redskins fans' minds is Rex Grossman vs John Beck going to live up to Billy vs Sonny?

And that answer is probably not. The reason being that Rex Grossman is not nearly as talented as Sonny or Kilmer and we honestly don't know what he have with Beck other than he throws a wobbly deep ball like Kilmer used to.

Honestly Rex vs Beck looks more like Heath Shuler vs Gus Frerotte from the late 90's.

I see this quarterback competition playing out in two ways. The first, and most likely, is that Rex starts the season off as the man under center. Knowing Rex's tendency for turning the ball over he'll eventually be replaced by Beck somewhere around the mid-mark of the season. Beck will probably be manageable but won't light the world on fire.

Scenario number two is Beck wins the starting job out right and his often praised work-ethic shines as he not only proves to be a game manager but a viable consideration as a franchise quarterback.

I know John Beck wasn't a household name until he hit the radio circuit after a compliment from his head coach during the draft but that doesn't mean he can't play.

After all guys like Kurt Warner, Steve Young, and Tom Brady were nobodies until the starter they were backing up went down with an injury. This isn't to say Beck is even close to those three but we won't know until we see him in a live game. And for those of you who want to bring up his 0-4 stint in Miami let me remind you, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young was 3-16 as a starter for the Tampa Buccaneers.


Tags: Billy Kilmer, Football, George Allen, John Beck, NFL, Rex Grossman, Sonny Jurgensen, Washington, Washington Redskins

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