No. 3 – Joe Theismann (1974-1985)
Theismann threw for more yards than any quarterback in Washington history. He started more consecutive games by a mile. He has the most wins – though that is partly due to the technicality surrounding Sammy Baugh’s positional designation. He took the team to consecutive Super Bowls, winning one.
And he didn’t become the team’s regular starter until he was almost 30.
Theismann was drafted out of Notre Dame by Miami in 1971, but he opted to play in Canada for several years. When he eventually joined the league, the Washington Football Team traded for him, making him the heir apparent to aging stars Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer. The brash Theismann did not want to wait. Sonny and Billy hated him for it.
No matter what you might say about that early arrogance, Joe was no preening diva. In order to get onto the field, the man returned punts in his first year, averaging more than ten yards a pop (Late in his career, he would offer to be the emergency punter, but the less said about that, the better).
He finally took over in 1978 as Washington was transitioning out of the George Allen era. When Joe Gibbs arrived a few years later, Theismann was ready for stardom. From 1982-1984, Theismann quarterbacked teams that went 32-8. His numbers were very good, though never the same as the elite QBs of his era.
But Theismann played above his numbers. At his best, he was the next incarnation of Fran Tarkenton, constantly spinning out of a ferocious pass rush on third and five to hit Art Monk for a crucial first down. He made plays like that week after week after week.
Theismann’s play was diminishing by 1985 when a Lawrence Taylor sack snapped his leg and ended his career. There’s no telling whether ’85 would have been his final season, or whether there was another chapter to write. Regardless of what might have been, he took his team to the mountaintop. His legacy is secure.