Joe Theismann is an entrepreneur and the former star quarterback for the Washington Redskins. Most recently, he spent the last 2 decades working for ESPN and the NFL Network as an NFL analyst.
Joe graduated in 1971 from the University of Notre Dame, where he received All-American honors in both Football and Academics. That same year, he was runner up to Jim Plunket for the Heisman Trophy balloting. Joe chose to begin his career with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League after being drafted by the Miami Dolphins and Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins.
A 12-year NFL veteran, Joe played in 163 consecutive games from 1974-1985 for the Washington Redskins and holds Redskin records for passing yardage (25,206), completions (2,044) and attempts (3,602). He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and Pro Bowl MVP leading the Washington Redskins to a 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl 17.
Joe was selected as the NFL’s Man of the Year in 1982 for his community service and dedication to the health and welfare of children. In 1983, he won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, leading the Redskins to a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Joe Theismann’s career ended abruptly in 1985 after sustaining a badly broken leg during a Monday Night Football game against the New York Giants on national television. In 2003, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and in 2013 received the Walter Camp Football Foundation “Distinguished American” Award.
With every chapter of his life, Mr. Theismann evolved from athlete to the ultimate businessman. An Emmy award winning analyst, business man and athlete, he utilizes his gifts, talent and high energy to share his strategies for handling unforeseen change.
Joe will release his book “How to Be A Champion Everyday” in June of 2020.
At Notre Dame, Joe became the starting quarterback in his sophomore year, after Terry Hanratty was injured late in the season. In the three remaining games in the regular season, he led the Irish to two wins and a tie. In 1969, Joe led the Irish to a number five ranking, but lost to the University of Texas in 1970 Cotton Bowl Classic, 27-17. The next year, the Irish had a 10-1 record, number 2 ranking, and won against Texas in the 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic, 24-11. That year, Joe was an All-American and an Academic All-American and was in contention for the Heisman Trophy. Joe, whose last name was actually pronounced THEES-man, recounted in 2007 that is was Notre Dame publicity man Roger Valdiserri who insisted that he change the pronunciation of his name to rhyme with “Heisman”. He finished second to Jim Plunkett of Stanford University.
Joe set school record for passing yards in a season (2,429) and touchdowns in a season (16). He also set a school record for passing yards in a game (526) and completions in a game (33) while playing against the University of Southern California in a torrential downpour in 1970. As starting quarterback, Joe compiled a 20-3-2 record while throwing 4,411 yards and 31 touchdowns. His 4,411 passing yards rank fifth on Notre Dame’s career passing list.
Joe was selected in the fourth round of the 1971 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins and in the 39th round of the 1971 Major League Baseball draft by the Minnesota Twins. After negotiations with the Dolphins failed, Joe elected to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. In his rookie year, he quarterbacked the Argonauts to a 1-4 record, led the league’s Eastern Conference in passing statistics and won a berth in the Grey Cup championship game in Vancouver, British Columbia versus the Calgary Stampeders (59th Grey Cup).
In 1971, Joe completed 148 of 278 passes for 2,440 yards and 17 touchdowns. His 1972 season was shortened by injury, but he hit 77 of 127 passes for 1,157 yards and ten touchdowns. During his last CFL season, 1973, 157 of his 247 passes were complete, for 2,496 yards and both 13 touchdowns and interceptions. He was all-star in both 1971 and 1973.
National Football League
In 1974, the Washington Redskins obtained Joe’s rights from the Dolphins in exchange for the team’s first round draft pick in 1976. Joe left the CFL and joined the Redskins where he served as the team’s punt returner during his first season. In 1978, Joe became the Redskins starting quarterback, succeeding Billy Kilmer.
In 1982, Joe led the Redskins to their first championship in 40 years against the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. He threw two touchdowns and, with the Redskins trailing 17-13 in the third quarter, made the most important defensive play of the game – after his pass was deflected by Dolphins lineman Kim Bokamper, causing what appeared to be an interception and sure
touchdown (which would have given Miami a two-score lead and effectively taken MVP running back John Riggins out of the game), Joe himself was able to knock the ball out of Bokamper’s hands, keeping the score close enough for Washington to stick to the run-heavy strategy that would eventually lead to victory. He also led the team to an appearance in Super Bowl XVIII the following year, and would go on to set several Redskins franchise records, including most career attempt (3,602), most career passing completions (2,044) and most career passing yards (25,206) while also throwing 160 touchdown passes, with 138 interceptions. On the ground, he rushed for 1,815 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was named NFL MVP in 1983 by four organizations. He earned the Player of the Game Award in the second of his two Pro Bowl appearances. Joe also punted once in his career, for one yard against the Chicago Bears.
In an era when most quarterbacks had long since used variations of a double-bar facemask (or even triple-bar facemasks) that afforded more protection, Joe refused to wear anything but a one-bar face mask throughout his career.
Joe’s career ended on November 18, 1985 when he suffered a comminuted compound fracture of the tibia and fibula in his right leg while being sacked by linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson during a Monday Night Football game telecast by ABC from RFK Stadium in Washington DC. The injury was later voted the NFL’s “Most Shocking Moment in History” by viewers in an ESPN poll and the tackle was ultimately dubbed “The Hit That No One who Saw It Can Ever Forget” by the Washington Post.
The game’s score was 7-7 in the second quarter when the Redskins attempted to run a “flea-flicker” play; Joe had handed off to fullback John Riggins, who subsequently lateralled the ball back to the quarterback. The Giants defense, however, was not fooled, and they tried to blitz Theismann. As Taylor pulled Joe down, Taylor’s knee came down and drove straight into his lower right leg, fracturing both the tibia and the fibula.
In 1985, Joe broadcasted Super Bowl XIX, alongside Frank Gifford and Don Meredith, becoming only the second player to do commentary on a Super Bowl telecast while still an active player. Joe was a color commentator on regional CBS NFL coverage in 1986 and 1987. He then worked on ESPN’s Sunday Night Football telecasts from 1988-2005 and on their Monday Night Football coverage in 2006. In 2009, Joe would analyze game films on NFL Network on the show Playbook. On January 9, 2010, he served as color commentator, along with former head coach Joe Gibbs for the Saturday AFC Wild Card Game between the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe also co-hosted NFL games on NBC in 2010 and co-hosted NFL Network’s No Huddle in 2011.
In addition to covering football, Joe hosted the first half of the first season of American Gladiators in 1989.
Joe has since done broadcasts for the Washington Redskins pre-season games on CSN.
Joe has done several TV and movie appearance, including B.J. and the Bear (1981), Cannonball Run II (1984), and The Man from Left Field (1993).
He appeared as himself as part as a buyer group for the fictional “New York Hawks” football team on the TV series Necessary Roughness (2013) and on the post-Super Bowl episode “Operation: Broken Feather” of Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2014). His most recent acting appearances were in movies for the Hallmark Channel. In 2016, “Love on the Sidelines” he appeared as the father of an injured professional football player. In 2019, “Snow Coming”, he played an agent for professional athletes (in particular, a professional football player).
Joe has acted as a national spokesperson for several companies including Colonial Penn Life Insurance Company, Super Beta Prostate and Medliminal.