(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Kilmer interview fast-forward to 25:00 of the attached segment)
Buffalo rookie Josh Allen came this close this season to tying the NFL record for consecutive 100-yard games by a quarterback. But he missed. Not by much. But he missed.
And so the record stands. As it has for the past 57 yards.
Congratulations, Bill Kilmer. He’s the quarterback who raised the bar the first three games of 1961 when, as one of three quarterbacks in San Francisco’s shotgun offense, he ran for 103, 131 and 113 yards in consecutive games.
And since then? Well, since then, we’ve had running quarterbacks like Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, Michael Vick, Cam Newton and, yes, Josh Allen – and none has tied or broken Kilmer’s record.
“Not really,” Kilmer said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “Because most of their runs aren’t designed. All my runs were designed. They came off of me being able to run past two (defenders).
“We ran a run/pass option. Not a lot. But that’s how I threw a couple of times – complete – but I ran off of it, too. So it didn’t surprise me that they didn’t get the yardage because that’s not really part of their offense.”
Just as passing wasn’t part of the 49ers’ offense when Kilmer was on the field in those first three games of 1961. Then-coach Red Hickey rotated three quarterbacks – Kilmer, Bob Waters and John Brodie – with Kilmer in on first down, Waters on second and Brodie on third.
As Kilmer described it, he almost never threw. In fact, he tried just three times those first three games, completing (as he said) two. Waters could run or pass. And when Brodie was on the field, it was to pass only.
“For me,” said Kilmer, “it was like being in college again. The shotgun was just a little more spread out that the single wing was. And when I went to UCLA they spread out the single wing from what it was, and we used it as a passing offense at times.”
Of course, Kilmer would go on to become a successful passer, too, leading the 1972 Washington Redskins to the Super Bowl. But 57 years ago he was strictly a situational quarterback in an offense (the shotgun) that is as much a part of football today as replay reviews.
And as a quarterback in what was essentially “the Wildcat,” Kilmer was without peer … as he is today. Maybe there were more effective runners that followed, but no quarterback since John F. Kennedy was President and Elvis was King equaled what Kilmer accomplished 57 years ago.
“They had to scramble around,” he said. “And, also, these guys that play quarterback today don’t have the fundamentals of being a running back.
“Being a single-wing tailback I knew how to take a blow. When a tackler came in I knew how to dip my shoulder and not take the blow in my knees … or where I could get hurt that much. It’s ironic that I never had knee surgery my entire career. I’ve been lucky there.”