WASHINGTON — THE Washington Redskins, in their smug modesty after their dreadfully efficient job on the Eagles, did not put a point on it, but their maligned quarterback was never sacked, not even once.
He should have been, once. The Redskins' uphill chances in the playoffs might be the better if he had been.
Nobody who has paid attention to Mark Rypien's 34-game history as a professional can put any knock on his courage except that sometimes he has too much of it.
With third-and-nine on his own 30 in the first quarter at Philadelphia, Rypien started to drop back and slipped on the phony turf. Falling down before the charge of Mike Golic, Rypien declined once more to collapse into the security of the fetal posture. He let the ball fly in the general direction of Gary Clark.
It wasn't as silly a pass as that little potsy toss that blew the game in Indianapolis, but it had the same problems. Wafted over the right side of the line, it was too short for the first down and almost long enough to be intercepted. Had nickel back Izel Jenkins been a step quicker, the Eagles might have had a 10-0 lead after 10 minutes of play.
The game and the Redskins' season were at peril, but so was Rypien's career. He reads the papers, and he had read that his "future as a Redskin" had been at stake in the Buffalo game.
"There is little room for him to be optimistic," said the story in the Washington Times. The Redskins are "virtually certain to revise their wish list for the 1991 draft and mark quarterback as one of their most pressing needs if they are to continue the pursuit of excellence that they have practiced under coach Joe Gibbs."
Draconic judgment, it seemed, for a 28-year-old who had won 18 of the 29 games he had started, who had passed for 3,786 yards -- more than Jurgensen or Theismann ever had -- in a 14-game season, and who had returned betimes from serious injury because his team needed him.
"It would take a miracle," columnist Morris Siegel concluded, "for Rypien to continue as the main man after his experience yesterday."
Rypien's experience against Buffalo had included booing -- for
TC throwing an interception, then for reappearing on the field. But he had completed 16 of 26 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown. And he had won.
The obvious and the inane must result when a game played only once a week is "covered" seven days a week. But Moe Siegel is a personage in Washington.
He is an "insider" who has sat for decades at the right hand of the proprietor, among the captains and kingmakers, at the front table of Duke Ziebert's restaurant.
More recently Moe has often sat on the extra chair set out on the 50-yard line when Jack Kent Cooke makes his frequent visitation to his Redskins' practice. Moe was in Mr. Cooke's VIP box, tracking down the latest Will McDonough exclusive, while Rypien was having his "experience" with the Bills. He has entree to the sanctum sanctorum.
Attributing his information in Washington style, Siegel said: "The Redskins' officials whose opinions count were understandably and properly critical [of Rypien].
"The expressions on their faces telegraphed their displeasure in no uncertain terms."
The expression on Joe Gibbs' face telegraphed something last week. For three days he was solemn, snappish, grim. The superficial explanation was resentment toward Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.
Gibbs' controlled anger can be formidable, but it takes more than the fulminations of a blowhard like Buddy Ryan to bring it on. More likely Joe had read the papers, too.
The Redskins' officials whose opinions count, in super-sensitive areas like the coming or going of a quarterback, are Gibbs, general manager Charley Casserly and Cooke, the owner.
Casserly is too much the horse-trader to make even a guarded criticism of his own personnel that would tip his hand. So who might Gibbs assume is Siegel's source?
In delineating his relationship with Cooke, which he considers ideal, Gibbs always makes two points. One is that the owner regularly keeps in close touch with his head coach. The other is that Cooke is "nothing but supportive," that he does not second-guess or impose his own opinions.
Gibbs appreciated Rypien's finishing the game Saturday despite a sore ankle, injured at the end of the first half. "He showed a lot of guts to hang in there," Gibbs said. "That says a lot about him."
Somebody has been saying a lot about Rypien.