Redskins shuffle names, as QB controversy goes on

August 24, 1991|By Vito Stellino

For the Washington Redskins, only the names change. The quarterback controversy seems to go on forever.

For most of the past two decades, the Redskins have been arguing about their quarterbacks.

There were Sonny, Billy and Joe in the 1970s, Doug, Jay and Mark in the 1980s and now in the 1990s, Cary, Jeff and Stan.

When the Redskins close out their exhibition season tonight against the New York Jets in Columbia, S.C., they hope to resolve their latest quarterback controversy.

Coach Joe Gibbs has to decide whether to go with Cary Conklin and Jeff Rutledge as his two backups behind Mark Rypien and leave Stan Humphries as the odd man out.

"I'll kind of line it up after the game and we'll see what happens," Gibbs said.

The situation, though, is even more complicated than it was in the 1970s when Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer were united in their effort to keep the man they viewed as the brash interloper, Joe Theismann, out of the lineup, or in the 1980s, when Jay Schroeder sulked after being benched for Doug Williams and was traded, opening the way for Rypien to become the backup.

In this situation, there's no animosity among the three players, and Humphries shows no signs that he even wants to leave.

Although Humphries has declined to comment this week, his agent, Kevin Scanlon, said, "He's a rock. He's hanging in there. He's not sulking. The nicest thing would be for everything to go back to normal and he'd go back to being No. 2."

Humphries opened camp as the backup and was supposed to press Rypien for the No. 1 job. Instead, he's found himself in danger of dropping all the way to No. 4 and off the club.

The problem is that Gibbs apparently hasn't forgiven him for last year when the coach felt Humphries had poor work habits and wasn't ready to play at peak efficiency when Rypien was injured.

The tip off that Gibbs wants to name Conklin as his backup came after last Friday night's game when Conklin seemed to show his inexperience against the Cleveland Browns, completing only five of 16 passes and fumbling the game away in overtime.

That seemed to end Conklin's chances of being the backup this year, but Gibbs maintained all week that he hasn't made up his mind on his backup. That was an endorsement of Conklin because he wasn't ruling him out despite his poor showing against the Browns.

"That's one way to look at it [that Conklin looked too inexperienced against the Browns], but that's throwing out all the rest that he's done," Gibbs said.

Gibbs was referring to Conklin's good showing in the scrimmages and in training camp.

If Conklin's the backup, Jeff Rutledge probably would be No. 3 and the holder, and Humphries likely would be shipped out.

But it would be difficult to get a good price for Humphries before the cutdown date Monday if teams know the Redskins want to dump him.

When Schroeder was demoted to No. 3 before the final exhibition game in 1988 and then traded on the eve of the first regular-season game, the Redskins were able to get a Pro Bowl offensive lineman, Jim Lachey, for him because he had a track record and had taken the team to the NFC title game in 1986.

Humphries, by contrast, has started only five games. Although the Indianapolis Colts got a first round pick for Chris Chandler from the Tampa Bay Buccanneers and the Dallas Cowboys got first, second and third round picks from the New Orleans Saints for Steve Walsh, the Redskins aren't likely to be offered a high pick for Humphries under these circumstances.

The Phoenix Cardinals are the team that is most interested because they lost their starter, Timm Rosenbach, this week with a knee injury and the San Diego Chargers likely would take a chance on Humphries because their general manager, Bobby Beathard, drafted Humphries when he still was in Washington.

But general manager Charley Casserly will be in a difficult negotiating position if he's forced to try to dump him. Casserly has declined comment on the talks except to say that there were no new negotiations yesterday.

Meanwhile, there's the question of how Gibbs will play the quarterbacks against the Jets tonight. Rypien's likely to go three quarters since it's the final exhibition game.

Although Gibbs never says how he's going to play the quarterbacks in the exhibition games, he'll likely then go with either Conklin or Rutledge in the fourth quarter. But one quarter in the final exhibition game may not be much of a test.

All the discussions about the quarterbacks has obscured the fact the Redskins must make 13 roster moves by Monday when they slice the roster from 60 to 47 players.

"We've got a certain number of players we've got to make decisions on and we'd like to let them make it on the field for us," Gibbs said.

Meanwhile, the three quarterbacks vying for the No. 2 spot are wondering which one will get on the field tonight.

NOTES: Casserly said he had talks with the Houston Oilers about DE Sean Jones, but the Oilers still aren't sure whether they'll trade him. . . . The Carolinas hope to boost their expansion hopes by attracting a big crowd at the 72,400-seat stadium at the University of South Carolina. More than 60,000 tickets have been sold.

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