The Washington Redskins' backup quarterback dilemma is suddenly the least of the team's problems.
The Redskins ended their preseason on a frustrating note Saturday night, losing to the New York Jets, 13-9, in Columbia, S.C., to finish 1-3 in the practice games.
It was only the second time the team has had a losing record in the preseason in 11 years under coach Joe Gibbs, and he wasn't happy about it.
"For three quarters, that's the poorest we've played since I've been here, including the first year [when the team started 0-5 in regular season games]. It's hard for me to understand. I don't have the answer for it. If I did, I'd give it to you, but I don't think there's an answer for it. It's every area really," Gibbs said.
Gibbs seemed to confirm all indications that he's leaning toward Cary Conklin as his backup quarterback over Stan Humphries when he sent Conklin in to relieve Mark Rypien in the last quarter.
If Conklin, who completed eight of 12 passes for 98 yards is No. 2, It means the Redskins have to decide whether to keep all four quarterbacks or ship out either Humphries or Jeff Rutledge when they cut the roster from 60 to 47 players today. They also have to plan some roster maneuvers.
For example, at least two of the ailing players on the 47-man roster, tight end Don Warren and cornerback A.J. Johnson, likely will be placed on the injured-reserve list tomorrow and be replaced by players who clear waivers.
But Gibbs also is pondering the question of whether the Redskins are ready to open the regular season.
Going 1-3 in the preseason might not be a bad omen. The team went 0-4 in 1982 and won the Super Bowl. And losing the final preseason game might not mean much. The Super Bowl champion New York Giants lost to the New England Patriots on Saturday.
Gibbs is the type who always worries, but he's concerned that he hasn't seen many positive things in the exhibition season.
"We're just not playing good football and we don't know what to do about it," Gibbs said.
When a North Carolina writer tried to lighten things up by mentioning Dale Jarrett's first NASCAR victory (Jarrett will drive for Gibbs' team next year), Gibbs said, "I think that was great, but I'm here to talk football."
The pass defense, particularly at the right cornerback slot where Martin Mayhew has struggled, has been shaky. Ken O'Brien torched the secondary for 194 yards while completing 20 of 29 passes.
During the Jets' only touchdown drive, a 70-yard march, Mayhew gave up passes of 13, 19 and 15 yards (for the touchdown) and was nailed for an 11-yard pass interference penalty. He was finally replaced by Alvoid Mays in the second half.
"Right now, we're struggling on pass defense and we've got one week to try to figure it out," Gibbs said, noting they play a run-and-shoot team in the Detroit Lions in the opener.
While the defense gave up only 13 points despite O'Brien's good night, the offense was no help except for a touchdown drive that Conklin engineered.
"We just didn't look good at all. We stunk, myself and everybody included. It was frustrating," Rypien said.
Gibbs was huddled with his staff yesterday, trying to make final roster decisions and apparently made no headway on attempts to trade Humphries. The quarterback's agent, Kevin Scanlon, said he didn't hear from the team yesterday.
Besides Humphries and Rutledge, the veterans whose status appears to be uncertain are wide receivers Walter Stanley and Joe Howard, tight ends Jimmie Johnson and Ken Whisenhunt, offensive lineman Mark Adickes and Ray Brown, defensive linemen Tracy Rocker and Darryl Grant and safety Clarence Vaughn.
They'll find out their fate today.
NOTES: LB Kurt Gouveia (knee) and DL Tim Johnson (neck sprain) suffered the most serious injuries in the game. DE Fred Stokes missed the game with his shoulder injury, but hopes to return to practice this week. . . . Supporters of the Carolinas' expansion bid dubbed the game the "Victory Bowl." The crowd was announced at 69,117 in Williams-Brice Stadium, which seats 72,400.
On the bubble
The Redskins appear set at linebacker, running back, place-kicker and punter going into today's final cut-down. Here are the players who appear to be on the bubble at the other positions:
Quarterbacks: Stan Humphries and Jeff Rutledge
Wide receivers: Walter Stanley and Joe Johnson
Offensive linemen: Mark Adickes and Ray Brown
Tight ends: Ken Whisenhunt, Jimmie Johnson, Dennis Ransom and James Jenkins
Defensive linemen: Darryl Grant and Tracy Rocker
Defensive backs: Clarence Vaughn and Jimmy Spencer