The Washington Redskins' backup quarterback dilemma suddenly is 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.
"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. Humphries is considered too valuable to cut, so the club either has to trade him or find a spot on the roster for him.
The Redskins 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.
Meanwhile, Gibbs is pondering 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 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), the coach said, "I think that was great, but I'm here to talk football."
The pass defense, particularly at right cornerback, 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 called for an 11-yard pass interference penalty. He was 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 that the Redskins play a run-and-shoot team, the Detroit Lions, in the opener.
Washington's offense hasn't fared much better.
"We just didn't look good at all. We stunk, myself and everybody included. It was frustrating," Rypien said.
Gibbs 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.
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 Howard
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