HERNDON, Va. -- Mark Rypien and Troy Aikman seem to be taking a different route to a date in Hawaii in February.
Rypien, who's led the Washington Redskins to an 11-0 start and a shot at a perfect season, and Aikman, who has the Dallas Cowboys at 6-5 and bidding for a wild-card playoff spot, will duel Sunday at RFK Stadium.
They also seem destined to be the two NFC quarterbacks in the Pro Bowl in Honolulu Feb. 2.
Rypien has the best NFC quarterback rating (100.1) and has thrown 19 touchdown passes. Aikman has passed for more yards (2,550) than any other NFC quarterback.
That's where the similarities end.
Aikman was the first player drafted three years ago, signed a $11.037 million contract and was heralded as the league's next great quarterback.
Rypien was drafted on the sixth round six years ago, got a $35,000 signing bonus and a two-year deal with a base salary of $75,000 the first year.
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said: "Aikman is one of those fantastic athletes who comes out and anybody who watched him said, 'Hey, this guy is great. He's going to be the first player taken in the country.' There was never any doubt. I think Ryp has come up more the hard way. I don't think anybody would have worked him out and said, 'Here's the most gifted guy in the country.' "
Three years later, Aikman has lived up to all the expectations.
"I think he's better than Rypien," said Richie Petitbon, the assistant coach who runs the Redskins' defense. "He's a much better athlete. He was the No. 1 [overall] guy in the draft, and for once, it was a good choice. A lot of No. 1's don't pan out. Ryp is doing a great job for us, but he doesn't have the athletic ability that Aikman has."
Aikman has the skills and the fat wallet (Rypien finally got a $1.25 million contract this year after owner Jack Kent Cooke called him a "bloody idiot" for holding out), but it's Rypien who has a shot at the perfect season. Aikman, meanwhile, is still trying to carry his team on his arm.
"He had it thrown on him where he was going to save a franchise when he first came in there, to tell you the truth," Rypien said. "I think he's very talented and he's going to get better and better."
There wasn't much thrown on Rypien. He spent his first two years being redshirted on the injured reserve list and the next three getting hurt or being benched for fumbling.
But in his sixth season, he has finally found himself.
"I think that staying healthy for him has made the difference," Gibbs said.
Rypien admits there was a question mark hanging over his head coming into the season.
"I wanted to prove people wrong and I wanted to prove I could lead this football team," Rypien said.
He's done it this year with a much better supporting cast than Aikman has.
Aikman said, "He's playing with a lot of confidence right now. When you get that confidence, you believe you can make all the throws . . . and you find yourself making throws that normally you would not attempt. It's a lot like a basketball shooter on a hot streak. He feels he can't miss."
Despite all the personal accolades Rypien is getting this year, the numbers he likes are 11-0.
"I get more gratification from the fact we're 11-0. To get there, you've got to be doing some good things along the line," Rypien said.
If he keeps doing them, he'll be the starter in the Pro Bowl and Aikman will be the backup.
Aikman can keep himself comfortable sitting on his wallet.
Rypien vs. Aikman
.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Pct .. .. Avg .. Pct .. . .. Pct Rating
.. .. .. .. .. Att Comp Comp .Yds Gain TD .TD Lng Int Int Points
Rypien, Wash. .285 .176 61.8 2467 8.66 19 6.7 .82 ..8 2.8 .100.1
Aikman, Dallas 343 .224 65.3 2550 7.43 10 2.9 .61 ..9 2.6 ..86.3