MINNEAPOLIS -- The first thing the Washington Redskins must do to repeat as Super Bowl champions next season is simple -- re-sign quarterback Mark Rypien.
Rypien, the Most Valuable Player in Washington's 37-24 victory over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI Sunday, has a contract that will expire Saturday. It was a one-year, $1.25 million deal. He should be looking at another million a year, minimum, after a 292-yard, two-touchdown performance in the biggest game of his life.
"I'm sure we'll get the new contract taken care of," Rypien said yesterday, still basking in the glow of the Super Bowl victory. "The Redskins have always treated me fairly. Everything will work out."
Funny thing, though -- it rarely does work out for Super Bowl champions. The New York Giants won in 1991 and didn't even make the 12-team playoffs this season. The last time the Redskins won, in 1987, they went 7-9 the following year. Only five times in 25 previous Super Bowls has a team been able to repeat the following year.
"Sometimes, you start thinking you're a lot better than you are when you're successful," Rypien said. "It's important to stay focused."
Rypien's deal with the Redskins last season was an anomaly. It's rare when a starting quarterback signs a one-year deal -- it usually is a stopgap measure when the sides can't agree on anything longer. The Redskins and Rypien had a spirited fight about money last season, with owner Jack Kent Cooke once calling Rypien a "bloody idiot," so it's no certainty that he will be around for training camp next season.
Cooke does have a reputation for paying players well, however, and coach Joe Gibbs will pressure the owner to make Rypien, 29, available again. The Redskins will try hard to get him to sign a multi-year deal.
"That's going to be a really big one," Gibbs said. "We'll take our best shot right before training camp, I guess. I want to have some stability at quarterback."
Yesterday, though, it was easier for the Redskins to look back over the glory of a 17-2 season than look ahead to a thorny contract problem. Gibbs kept pointing to Rypien's tenacity as the difference in the game.
"What helped us the most was Ryp getting knocked around some and still making the plays," said Gibbs, who had Rypien running Washington's version of Buffalo's vaunted no-huddle offense for at least a quarter of the game.
"We got some good hits on him," Buffalo linebacker Cornelius Bennett said. "But he's a big, strong quarterback [6 feet 4, 234 pounds]. He really responded."
"The way Mark was throwing the ball, if you got half a step on someone, it was a completion," said Redskins receiver Gary Clark, who caught seven passes for 114 yards. Rypien didn't have much more to say about his play yesterday than he did immediately after the game. Remember, this is the same man who admits he's "an average-looking guy with a bad haircut." He's not much given to praising himself, and he's not nearly as sought out by advertisers as some other Super Bowl stars have been in the past.
"I know I won't be doing any Jockey underwear commercials," Rypien said. But his recognition factor has taken a huge leap in the past 36 hours. Besides starring against Buffalo, Rypien appeared on all three network talk shows Monday morning.
He did that on little sleep, and by the time he was supposed to appear at a 9 a.m. news conference, he was "running on fumes," as he said later. A public relations official found him just before the interview, dozing in a media work room.
But Rypien gutted out the interview, talking just like he played Sunday. He bruised his ribs the play before the 30-yard touchdown pass to Clark late in the third quarter that sealed the game as it gave the Skins a 31-10 lead. "I got up and went to the huddle but couldn't call the play [because of the pain]," Rypien said. "I finally spit it out at the line of scrimmage."
Compared to Buffalo's Jim Kelly, however, Rypien was hermetically sealed. Kelly was sacked five times and sustained a mild concussion in the third quarter.
"The only thing I can remember is coming back in and calling some plays and not even remembering what they were," he said. "Maybe I shouldn't remember. Maybe it's better that way."
Rypien, who has led the Redskins to victories in 27 of his past 32 starts, won a 1992 Buick Riviera by getting voted MVP. It reminded him of his past auto history -- he did not own a car when he got to the NFL.
Matter of fact, when he got his first signing bonus, he bought his dad a Jeep. "So, I still didn't have one," he said with a smile.
Rypien's father died four years ago, and Rypien said after the game that he had thought about his dad a lot in the past week.
"He was a great inspiration," Rypien said. "It would have been great had he been here, but I knew he was looking on. From a better seat."