Frustrations adding up for slumping Rypien QB feels pressure to start producing

November 27, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, VA — ASHBURN, Va. -- Mark Rypien was born a competitor.

"I remember crying my brains out as a 10-year-old kid in a city championship baseball game because we lost. I struck out three times, twice with the bases loaded," he said.

He wasn't consoled by his parents patting him on the back and telling him it was all right.

"For whatever reason, you've just got it [competitiveness] built up. I think it's good to have," he said.

The Washington Redskins quarterback, though, knows it's not enough.

"What we need is productivity. You have to be a competitor, but you have to produce," he said.

This year, he's not producing. He may be too old to cry about it right now, but there are probably times when he feels the way he did when he struck out as a kid. When he missed Gary Clark deep on Monday night, he fell on his back in frustration.

This has been a far cry from last year's magic season when he threw 26 touchdown passes and was intercepted 11 times while leading the Redskins to the Super Bowl title.

He's produced just two touchdowns in the last 23 quarters, has thrown only seven touchdown passes and has been intercepted 12 times.

If it's tearing him up inside, he hides it. He lashed out at the fans for booing him during the introductions for the home opener, and he walked away from the cameras earlier this month during an interview when a TV reporter asked him if he thought he would be better off taking a seat.

Other than that, he answers the questions politely and at some length. He takes the blame.

Looking at Monday night's 20-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints in which he twice overthrew wide-open receivers deep, he said: "There are probably four or five instances when I didn't produce, and I'm going to have to work on that in order for this team to get going and get kick-started in the right direction."

With the Redskins at 6-5 going into Sunday's game against the Phoenix Cardinals, he's running out of time to turn it around.

"It's frustrating as can be. You sit there and watch film and you work on things and, gosh, you just wonder when or where are you going to break out of this," he said.

Injuries are one of the obvious reasons for the team's problems. With the offensive line battered, the Redskins haven't been able to run and the opposing teams have been able to tee off on Rypien on passing downs.

Rypien, though, isn't the kind to blame injuries.

"Injuries are a big part, but we have 11 guys out there, and we're not getting it done. I sit around and wonder what I can do or what I haven't done that I might be able to do," he said.

Some fans have a suggestion for coach Joe Gibbs: bench Rypien for Cary Conklin, who has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season game.

Although Gibbs had Conklin on the active roster for the first time Monday night, he has resisted making a move. One thing that has persuaded him to stick with Rypien is his competitive nature.

"He was very, very competitive [against the Saints]," Gibbs said. "I think he played tough, mean and aggressive as a quarterback. I haven't seen him shy away from anything. That's the first thing I'd look at, if the quarterback starts shying away a little bit. Ryp is very, very aggressive, he was jacked up. If it took running, throwing, getting blasted, he didn't care. That's what you'd like to see. If a guy starts shying away, that scares me the most."

Asked why he thinks Rypien has lost his touch on the long passes, Gibbs said: "It's similar to a batter. How does a .400 hitter go into a slump? It's rhythm. With a quarterback, you're not the only one with a bat. The thing about football is that it's not a heavyweight championship fight and if I don't do it, I don't do it. You've got a lot of other things going on out there. The coach has to call the right plays. There's a lot to it."

Last year, the Redskins car was working on all cylinders. This year, it's sputtering.

"It's a little harder to drive a car that has a few dents on it," Gibbs said.

Gibbs finds himself being second-guessed not only for sticking with Rypien, but also for trading Stan Humphries to the San Diego Chargers.

"I could figure that's coming. I like ours. I hope Stan does great as long as he's not playing us," he said.

Meanwhile, Gibbs is being patient with Rypien. He said it's just too early to tell whether Rypien was a one-year wonder.

"Over history, we're going to find out, so why rush it? Just write the pages as we go. You're writing the first chapter right now. Ten years from now, we're going to say, 'Hey, Ryp was . . . ,' and we'll know," he said.

NOTES: DT Jim Wahler, who was waived by the Cardinals after TTC the fifth game, was signed by the Redskins yesterday. To make room for him, S David Gulledge was waived and will return to the practice squad if he clears waivers. Wahler was needed because Eric Williams is out this week with a groin injury. Wahler started the first five games, including the first game against the Redskins, but was waived because he wasn't playing well against the run. . . . Jim Lachey practiced again yesterday and seems likely to start at left tackle.

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