Rypien-Conklin duel in offing Gibbs opens door to QB competition

January 12, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- Coach Joe Gibbs didn't have to say the Washington Redskins will have a battle for the quarterback job in training camp this summer. Mark Rypien beat him to it yesterday.

"I'm looking forward to fighting for my job, and that's what this game is all about," Rypien said. "When you have competition at every position, you're going to get better, and you're going to develop your skills."

Gibbs, who had his final meeting with the players in the wake of the 20-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers that eliminated the Redskins from the playoffs, opened the door for the quarterback competition by saying Rypien will go to camp as the starting quarterback, but Cary Conklin will have a chance to win the job. He then tried to downplay the quarterback duel by saying the team has competition at every position.

"If Cary outplays Ryp [in camp], yes [he'll start], but any time one guy outplays another one, then the other guy starts," Gibbs said.

He then danced around the question several times by giving different versions of the same answer while trying to avoid creating any headlines.

But Gibbs still sent a message by the way he talked about the two players. He praised Conklin, but the only positive thing he said about Rypien was that he's a "hard worker."

"I really like Cary. I think Cary's beyond the point now where we worry about him as a first-year guy who hasn't played before. I think he's played enough. I think we'll come to camp next year, and Cary's champing at the bit. We'll let him play some, and we'll see how everybody does," Gibbs said.

When Gibbs was asked if he thought Rypien would bounce back from this subpar season, he didn't automatically say yes.

"I think it'll be real interesting to see how he does come back," Gibbs said. "I think in the past he's been very good at coming back from adversity."

When he was asked if he had regrets about not pulling Rypien this year, he said: "If I knew a lot of things that I know right now when the season started, I probably would have done a lot of things differently."

Maybe that means if Gibbs knew Rypien wasn't going to snap out of his season-long slump, he might have made the switch. Rypien was the lowest-rated quarterback in the NFC this season.

Conklin spent his first two seasons on the injured reserve and then threw two passes this season. -- completing both.

It's unusual for a quarterback who's thrown just two passes in three years to be competing with a former Super Bowl MVP for a starting position, but Gibbs likes to bring his quarterbacks along slowly.

Redskins insiders think that Rypien is still likely to start the 1993 regular season, but will get the quick hook without a fast start.

For the first time since Gibbs became the head coach in 1981, he'll have meaningful competition at starting quarterback in camp.

He benched Jay Schroeder twice during the 1987 season for Doug Williams, but there was no question it was Schroeder's job coming into the season after Schroeder took the team to the NFC title game in 1986.

In 1989, when Williams' back sidelined him and Rypien played poorly at the start of camp, Stan Humphries got a start during the preseason. But, in only his second year, he was obviously nervous and didn't really challenge for the job.

Gibbs told Rypien and Humphries in 1991 that they would fight for the job, but Humphries lost it in the off-season because he didn't put in much workout time. Rypien went on to be the MVP in the Super Bowl that season, and Humphries was traded to the San Diego Chargers last August.

Conklin isn't likely to make the mistake Humphries made in 1991, because he's noted for good workout habits.

It's also unlikely the Rypien-Conklin duel will be marked by the personal animosity that spoiled the Williams-Schroeder relationship.

"Cary and I are best friends off the field and on the field," Rypien said. "He's a guy who could have complained and moaned and groaned about the situation he's in, but instead, he's been real positive and he's been there for me instead of criticizing me, so I think there's no doubt when it comes to next year he's going to look forward to competing for the job."

Conklin said: "It's his job right now. I'm still a backup guy."

Conklin said he could play well in camp and go into the season No. 2.

"That's a possibility. That's definitely a possibility. You've got a guy who's a Super Bowl MVP. I look at Steve Young's situation out there in San Francisco, and I think Steve had to be patient for a few years before he got a chance," he said.

Conklin said it's still difficult to be patient.

"It starts to get kind of frustrating. You have to have a certain amount of patience, but I'm a competitor. I want to play, too."

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