All the success doesn't make the setbacks any easier to take. It just makes them tougher to handle.
That was the message from coach Joe Gibbs yesterday after the Washington Redskins suffered one of the most demoralizing defeats of his 12-year tenure Sunday, a 27-24 loss to the Phoenix Cardinals when they blew a 24-6 fourth-period lead.
"Last night [Sunday night], I was about as down as I've been," Gibbs said. "The losses hurt more the farther you go, especially after you've won. The losses probably hurt more. They're harder to take."
But Gibbs wasn't feeling sorry for himself yesterday. He was already looking toward the future.
"My hope is we've got to try to learn from this. We've been in holes around here before. Each one of them from here on out are going to be precious," he said.
Gibbs started out 0-5 in his first season. He has gone on to win three Super Bowls, but he'll do the same things he has done in the past in the tough times.
Joe Bugel, a former Redskins assistant who now is coach of the Phoenix Cardinals, said he coped with an 11-game losing streak because he "learned from the master, the Gibber."
Bugel said he learned from Gibbs "not to panic, not to point fingers and to stay together."
It's not surprising that Gibbs wasn't pointing fingers at quarterback Mark Rypien, who was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter on third down by Robert Massey, who returned both for touchdowns.
Gibbs said it was a "ridiculous question" Sunday when he was asked whether Rypien was his quarterback for the year regardless of what happened.
He was more calm yesterday when he explained why he was sticking with Rypien.
"I thought his first half was one of the best I've seen," he said.
Gibbs said he certainly wasn't going to pull him with a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter.
"I think we've got somebody who's taken us to a Super Bowl. We've got somebody we've got a lot of confidence in. We've got a lot invested in [him]. All of us, we're kind of off to a slow start. I think the easy thing for me to do as a coach [would be to say], 'Hey, blame it on Ryp, put somebody else in there and say it's his call.' I don't think that's the case.
"It's all of us as a team. Ryp understands and I do, too, if I came
to be convinced that, hey, he was the problem, I'd do something about it. I've got to see a lot more than this [to bench him]. I think he's got a very good attitude. I think he's very smart, very hard-working."
Rypien knows the fans are irate. "I may need maximum security (( at our house for the new few weeks until I get out of this," he said.
What's frustrating for Rypien is that he made bad decisions on both fourth-quarter interceptions. Reading defenses is supposed to be his forte.
"I wasn't born with a lot of God-given ability," he said. He overcomes that with smart play, usually.
On the first interception in the fourth quarter, he double-pumped, so Art Monk went deep. Rypien, though, threw it as if it were a comeback pattern. On the second one, Ricky Sanders flashed underneath after Monk was knocked off his route downfield, but Massey stepped in front of Sanders.
"You throw it and it's a situation where you wish you had a string on it to pull it back," Rypien said.
Rypien said the one thing he has going for him is that he has gone through adversity in the past. He was benched midway through the 1988 season for fumbling. Still, the lack of success is tough to deal with.
"I wanted to wake up and, hopefully, it was a bad dream," he said. "For a couple of days, it will hurt, but I'll get over it. You hate to sit up there and say you'll learn from your mistakes, but I've been a guy who's been there before. You try to smarten up a little bit."
Rypien said his teammates are supporting him, even if the fans aren't.
"I had 30 or 40 guys come up to me today, pat me on the back, tell me they're behind me, to stick in there and we'll get it done," he said.
NOTES: Two offensive linemen, Jeff Bostic (shoulder) and Ray Brown (knee), will undergo MRI tests today and the team will then decide whether to make roster moves. . . . The videotape showed the laces were fine on Jeff Rutledge's hold on Chip Lohmiller's miss in the closing seconds. After the game Lohmiller questioned whether Rutledge got the laces right. . . . An NFL spokesman said a CBS report that commissioner Paul Tagliabue had called in GM Charley Casserly and QB Chris Hakel to discuss his injured reserve status was inaccurate. The spokesman said neither has been called in yet, but didn't rule out the possibility it could happen in the future. The league is cracking down on teams stashing players with faked injuries.