WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- Imagine Captain Ahab without his quest for Moby Dick.
It wouldn't have made much of a novel, and the Washington Redskins vs. the New York Giants tonight at RFK Stadium may not be much of a football game.
How things have changed.
For a decade, a Redskins-Giants game was high drama.
Former Giants coach Bill Parcells called the rivalry "the best the NFL has to offer."
Parcells could say that. He was on the winning end of some of the NFL's classic games in recent years.
For Joe Gibbs, the Giants were Moby Dick. He was the obsessed Captain Ahab.
In Gibbs' 12 years with the Redskins, no team frustrated him the way the Giants did.
From the time Lawrence Taylor broke Joe Theismann's leg in 1985 until last year, the two teams played 10 non-strike games. The Giants won nine of them.
The games were often close. In one stretch, four games were decided by a total of 11 points. The Giants won all four.
Gibbs would spend his off-season plotting ways to beat the Giants. He even benched center Jeff Bostic at the start of the 1987 season for Russ Grimm to get more beef up front against the Giants.
Now, the Giants' defense simply has grown old.
The turning point came in the first meeting last year, when the Giants took a 13-0 halftime lead. The Redskins stormed back in the second half to win, 17-13.
The key was a 54-yard touchdown pass, as Mark Rypien rolled one way and threw across the field to Gary Clark. Assistant coach Rod Dowhower argued all week to try the risky play and Gibbs finally agreed. For once, the Redskins' schemes worked against the Giants.
The Redskins were unstoppable after that. They crushed the Giants, 34-17, in the second meeting and went on to win the Super Bowl. The Giants were a shadow of the team they once were.
Which brings us to tonight's game.
The Giants are struggling with a 3-4 record and are 10 1/2 -point underdogs, even though the Redskins are playing with a makeshift offensive line, are hurting at linebacker and escaped with a two-point victory at Minnesota last week.
The Giants come in with Lawrence Taylor making his last appearance at RFK Stadium and another old nemesis, quarterback Phil Simms, sidelined on the injured reserve list.
Gibbs, of course, insists the Giants are still tough, and he hasn'tlost his obsession with the team.
"Every time I see those uniforms, I get obsessed," he said.
Gibbs is quick to note the Redskins were upset just a month ago in Phoenix.
He's right that the Redskins have shown they can easily lose when they don't concentrate. But this time, it would be a $H stunning upset if they lost.
Things have gotten so bad for the Giants that it may not be a disadvantage for them to play on the road.
The fans were so busy chanting "Ray Must Go" last week to the tune of the Seminole war chant at Giants Stadium that the New York offense had to ask for quiet to hear its signals.
Handley, though, insists the Giants team that arrives at RFK won't be the one that played so poorly in the second game last year.
"We'll show up. Don't worry about us," Handley said.
He said the first game last year was "more typical of the confrontation it'll be rather than the second game."
l Unfortunately, Handley's off-the-field confrontations with the media have been more newsworthy this year than the team's performance.
When Handley was asked in a conference call with Washington reporters about his hassles with the New York press, he said, "My side doesn't get printed too often."
What is his side?
"I don't really want to get into that," he said. "I'll talk about football, isn't that what this call is about?"
The quest for Handley now is to get the Giants fans back to talking about football instead of chanting about getting rid of him.