Redskins vs. Giants: a shell of a rivalry The glitter is gone for latest rematch


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It wasn't so long ago that Bill Parcells was calling the rivalry between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants "the best the NFL has to offer."

A lot has changed since Parcells last said that three years ago.

Parcells, the former Giants coach, is in New England, coaching a 1-8 team. Former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs is a broadcaster and NASCAR owner.

Their former teams, meanwhile, are limping into a game that was usually played for high stakes in recent years. From 1986 through 1991, these two teams combined to win four Super Bowls.

Now the Giants are coming off a 6-10 season and have lost two straight after a 5-1 start. The Redskins are 2-6.

Unfortunately for the NFL, it still doesn't have much better to offer.

That's why today's game will get the feature CBS Pat Summerall-John Madden treatment as the first game of a TV doubleheader.

Even the Baltimore fans who complain about getting a steady diet of the Redskins on TV don't have much of a gripe this time. The only CBS alternatives at 1 p.m. are Green Bay-New Orleans and the worst mismatch of the day -- San Francisco at Tampa Bay.

The NFL doesn't have a lot of attractive matchups this year so it has to feature teams that remember better days.

This is a rematch of a game the Giants won, 41-7, a month ago. They still appear to have a big edge this time. They're the No. 1 team in the league in rushing yardage and the Redskins are 27th overall on defense and 22nd in stopping the run.

The Redskins, who are 10th in rushing themselves, hope to keep the ball away from the Giants by running rookie Reggie Brooks.

But they have an offensive line that is held together by Band-Aids.

They've lost three top tackles -- Jim Lachey for the season, Joe Jacoby for his career (he went on the injured reserve list last

week and is expected to retire at the end of the season) and Ed Simmons for the second straight week.

They've got a guard, Ray Brown, at one tackle, and their other tackle, Mo Elewonibi, has a knee injury and coach Richie Petitbon lists him "on the positive side of doubtful."

"If it weren't so serious, it'd be funny," Petitbon said.

Petitbon hasn't had much to laugh about in his first season as head coach. Replacing a legend like Gibbs isn't easy. Trying to ZTC do it with a beat-up team has been a nightmare.

Petitbon, though, has tried to put the best face on things. He's talked about how the team could get on a winning streak if it could only win one game. The Redskins finally won a game last week, ending a six-game losing streak by beating the Indianapolis Colts.

With the 2-6 Los Angeles Rams, 4-4 Philadelphia Eagles and 2-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming up the next three weeks, the Redskins could start thinking about going on a streak if they can get past the Giants.

That is going to be a tall order, though.

"This is a big one," Petitbon said. "When you start off 1-6, every game is a big one. You can't afford to lose any more."

Petitbon has even talked about sneaking into the playoffs with an 8-8 or 9-7 record.

If the Redskins have a chance to rebound, the burden rests squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Mark Rypien.

Nobody knows the ups and downs of pro football better than he does. Rypien was benched in 1989, knocked out with an injury in 1990, rose to the heights of Super Bowl MVP in 1991 and struggled through a 9-7 season last year. He was then benched again last week. It was only for one series, but Petitbon warned he'd do it again if Rypien continues to have balls batted down.

Just four games after being rushed back from a knee injury, Rypien knows he's in danger of losing his job.

"I understand his concerns," Rypien said of Petitbon's comments about the batted balls.

"At times, it's tough to really understand the problem itself. I don't ever go back there and look at arms in the way. The passing game is a game of timing. Those things happen 'D sometimes," he said.

Rypien said he'll try to get his full drops before he throws.

"If I'm doing that and balls are getting batted, so be it," he said. "I can't worry about that. I probably won't. I probably won't be in there from the sound of things. That's how I'm going to play. I'm not going to worry about hands in my face or anything like that. I've just got to go out and play hard."

Rypien finds out today if he can play well enough to stay in the lineup.

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