IRVING, Texas -- This was the long goodbye for the Washington Redskins.
Suffering their worst loss ever at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins were drilled, 38-3, before 64,497 fans at Texas Stadium yesterday in what may have been the last game many of them will play against the Cowboys in a Redskins uniform.
They dropped to 4-11 and wrapped up the fifth-place schedule )) for the first time since that scheduling format was created in 1978.
Many of them know that if they have a future in the league, it won't be with the Redskins.
One player who said he's no longer in the team's plans was quarterback Mark Rypien, who struggled through another frustrating day as he completed 12 of 30 passes for 81 yards and was intercepted twice.
Rypien said he knew he was gone when the Redskins didn't try to restructure his $3 million-a-year contract by Thursday's salary-cap deadline.
"There's a time to move on, not that you want to. You've got to face reality sometimes and swallow it and move on," he said. "I don't want to make a big issue out of this. I've been treated very fairly by this organization."
Rypien said the Redskins approached his agent shortly after he was injured in the second game of the season and said they wanted to restructure his contract. He said they never brought it up again after he played poorly when he came back from the injury.
When he was asked to name the other players he thought would be gone, quarterback Cary Conklin was the only other player he mentioned.
But the Redskins have to wonder if coach Richie Petitbon will be one of the victims of this 4-11 season.
Rypien said he thought Petitbon would survive because "players you think would probably be in there to help this team aren't [because of injuries]."
Petitbon didn't seem so sure.
"That's out of my control. You're talking to the wrong person," he said.
The decision will be made by owner Jack Kent Cooke, who hasn't given any clues.
Rypien, though, suggested the Redskins' organization is in sorry shape. He said decisions are being made "from the top" about who's going to play, said it was a "shame" that Earnest Byner has been phased out and added it was difficult to even get fired up for the games because of the uncertainty.
"We've had a lot of guys not knowing what's going to transpire week to week. It's been very, very frustrating. It shows on the field," Rypien said.
He also said that Petitbon wanted offensive coordinator Rod Dowhower to install some short passing plays from the San Francisco playbook because the 49ers "really stuck it to our defense" in the past.
The problem was that he thought the old Joe Gibbs offense featuring the big strike was still working.
"Our philosophy on offense was we never had anything that was broke. So we went a different route. You've got to accept that. Joe's not here so you can't really say [what would have happened] if he was."
What they're doing now isn't working. For the fourth time in the past seven games, they failed to score a touchdown and have 15 points in four games.
Meanwhile, Dallas methodically ripped apart the Washington defense.
"Today was embarrassing to everybody," defensive lineman Jason Buck said. "Everybody would like to go home and forget this one."
The Redskins are scheduled to finish out the season Friday in a New Year's Eve special against Minnesota. Even that is in doubt, however.
Since 37 Redskins have refused to pay their $5,000 annual dues to the NFL Players Association, an arbitrator will have to rule whether they must pay or face suspension.
The Redskins led 3-0 after Aikman fumbled on the fourth play and linebacker Monte Coleman recovered on the Dallas 40.
But the Redskins couldn't take advantage of the Cowboys' slow start. "They came out a little flat," linebacker Andre Collins said.
But the Redskins helped them by getting called for eight penalties that gave the Cowboys first downs, including a controversial face-mask penalty on Collins.
The Cowboys responded, with their last four possessions of the half resulting in three touchdowns and a missed field-goal attempt by Eddie Murray to take a 21-3 halftime lead.
It was still 7-3 when the Cowboys took over on their 32 with 6:22 left in the first half.
They marched 68 yards in seven plays with Aikman tossing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Michael Irvin in the right corner of the end zone when he beat Darrell Green.
They got that touchdown with 1:54 left in the half. They quickly added a second one before the half.
Petitbon, who's run out the clock several times in the final two minutes of the first half, decided to try the two-minute offense this time.
The move backfired. After getting to their 45, the Redskins gave the ball back to the Cowboys. A pass from Rypien to Ricky Sanders bounced into the air and James Washington intercepted it and returned it to the Washington 42.
The Cowboys took over with 1:01 left. They needed only 48 seconds to get the touchdown on a 15-yard pass to Alvin Harper, who beat rookie Tom Carter.
The Cowboys broke it wide-open in the third period. After being forced to punt on their first possession, the Cowboys moved 71 yards in eight plays, including a 35-yard burst by Smith to the Washington 9.
Coach Jimmy Johnson then pulled Smith and Lincoln Coleman got the TD. Neither Smith nor Aikman played in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 28-3, the Redskins had a Reggie Roby punt called back because new snapper Mike Raab was too quick to go downfield and Kevin Williams returned the second one 62 yards for their final score.
All that was left was for the Cowboys to celebrate and the Redskins to wonder what went wrong this year.
"I don't even want to discuss it," linebacker Carl Banks said.