When Mark Rypien was injured in the third game of the Washington Redskins' 1990 season, the feeling around Redskin Park was that Stan Humphries would step in and eventually eclipse him as a quarterback because he was a better natural athlete.
That's the way it eventually worked out. It just took four years to happen.
Humphries, now with the San Diego Chargers, will bring a 4-0 record into his duel with Joe Montana of the Kansas City Chiefs today while Rypien is sitting behind -- of all people -- Vinny Testaverde in Cleveland.
How the two players got to their present posts, though, is a saga nobody could have imagined in 1990.
But in the Joe Gibbs era, there was no slack for young quarterbacks. They were expected to win. In the next game against Detroit Lions, he was yanked when he fell behind 35-14, and Jeff Rutledge rallied the team to a 41-38 victory.
Gibbs decided to start Rutledge the next Monday night in Philadelphia. In what became known as the "body bag" game, the Eagles knocked Rutledge out. Humphries came on in relief and was knocked out for the season with a knee injury.
Humphries' Redskins career was effectively over. Rypien came back and took the Redskins to the playoffs that year and to the Super Bowl the next year.
Humphries, meanwhile, irritated Gibbs because he didn't stay at Redskin Park to work out in the off-season.
"A lot of the veteran guys were married with kids and lived there. I wanted to go back home [to Louisiana]. Maybe I didn't work out as hard as I should have. . . . It wore on a couple of the coaches. They didn't like that," Humphries said.
During training camp in 1992 when John Friesz (now the backup in Washington) was injured, general manager Bobby Beathard, who had drafted Humphries, traded for him.
With Rypien coming off a Super Bowl year, the Redskins seemed set at quarterback.
No one expected that Gibbs would leave after the 1992 season, that Rypien would get hurt last year and a new coach (Norv Turner) would come in and go with a rookie quarterback (Heath Shuler). Rypien, facing a pay cut, left for Cleveland.
The result is that while Shuler is struggling with on-the-job training, Humphries is leading an unbeaten team in San Diego and Gibbs will be interviewing him today on the NBC pre-game show.
It's strange how it all worked out and how close Humphries came to oblivion.
"Another year or so with the Redskins, I might have been washed away out of the league," Humphries said.
Instead, he's battling Montana with a perfect record on the line.
St. Louis is expected to put its best foot forward in a meeting with Los Angeles Rams executive vice president John Shaw this week.
St. Louis is expected to give Shaw everything he asked for on his wish list, including paying off $30 million in bonds on Anaheim Stadium. But the city is still scrambling to sell its 100 luxury boxes at its new domed stadium. It's at about 86 and hopes to have a sellout before meeting with Shaw.
St. Louis' strongest pitch may be the low-key demeanor of Wal-Mart heir Stan Kroenke, the city's money man. Unlike Orioles owner Peter Angelos, he's making no public statements and isn't asking Shaw to make a decision by any particular time. Shaw likes the low-profile approach.
Kroenke's also not expected to demand majority control of the team by any specified date the way Angelos is. Owner Georgia Frontiere wants to maintain a majority interest indefinitely.
Angelos said he's not making any ultimatums, but the Rams may view it that way.
Salary cap wars
Gene Upshaw, head of the NFL Players Association, is still having problems convincing the players that the salary cap is a good idea.
He met with the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but failed to mollify them.
After the meeting, players complained about the graphs he showed them to defend the salary cap.
"Guys want some answers, and we're not getting answers. We're getting graphs," linebacker William Thomas said.
Offensive lineman Broderick Thompson, who took a $200,000 pay cut, said: "We had questions they can't answer. It [meeting] was a total waste of time."
Thompson said many of the players are "hostile, very hostile."
Upshaw had a different version. "I don't think this group was angry at all," he said. "What they were was misinformed."
The Eagles, though, were even talking about trying to replace Up shaw with New York Jets defensive back Ronnie Lott when he retires.
Meanwhile, commissioner Paul Tagliabue was gloating to The New York Times that his sport has an agreement while baseball and hockey have work stoppages.
He said his sport has "pragmatic thinking" that persuaded the owners to trade free agency for a salary cap.
"That kind of pragmatic thinking seems to be lacking in other sports," Tagliabue said.
It remains to be seen how much pragmatic thinking the NFL has when this deal expires in the year 2000. The players in the other sports had the advantage of seeing the effect the salary cap had on the NFL.
Coaches often complain that officials cost them their jobs with bad calls.
Ted Marchibroda could have saved his with a bad call last week.
The Colts won the game, 17-15, so he needs only one more victory. But he needed a bit of help from the officials to do it.
The Seahawks blocked a field goal, but the officials gave the ball to the Colts when Ronald Humphrey recovered and advanced the ball six yards. But a player on the kicking team can get possession only if he recovers behind the line of scrimmage. Humphrey grabbed it a on the Colts 36, almost four yards past the line of scrimmage at the 31 1/2 . It should have been Seattle's ball.
"The tapes showed the officials were wrong," Seattle coach Tom Flores said. The NFL gave no explanation for how the officials got confused.
The Colts then drove for a field goal that made the difference.
Linebacker Brian Cox of the Miami Dolphins was the center of a controversy in Buffalo last year when he taunted the team's fans before the game and then made an obscene gesture to them before the game after he said they yelled racial slurs at him.
Cox said early in the week that he would handle things differently this year and concentrate on playing well.
"I'm going to have class and go about my business," he said.
But on a radio show simulcast in Buffalo Thursday night, he called several of the Bills players "jerks."
Jim Kelly of the Bills said he didn't want to respond. "Bryan Cox is better when he's going crazy. . . . I don't want to get him any more pumped up," he said.
Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys, who is recovering from a pulled hamstring muscle, may not be at his best today at the Arizona Cardinals. But coach Buddy Ryan said he won't get 100 yards regardless of what shape he's in.
Ryan's teams haven't allowed a back to get 100 yards since Gerald Riggs of the Washington Redskins got 221 in 1989 against the Philadelphia Eagles. That's 51 games and two teams ago.
"Nobody runs on us," Ryan said.
What about Riggs' 221?
"I don't remember anyone ever running like that against us," Ryan said.