By Ronald Guy
Mark Rypien was another shooting star across the Redskins’ horizon (but my, my, he was bright while he burned). Rypien was a sixth-round pick in the 1986 NFL Draft, and after creating some buzz over rumored progress and spending two seasons on injured reserve (something the ‘Skins used to famously manipulate to stash budding talent), he made his debut during the 1988 season.
With his gap-toothed smile, unassuming awe shucks demeanor, genuine decency and complete lack of athleticism (think slightly worse than Tom Brady in the open field), Rypien seemed better qualified for the role of drinking buddy than that of NFL quarterback. However, when given time to stumble back through a five- or seven-step drop, plant his foot and cock his cannon arm — something The Hogs obliged more often than not — few were better at firing balls deep into the opposing secondary than Rypien.
After putting up solid numbers in ’88-’90, Rypien exploded in ’91 throwing for nearly 3,600 yards and 28 touchdowns — exceptional statistics for the period — and led a loaded ‘Skins team to a 14-2 record. Had that team not been so dominant, Rypien’s numbers could have been completely obnoxious. Rypien and The Posse — wide receivers Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders — were unstoppable, and by the fourth quarter they were often in handoff mode.
Rypien’s big arm, an offensive juggernaut and an underrated defense landed the ‘Skins in Super Bowl XXVI with little resistance. After defeating the Buffalo Bills — the NFL’s leader in consolation prizes — 37-24, Washington had its third Lombardi trophy and Rypien, the game’s MVP, was headed south to trade his helmet for mouse ears.