Eric Hipple, the Detroit Lions' new starting quarterback, doesn't know it, but he has a one-man fan club at Redskin Park.
"I loved every minute of what he did against Chicago Monday night," said Tom Flick, the Redskins' rookie backup quarterback. "I was really rooting for him. I think Fran Tarkenton (who was doing commentary on the game for ABC-TV) is from the old school that says a quarterback has to sit for two or three years. And I don't know if Tarkenton could handle what Hipple did."
Hipple threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns in his first NFL start, even though this is just his second year in the league.
"I just believe it's a fallacy that it takes a long time to be able to play quarterback in the pros," Flick said. "I'm not saying I can step in right now and know everything. I'm still learning. But you just don't have to sit three years before suddenly you are ready. What's happened is that a lot of quarterbacks got their chance after waiting a long period, so everyone assumes that's the way to go about it. You can be ready a lot quicker."
Whether Flick will get a chance to prove his theory is another question.
Although there was a flicker of quarterback controversy three weeks ago when Flick relieved Joe Theismann in the second half against San Francisco, it ended as soon as Coach Joe Gibbs said Theismann would continue to be his starter.
Gibbs says he won't hesitate to pull Theismann from any game, but for now the veteran is entrenched and the rookie is going through the sometimes frustrating learning, and sitting, process that comes with being a backup.
At age 32 and with his contract expiring after this season, Theismann's future in Washington is uncertain. But Gibbs does not want to rush Flick into situations he isn't able to handle, that could so confuse him that he would be incapable of stepping in should Theismann depart.
Flick is confident that he could replace an injured Theismann now and read the complex NFL defenses. If he could, it would be a remarkable achievement, considering not only his inexperience but his lack of playing time during practices.
Since the 49er game, Flick now runs perhaps four or five plays with the first unit every day. Otherwise, Theismann receives all the practice snaps. Flick must try to keep sharp throwing after workouts.
"It's awful hard to get more than one quarterback a lot of work," said Gibbs, who has been trying to find a way to give Flick more time. "We tried to increase his practice snaps to cut down on any problems with his cadence. But the starter has to work with the receivers and the line and go over tendencies and the rest.
"So there is no way Tom can be as sharp as you'd like him. It's a test for him. He has to keep on edge through his work in meetings and watching film. So far, he's been alert and he's learning all the time."
But is he really ready to take over for Theismann?
"He certainly doesn't know as much today as he will next year," Gibbs said. "But I feel this stuff about a quarterback needing so many years is a bit overblown. It just takes an unusual guy, someone like (Miami's) David Woodley, to step in quickly, but it can be done."
Flick has waited before. It took him 3 1/2 years (including one season he was redshirted) to become the starter at the University of Washington, although he visited the coaching offices almost daily to ask why he wasn't being used more. He hasn't done that with the Redskins.
"I knew my situation here when I was drafted," said Flick, chosen in the fourth round. "Nothing has happened differently than I thought. Really, life in pro football is a joy. I'm done with school, I don't have to study, all I have to do is concentrate on football.
"The waiting can be tough. But I try to lock myself into every practice and every game. You find yourself just watching and not really absorbing and you have to snap out of it. I try to look at it as if I was going to play on Sunday. That's what keeps me working hard."
Gibbs says Flick has done nothing in training camp or since the regular season began to alter the team's thinking about his future.
"Tom's a very intelligent guy, he's strong and he's got lots of poise" the coach said. "And he's a very accurate thrower. I think he has exhibited leadership, but he really hasn't had a chance to show much in that area. Most of all, he's a competitor. That's what you look for in a quarterback. Will he get right up after a sack and throw a strike? Players respond to that."
For Flick to compete, however, Theismann would have to play himself out of the job. Otherwise, Flick will have to wait until next training camp before he realistically can challenge.
"I've reached a state where I'm very comfortable here," Flick said. "I deliberately have set no immediate goals for myself. I don't want to get frustrated like I did in college. I'm enjoying life in the pros too much to get uptight."
The Redskins put defensive back Cris Crissy on waivers to make room for newly acquired linebacker Charlie Weaver. Crissy was re-signed just Tuesday after being waived last week . . . The team practiced in heavy rain yesterday . . . Fullback Wilbur Jackson will miss his fourth game because of a sore knee.