Put yourself in the general manager's shoes. You're up in the Squire's box mingling with the hoity-toity. You've just watched Mark Rypien go downfield to Art Monk, Rip's third completion in a row, each for a first down -- it's the best Rip's looked all game. You glance back upfield where the play started, and you see Rip limping badly. A knee. Uh-oh. You know Stan Humphries is going in, but what if he gets hurt? Who you gonna call? (There's a phone next to the Squire, but you shouldn't tie it up too long: Lesley Stahl might be waiting for the call from "60 Minutes" or Bialystock and Bloom's "Springtime For Hitler" revue might be trying to reach Pat Buchanan.)
Category: Backup Quarterbacks.
We'll all hum the Final Jeopardy theme while you flip through your little black book alphabetically.
Archer, David. Zero for two in 1988. No relation to Rudy.
Hart, Jim. Write in care of Leisure World.
Kenney, Bill. Retread. We're talking Goodyear.
Rubbert, Ed. Rubbert? Nope, doesn't ring a bell.
Robinson, Tony. No home phone. No work phone. Note: Calls go through his parole officer. May have trouble making all practices.
Theismann, Joe. Lists home phone, office phone, car phone, beeper, agent's phone, 24-hour pager. Available for all games before start of ESPN prime time schedule, except Oct. 14. Please convey warmest personal regards to L.T."
Williams, Douglas. Author and lecturer. Uhhhhh, no.
(You didn't really think they'd bring back Doug, did you? After that book? Do the words "over my dead body" mean anything to you? That stuff about wanting "someone who was in an NFL training camp this year" was an easy out. If Doug had been in a camp they'd have changed it to: "someone who was in an NFL camp, and never worked for Northeast Ford." They'd call a Kelly Girl rather than Doug. Me? I'd call Doug, because he's everything you'd want in a backup, but then I wouldn't have cut him in the first place.)
Luckily, you have quarterbacks already in the stadium. Unfortunately, the best of them, the redhead in the radio booth, is 56 years old.
Down on the Redskins' sideline, there's Jeff Rutledge. Whoops. IR.
Across the way on the Cowboys' sideline, there's Steve Walsh. He's supposed to be traded any minute now anyway, probably dying to finally play for a coach who doesn't stir-fry his hair. Maybe the Redskins can sweeten the deal. (Hmmm, the way Aikman's getting tossed around like a sack of feed, maybe he wants to be traded. What's the point of stockpiling 300 No. 1 picks if your quarterback gets killed before you sign them?)
Wait! Babe! Sure! He knows the offense, he knows the signals, he even knows how to get to the home clubhouse. You trade for him at halftime, he jogs across the field and switches uniforms; it's like old times, Babe on the sideline with a clipboard, waiting for the chance that never comes. Isn't Babe still under contract here anyway?
No, better than Babe, Russ Grimm! Grimm actually was the Redskins' third-string QB in 1986 -- one of the few NFL quarterbacks to make the Pro Bowl as an offensive guard. Grimm played quarterback in high school. The team had three offensive formations: jumbo, super jumbo and 747. Grimm was not what you'd call a finesse quarterback. On fourth and short, he didn't try to disguise the play. He'd call a sneak in the huddle, then come up to the line, and announce to the defense: "I'm running it. Which one of you fools wants to try to stop me?" The Redskins no longer list Grimm as the third QB; kick returner and former college QB Brian Mitchell has that honor. (True quote: After the game Sunday, Grimm was asked what plays he'd have called if he'd been pressed in at quarterback. "All runs. It's been four years. I've forgotten the pass routes.")
Humphries is exciting, isn't he? You can sense his sparkle. Going deep for six to Ricky Sanders on his first play, and almost getting it. . . . Never mind the holding call, if Humphries nails a touchdown that play, he's an instant legend. He's so big, George Michael would talk to him.
Washington hasn't had a mobile, innovative quarterback like Humphries since Joey T. No knock against Schroeder, Williams and Rypien, all fine quarterbacks, but they're large, strong, pocket guys, they can't dodge a stalled bus. Humphries will scoot around for you and roll the dice, like Warren Moon. For as long as it lasts, he's going to be fun. (And it wouldn't hurt if those expensive receivers held on to the ball. Anybody shopping for Christmas presents for the Posse might consider Elmer's glue -- no wonder they don't give interviews, they might drop the microphone.) The trouble is, this isn't a starter-friendly town for QBs. The only person more popular than the second-string quarterback is the third-stringer. He's the savior in the wings. If Gary Hogeboom announces for mayor this morning, Maurice Turner drops out in time for the noon news.
To show you how quickly the tide turns, I'm at RFK on Sunday, near two guys who start cheering as Humphries trots on, they're so disgusted with Rypien. But Humphries hangs his first pass up a trifle long, and the fat guy leaps to his feet, screaming how Humphries stinks.
"Get him outta here," he says, turning to his friend to ask, who's the new backup?
"Mitchell," the friend says.
"Bobby Mitchell? At his age?"
"Brian Mitchell," the friend says.
"Kick returner. He played quarterback in college, Southwest Louisiana."
Humphries completes his next two passes and has a first and goal on the 4, silencing Ralph and Ed. But he loses two yards running, has a pass batted down, then gets crushed by Bill Bates as he starts to throw. Up pops the fat guy again.
"Stan, you hump! Get outta here. We want. . . . " Turning to his friend in some embarrassment, he asks, "Who did you say was the backup?"
"Mitchell," whispers the thin one.
"Bring in Mitchell."