Injured, Inconsistent Redskins Board Gannon Ball Express The Former St. Joseph's Prep Star Hopes His Team Comes On Strong Against The Eagles.

Posted: November 25, 1993

As a starting quarterback under fire, he will take every offensive snap, hoping to prove that he can move his club through a sustained scoring drive that ends in a touchdown.

That description certainly fits the Eagles' Bubby Brister, but this week it also applies to Rich Gannon, the Philadelphian who will call offensive signals for the Redskins on Sunday when the stumbling clubs meet at RFK Stadium with nothing on the line save pride.

So horrendous has been the Eagles' six-game losing streak - lowlighted by an offense that has scored 46 points during that span - it is difficult to remember that the Eagles beat the Redskins, 34-31, in the third game of the season. That's when football was fun and the playoffs seemed no more than a logical possibility.

Ten weeks later, the rematch hardly promises to be as thrilling. Both clubs have suffered enormous erosion of front-line talent through injuries and mutually are paying the price for bad personnel moves, suspect game plans and controversial coaching decisions.

As a result, Gannon is the Redskins' third starting quarterback to face the Eagles in their last three meetings - Mark Rypien and Cary Conklin having preceded him. And Gannon, who once starred at St. Joseph's Prep and the University of Delaware, will have to perform behind an offensive line that should be sent to the Mayo Clinic.

Gannon's first start as a Redskin came last week in Anaheim, Calif., where Washington dropped an error-ridden, 10-6 matchup to the Rams. Coming back from a foot injury that had sidelined him for six weeks, Gannon completed 25 of 40 pass attempts for 172 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. With the loss, the Redskins' record fell to 2-8.

But, like the Eagles, the Redskins have yet to concede the rest of their schedule.

"I think the guys are still positive," Gannon said yesterday in a conference call. "Everyone's been working hard in practice. We're trying to get this thing turned around. We've been struggling and been inconsistent."

Gannon said those problems have been caused by the same sorry circumstance that have damaged the Eagles.

"Any time you shuffle people in and out, and you have new people on the field who haven't played as much and don't have the experience, you're going to experience inconsistency and some mistakes," Gannon said. "Basically, that just halts drives. We had a little bit of that last week. We had two short-yardage plays, and we missed on both of them. We missed a fourth and about a foot and a third by less than one. Both were on their side of the field, and those things really kill you."

Even so, Gannon confidently said the Redskins are only one or two plays away from turning in a winning performance.

"We felt we moved the ball pretty well and controlled the line of scrimmage against the Rams," Gannon said, "but, for whatever reason, when we got down in the red area (inside the opponent's 20-yard line), we settled for field goals. And we were a couple plays away from making some big things happen. That's kind of the way it's been all season, and it's real frustrating."

Indeed, it was a strange season for Gannon even before the season began, since he might have played for the Eagles in 1993, had circumstances been a little different.

While Gannon still was a member of the Vikings, the team that acquired ex- Eagle Jim McMahon during the free-agent signing period, Gannon visited Veterans Stadium shortly before the NFL draft.

The Eagles were interested in signing a backup quarterback for Randall Cunningham at that time, but the potential deal died when Gannon balked at taking a pay cut and when the Eagles front office realized it would have to trade players or draft choices to get him. The Eagles eventually signed Brister, and Gannon came to the Redskins in a late trade for draft choices.

"I don't know how close it came to happening, but I was certainly excited about the opportunity to come to Philadelphia, where I grew up and played high school football," Gannon said. "For whatever reason, the deal didn't go through. I think it probably was a combination of things, one them being the Vikings at that particular time were pretty stubborn and weren't really that flexible as far as negotiations were concerned. They wanted to wait through training camp to make sure they were comfortable with the situation they had at QB."

Gannon said he was excited about the opportunity to play again in Philadelphia, and that he and his teammates have been impervious to the tidal wave of criticism directed toward the team by media, fans and radio talk shows.

"To be honest with you, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to that, and I think that the one unique thing about this organization is that the guys don't really let outside influences affect how they feel about one another, or the organization and the team as a whole," Gannon said. "Everyone's been real positive . . . You can't let that be a distraction and do all you can to make yourself better."

This will be a rare nonplayoff season for the Skins, who were Super Bowl champions only 1 1/2 years ago. How difficult has that realization been?

"These guys have a lot of character," Gannon said. "I noticed that the minute I arrived. There's really no quit in them. This organization has been a winning organization for years, and these guys come to play each week. A lot of them are playing injured and are pretty beat up, but spirits have been good, we still get after it in practice and everything's been real positive. I mean, if you spent any time around the facility or the practice field, you wouldn't think this is a 2-and-8 football team."

One suspects the Skins may not look that way either against the Eagles.

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