In the Denver Broncos Week 3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, head coach Vic Fangio benched quarterback Jeff Driskel, inserting Brett Rypien for the team’s final offensive series. While Rypien wasn’t expected to lead an improbable comeback — Denver trailed 28-10 late in the fourth quarter — the 24-year-old signal-caller caffeinated what had been a lackadaisical offense.
Rypien looked vastly different from Driskel as he confidently diagnosed pre-snap defensive pressures, coverages, and moved the ball. After completing his first eight passes, Rypien was intercepted in the end zone and finished the game 8-of-9 for 53 yards.
On Tuesday, Fangio revealed that Rypien would get his first NFL start against the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football. Obviously, the Broncos coaching staff appreciated Rypien’s sense of urgency to mitigate the pass rush and various blitz packages.
Fangio echoed Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur when he praised Rypien for his execution and quickness in getting rid of the football.
“He played pretty good in there,” Fangio said this week. “We want to see if that can continue.”
As a second-year quarterback who went undrafted out of Boise State in 2019, Rypien has spent most of his time in Denver on the practice squad with a few activations between last year and this season. But Rypien has already earned a reputation for his preparation.
His last name comes with its own reputation in the NFL. So much so that Fangio mistakenly referred to Brett by his uncle’s first name, Mark, early in the week when announcing that he would start.
His uncle Mark, a 1986 sixth-round draft pick of Washington’s, is confident that his nephew’s penchant for preparation will serve him well in his debut start.
“I think for anyone that’s played the game or been in the league, that’s the ultimate goal, to be ready when your name is called,” Mark Rypien told the Broncos team site this week.
In Mark’s third year, Washington squared off against the then-Phoenix Cardinals, and he was forced into action as the reserve QB after starter Doug Williams was hospitalized. Although Washington lost to Phoenix 30-21, Rypien had an impressive debut, completing 26-of-41 passes for 303 yards, with three touchdowns, and one interception.
Aric DiLalla of the team site spoke to Rypien about his first NFL start in 1988.
“I had great numbers and did a lot of great things,” Rypien told DenverBroncos.com. “But what I was sick about was that in the end, we came out with a loss. I think that’s how you’re evaluated in this game. You’ve got to make plays but wins and losses and getting your team across the finish line is most important.”
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Mark would later emerge as the starting QB for Washington from 1989-1993. His leadership and accuracy with deep passes allowed him to develop into a two-time Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl XXVI MVP.
Mark later played for the Browns, Rams, Eagles, and Colts. Rypien’s NFL career lasted for 11 years as he played in 104 games and recorded 18,473 yards, 115 touchdowns and rushed the ball 127 times for 166 yards, with eight scores.
I can’t help but notice the parallel between Mark and Brett’s respective first career start. For both, the opportunity to start for the first time came in Week 4 on the road. Maybe Brett will embrace the same opportunity that his Uncle Mark did 32 years ago.
“I think for anyone that’s played the game or been in the league, that’s the ultimate goal, to be ready when your name is called,” Mark Rypien told the team site. “I think he’s always shown from the first day he arrived in Boise to the first day he arrived in Denver that he was going to do everything he could and whatever they asked him to. … He’s always shown that type of moxie. Why I’ve always been so proud of him is not necessarily the physical things that he does when he plays the game, but his preparation — whether it be protections, throwing hot routes or just being a guy that understands his role and what he needs to do.”
While Brett has been the forgotten man in the Broncos quarterback room, to the fans, he’ll be the ninth signal-caller to start for Denver since Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 World-Champion season. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound native of Spokane, WA, will face a Jets defense that is ranking 28th in scoring.
By no means, though, does the lousiness of the opponent ensure a Denver victory as the Broncos rank 30th in scoring offense and 29th in total offense and third-down conversions (34.2%). Brett can expect a healthy dose of blitz packages from Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
After all, the Broncos have surrendered 13 sacks this season which is tied for second-most in the NFL.
There are many storylines in the Broncos matchup against the Jets on Thursday night primetime. First, Jets head coach Adam Gase was a well-respected offensive coordinator for the Broncos and at one time was considered to be a head-coaching candidate following the John Fox era.
Second, both head coaches (Fangio and Gase) are being heavily criticized for the lack of success in the first quarter of the 2020 season. Gase is certainly on the proverbial hot seat, while Fangio’s continues to see a rise in temperature.
The Broncos and Jets are both winless at 0-3. The loser of this game is already being projected to be the leading candidate to land Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence next spring with the No. 1 overall draft pick.
But Week 4 is a long way off from next spring, and there is absolutely no reason why Brett can’t find success against the Jets in MetLife Stadium and have his own part in forestalling such a scenario.
“I’ll be sitting back and cheering Brett on and being one of his biggest fans,” Mark Rypien proudly said.