Brett Rypien received good news three weeks ago when he learned the Denver Broncos would be retaining him as a member of the practice squad.
A few weeks later, an injury to Broncos starting quarterback Drew Lock signaled another positive development for Rypien and his young NFL career. Denver immediately promoted the 24-year-old to its 53-man active roster, making Rypien the backup to Jeff Driskel for a Week 3 matchup against Tampa Bay.
When Driskel struggled to ignite the Broncos’ offense last Sunday at Mile High Stadium, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur didn’t waste much time making another change behind center, pulling Rypien off the bench to make his professional debut early in the fourth quarter.
And now this: The Spokane native and former Shadle Park High standout will make his first career start in the NFL when Denver visits the New York Jets Thursday night. Kickoff between the Broncos (0-3) and Jets (0-3) at MetLife Stadium is set for 5:20 p.m. Pacific and the game will air on NFL Networks.
“We’ve had a year and second training camp and a couple weeks with Brett there, and we just think he deserves a chance to see how he can do here as a starter, albeit with a short week of preparation and take a look at Brett that way,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio told reporters on a Zoom call Tuesday.
Rypien told reporters on a separate Zoom call he “had a good conversation with (Fangio)” on Monday, the same day he learned he’d get a starting nod against the Jets. The former Washington 3A Player of the Year will follow in the footsteps of his uncle Mark, the former Shadle Park and Washington State standout, who was the MVP of the 1990 Super Bowl for the Washington Redskins.
In his NFL debut, Rypien, with Denver trailing 28-10, completed eight consecutive passes and drove the Broncos to Tampa Bay’s 13-yard line before throwing a goal-line interception on fourth-and-1. The Buccanneers took over and ran out the clock to preserve an 18-point win.
“He executed well, he’s quick-minded, he gets the ball out quickly which I think is important, and he went in and did some good things,” Shurmur said. “… We’re looking forward to putting the plan together for him to go out and execute and try to put that effort on the field and get a win.”
The Broncos, one of six teams in the NFL holding a 0-3 record, are hoping to get out of a rut this week against New York, another member of the winless club. Rypien becomes the team’s third starting quarterback in as many weeks, but Fangio suggested the Broncos may insert the more mobile Driskel at certain points of Thursday’s game to give the offense a different wrinkle.
“No matter who we’re playing (at QB) right now, we definitely win, so that’s the main focus,” Rypien said. “The focus for me this week is to get better these next two days. We’re not going to be able to get a lot of reps, full speed, with the guys, but it’s the mental reps and making sure I’m dialed in on protections and different things like that.”
Rypien’s recognition and ability to process things at the line of scrimmage were largely what allowed him to have success on Sunday, not to mention at Boise State, where he became the Mountain West’s career leader in passing yards (13,581), completions (1,036) and 300-yard passing performances (21), and Shadle Park before that.
“That’s one of Brett’s strengths,” Fangio said. “He’s a smart quarterback, does a good job recognizing things, so obviously that’s something that’s always been in his favor.”
“He has a pretty good idea of what we want to get done, knows what he’s looking for, he knows when he sees it and he’s willing to pull the trigger,” Shurmur said.
Rypien holds Washington state records for career passing yards (13,044), career completions (1,006), single-season passing yards (4,552), single-season passing touchdowns (50), single-game passing yards (613) and single-game completions (44). Despite those marks and the ones he set at Boise State, which went 40-13 during his time as starter, Rypien went undrafted coming out of college and spent his rookie season on and off Denver’s practice squad, with a short stint on the active roster.
“I think for me it’s always kind of been about, get myself better,” Rypien said. “I do pay attention to the people that believe in me, but the people don’t believe in me, it is what it is. I can’t do anything about that. I just have to out there and prove people wrong and for me, I’ve been playing this position a long time.
“I played four years in high school and four years in college, so I’ve seen a lot of games, I’ve gotten a lot of reps, I’ve seen a lot of defenses. I think that’s probably my best quality is being able to see defenses, think fast and get the ball out.”
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