Redskins QB so appealing, he makes you want to hop on Gus bus

October 31, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

WASHINGTON -- He's not Tracy Ham, but who is?

Three reasons why Baltimore should love Gus Frerotte:

1. He embarrassed the Colts in his NFL debut.

2. He's making the Redskins look stupid for drafting Heath Shuler.

3. He's making the NFL look stupid for drafting 196 players in front of him.

Did we mention that his brother lives in Baltimore?

Why, he's practically family, hon!

Of course, the moment Frerotte starts pulling out games such as yesterday's is the moment he

becomes just another hated Redskin.

The scary part is, he's already close to that point, two starts into his NFL career, Golly Gee Gus, fresh out of Tulsa.

The Redskins love Frerotte even after yesterday's 31-29 loss to Philadelphia, in which he completed only 13 of 30 passes, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.

His rookie mistakes led to 14 Eagles points, including a 55-yard interception return by safety Greg Jackson that proved the game's turning point early in the third quarter.

Still, Frerotte maintained his poise after blowing a 17-7 halftime lead, and nearly pulled off an upset in a wild game that featured three lead changes in the fourth quarter.

Those weren't the hapless Colts he was facing; those were the hellacious Eagles. Yet, Redskins running back Brian Mitchell said Frerotte was as composed as any quarterback he has played with -- including Mark Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.

"He had his first adversity to overcome, and he responded well," said Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, a Redskins radio announcer.

"He made mistakes today he won't make again. He's a quick learner. He will continue to grow. Obviously, he has a future in this league."

Which is too funny, considering the Redskins expended the No. 3 pick in the draft and $19.25 million on Shuler, who was sidelined for the second straight game with a sprained ankle.

The party line is that if both quarterbacks develop, the Redskins could trade one to an expansion team such as Charlotte for high draft picks. But that wasn't exactly Plan A, was it?

Redskins coach Norv Turner said Frerotte will start next week against San Francisco. A bye week follows, and it's conceivable Shuler could return after that.

Conceivable, but doubtful, now that Frerotte Fever is gripping the nation's capital, home to the biggest front-running fans in sports.

Turner: "The good certainly outweighs the bad. He'll compete, he'll stand in there, he can see the field -- and the ball goes where he wants it to go most of the time."

Quarterbacks coach Cam Cameron: "He's showing us he's got good vision. That is an excellent defense. They do a better job disguising their coverage before the snap than anyone we face."

Eagles defensive end Greg Townsend: "I saw from the beginning that he was going to stay in the pocket. He wasn't going to get happy feet like other rookies. He's got a lot of poise."

The Redskins had their share of luck, getting a 54-yard field goal that bounced off the crossbar, a gift interference call at the goal line and two missed field-goal attempts by the Eagles' Eddie Murray, who entered the game 9-for-9.

And, to be sure, Frerotte had his own good fortune -- the Redskins, ranked 27th in rushing offense, ran for a season-high 168 yards against the Eagles defense, ranked third in the NFL.

That created openings downfield, but Frerotte still had to make plays. He threw for three touchdowns and finished with 181 yards passing -- 16 more than his heralded Eagles counterpart, Randall Cunningham.

His completion percentage would have been better, but the Redskins dropped at least six passes, including three straight after falling behind 21-20 early in the fourth quarter.

Frerotte was so accurate on a 60-yard bomb to Tydus Winans in the first quarter, the crowd of 53,530 gave him a rousing ovation even though the pass was incomplete.

His own assessment?

"Fair," Frerotte said. "I learned a lot today. The two interceptions were mistakes, mistakes I can learn from, mistakes that should never happen again."

After each mistake, Frerotte said he knew immediately what he had done wrong -- on the first interception, he should have thrown the ball away; on the second, under a blitz, he needed to get it farther outside, away from Jackson.

Frerotte also said he was too hesitant on a failed two-point conversion attempt after the Redskins pulled within 28-26 -- both his receivers were covered, and his belated scramble for the goal line fell short.

Finally, he said he needs work on his clock management -- the Redskins burned their three first-half timeouts in the opening 19 minutes, and were again out of timeouts after Murray kicked his game-winning field goal with 19 seconds left.

These things come in time. Cameron, the quarterbacks coach, said Frerotte, is "a guy who doesn't repeat mistakes." Indeed, he's smarter than Shuler, which is probably the reason he's more advanced at this stage.

The kid from Ford Cliff, Pa., took the podium yesterday wearing a white turtleneck shirt, a simple blue sweater and blue jeans.

"I'm disappointed in myself," Gus Frerotte said.

He's Baltimore humble.

Too bad he's a Redskin.

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