Gus Frerotte has been in and out of hot water for 11 weeks, living on the edge of another quarterback controversy in Washington last week.
But the inconsistent fourth-year quarterback has remained virtually silent amid the criticism in the hopes of leading the Washington Redskins to the playoffs.
Norv Turner has stood by Frerotte as his starter even though popular, 14-year veteran Jeff Hostetler is eagerly waiting.
Turner believes Frerotte will get the job done if his teammates start performing up to expectations, but time is running out on the 6-5 Redskins.
What was once a long, 16-game season has basically come bTC down to two critical NFC East clashes with the surprising, first-place New York Giants (7-4).
The first Redskins-Giants showdown will come tonight at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium at 8 o'clock before a national television audience on ESPN.
It will be a perfect setting for Frerotte to snuff out the boos often heard at his home stadium and show the doubters that he can lead Washington to a victory with so much at stake.
"If I have anything to do with it, the offense will play well," said Frerotte, who is listed as probable with a strained throwing shoulder suffered in practice Friday. "This is a must win. We have to play like this is the final game of the year. We need a win, big time." The Redskins will have to do it without Leslie Shepherd, their most consistent wide receiver. Shepherd is out for the season with a dislocated left elbow and broken left wrist, both suffered during last week's 17-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Shepherd also is known for his post-game, locker-room explosions when the team doesn't play up to expectations and the ball isn't thrown to him much.
"Shep has a real competitiveness in him and is the kind of guy who lets it all hang out in the locker room," Frerotte said. "He doesn't care what he says in the locker room."
Now Frerotte will have to turn to wide receivers Michael Westbrook and Henry Ellard in tough situations.
Westbrook was shut out last week, but Ellard caught four passes (64 yards, one touchdown).
While the Washington offense continues to sputter, the Redskins' defense played well enough to win last week.
As usual, veteran cornerback Darrell Green has been outstanding for the Redskins, but he isn't ready to give any salutes to his teammates in any areas.
"We don't have any edges over the Giants and we don't even have the luxury of thinking about edges," Green said. "We have to play the Giants like they are the greatest team around."
N.Y. GIANTS ( 7-4) at Washington (6-5)
Time: 8 p.m., ESPN, Ch. 7.
Line: Redskins by 5 1/2 .
Vs. spread: Giants 5-5; Redskins 7-4.
Last week: Giants beat Cardinals, 19-10. Redskins lost to Cowboys, 17-14.
Worth watching: With WR Leslie Shepherd out for the season, the Redskins will need a big game from Henry Ellard. The Giants are looking for another efficient game from QB Danny Kanell.
Outlook: This is the first of two Washington-New York games that will go a long way toward deciding playoff berths in the NFC East. The Redskins are 4-1 at home and will try to give the ball to RB Terry Allen early and often.
Notable: No Giants quarterback has thrown for 300 yards since Phil Simms did it in November 1993, a span of 64 games.
GIANTS: Out: C Derek Engler (ankle); C Brian Williams (eye). Doubtful: RB Rodney Hampton (knee); LB Corey Miller (ankle).
REDSKINS: Out: WR Alvin Harper (Achilles'); DT Ryan Kuehl (ankle); WR Leslie Shepherd (elbow-wrist-injured reserve). Questionable: RB Larry Bowie (ankle); DE Jamal Duff (ankle); DE Kelvin Kinney (leg). Probable: DT Marc Boutte (knee); QB Gus Frerotte (shoulder); CB Darrell Green (toe); P Matt Turk (thigh); C Jeff Uhlenhake (knee).
Pub Date: 11/23/97