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Thursday, March 16, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Kirk Cousins passed Gus Frerotte this past season on the Washington Redskins all-time passing list in a number of categories — yardage, completions and touchdowns among them.


Frerotte noticed — and was impressed.


AUDIO: Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte with Thom Loverro


He wonders why his old team, the Redskins, weren’t equally impressed.
“The thing I don’t understand is … how many records did he break this year for the Redskins?” Frerotte asked, illustrating the point of Cousins’ success as Redskins quarterback.

Put Gus Frerotte in the pay Kirk Cousins camp.

“I look at his career and he’s got some good players around him but he’s done that without some of the absolute top talent in the league,” Frerotte told me in our conversation on my “Cigars & Curveballs” podcast.

“He has performed and has done an extremely good job for that team and that coach. I just don’t understand how you can say he’s not a franchise quarterback. If you’re willing to franchise tag him two years in a row and give him that much money, why wouldn’t you have signed him to a long term deal?”

Frerotte also said he wouldn’t be surprised if Cousins wound up traded to San Francisco to play for Kyle Shanahan — who Frerotte has known since he was a high school kid in Denver when Frerotte played for his father Mike. “That trade wouldn’t surprise me,” he said.

What does surprise Frerotte, though, is that Mike Shanahan — the coach Frerotte played for from 2000 to 2001 — isn’t still running the show in Washington.

“I follow the Redskins,” said Frerotte, who played in Washington from 1994 through 1998. “I’ve watched the sagas unfold over the years. It’s pretty interesting. From coach (Jim) Zorn — he coached me in Detroit (quarterback coach 1999) — to RG 3 to Kirk, I follow the saga.

“I am surprised it didn’t work out for Mike there,” he said. “I really enjoyed playing for coach Shanahan. I assumed it would be the perfect place for him because he was such a well known figure and D.C. would be a perfect place for him. I don’t know all the ins and outs. It looks like he and the owner didn’t get along in the end. But coach Shanahan is a great coach and a great guy.”

Frerotte was one of the great longshot stories in the NFL. A largely unknown seventh-round pick out of the University of Tulsa in 1994 — the same year the Redskins drafted the highly-touted Heath Shuler out of Tennessee with their first pick — Frerotte wound up the starter in Washington before the end of the season.

The next time Washington would draft two quarterbacks in the same draft was 2012 — Robert Griffin III with the first pick and Cousins with the fourth.

Frerotte started 46 games for the Redskins from 1994 to 1998, completing 744of 1,422 passes for 9,769 yards and 48 touchdown passes, with one Pro Bowl appearance in 1997. He played 15 seasons in the league for seven teams — the Minnesota Vikings twice — and threw 114 touchdown passes.

For a seventh-rounderout of Tulsa, that’s winning the lottery.

While Shuler held out before signing his contract and reporting to camp in the summer of 1994, Frerotte worked and won over his teammates and eventually head coach Norv Turner.

“Heath had that big long holdout, and I think that was the start of not a great relationship for him,” Frerotte said. “Throughout the offseason, preseason, we were able to throw and throw and throw, not like today with the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) where these kids don’t really get a chance to go out and show themselves, so I was able to practice the routes.”

Frerotte made the right connections in training camp. “All the linemen took me out the second day of camp,” he said. “We went to some local spot they liked to visit in Carlisle. Then they all got up to leave and said, ‘Pay the tab, rook.’ I didn’t have any money. Somehow I had enough to pay the tab. I remember being a little late for the meetings the next morning. Coach Turner said, ‘Where were you?’ and the linemen said, ‘He was with us.’ It was all good after that. Those guys liked me for some reason, and ever since then I became friends with the linemen on every team I ever played for. They not only protect you on the field, but they protect you off the field.”

But it was a defensive player — Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green – who perhaps helped Frerotte the most. “One of the greatest gifts I was ever given came from Darrell Green,” he said. “When you’re on the scout team and they draw the cards up to throw certain routes, and the defensive coaches want you to throw at a certain guy because they called a certain defense. I was doing that, throwing into terrible coverages, not really reading it.

“Darrell pulled me aside early and said, ‘Gus, why are you doing that?’ I said, ‘I am here to help you guys and do what the coaches ask me to do.’ He said, ‘Look, you are here to help yourself. You’re here to make yourself better. Don’t worry about what they say. Try to beat us, because when you try to beat us you make us better. I want you to go out and play like it is a real game every snap you get.’ From that point on that is what I did the rest of the season and I think it really was able to get the coaches to focus on what I could do. I really appreciate it from Darrell and I’ll never forget it.”

What Redskins fans, though, will likely never forget about Gus Frerotte is the Nov. 23, 1997, Sunday night game against the New York Giants in the opening season of Jack Kent Cooke Stadium — the forgettable, unforgettable 7-7 overtime tie where Frerotte, celebrating a touchdown, rammed his head into the stadium wall, spraining his neck and sending him to the hospital after half time.

“If you didn’t have a sense of humor, I don’t think you could survive it,” Frerotte said. “I don’t think I go anywhere without someone talking about it or asking about it. They try to be nice, but some people want to be mean and other people just want to know what happened. I don’t have a problem talking about it. It happened to me, it was part of my life. I wasn’t in a car drunk driving. It was part of the game. It was an emotional time for me. I really just wanted to jump off the wall and it ended up being something I didn’t want it to be. You know, it is what it is. It happened. I’ve been able to move on from it but I can still talk about it because it was part of my life. It didn’t define me and it still doesn’t define me. If I didn’t laugh about it, I wouldn’t have been able to go on and play another 10 years after that.”

He would be released by the Redskins in March 1999 and then signed as a free agent with the Lions, but Frerotte said he would have preferred to play his entire career in Washington — wall head banging and all.

“I wanted to be a Redskin my whole life,” said Frerotte, 45, who is now working with a company called RC21X — named after Roberto Clemente — out of Pittsburgh that has developed an app called “Roberto” to monitor brain health and wellness.

“That was the team that drafted me. Obviously, what we just talked about didn’t help me. I would have loved to stay in Washington. I loved the town, I loved the fans. The last thing I wanted to do was move my family out of the place and leave all the friends I created in five years. But life goes on, and you’ve got to roll with the punches sometimes. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. But you just move on in life.”

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.


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