Get on the Bus, Gus

February 12, 2002
Get on the Bus, Gus
by Keith Weiland

As it appears more and more likely that the Houston Texans will select Fresno State quarterback David Carr with the team’s first-ever college draft pick, the attention at the quarterback position now turns to which free agent will be signed to keep his seat warm. The list of available quarterbacks, expected to grow as some will be cut for cap reasons, is at best under-whelming.

On the surface, Seattle’s Trent Dilfer appears to be the primary option. Dilfer owns a Super Bowl ring from his year with the Ravens, and he has a terrific record (15-1) as a starter over the past two seasons since taking over for Tony Banks in 2000 and Matt Hasselbeck in 2001. On top of that, he is a friend and mentor to Carr as a fellow Fresno State alum. Dilfer would be a terrific coup for the Texans if Casserly were able to sign him.

Unfortunately, Dilfer is not looking for what the Texans have to offer. He will want a multi-year contract for big bucks from a team that views him as a long-term solution to their starting quarterback needs. And he’s earned the opportunity, at the very least. Friendship or no friendship with Carr, Dilfer will not be a Texan this fall.

Outside of Dilfer then, the best free agent quarterback that remains may be Gus Frerotte.

Remember ol’ Gus? Sure you do. You at least remember his one shining moment, that celebratory head-butt he did against a cement wall at FedEx Field almost five years ago as a Washington Redskin. Though much has been made of his momentary lapse in judgment, he’s probably better depicted as the guy who laughed off all the criticism when he went back to Washington as a member of the Detroit Lions. Frerotte dislocated his left pinky on his first play from scrimmage in that same game, shoved it back into place during a timeout, then returned to the field. Though his overmatched Lions were blown out, Frerotte finished the game with decent numbers. More importantly, he proved himself to be a gamer.

Better still, others may recall that Frerotte was a seventh round pick of Texans GM Charley Casserly in the 1994 draft. Frerotte wasn’t the first quarterback Casserly selected in that year. It was the same draft where Casserly took his notorious bust, Heath Shuler, with the third overall pick. Frerotte and Shuler fought over the Redskins starting quarterback position for a couple years until then-Head Coach Norv Turner surprised many and named Frerotte the starter. The Redskins would eventually deal Shuler to the Saints while Frerotte would eventually make it to the Pro Bowl.

Frerotte, at 6′ 3″ and 225 pounds, will turn 31 years old before the 2002 season kicks off. He played well in his reserve role last year for the Denver Broncos. On the season, he completed 30 of 48 passes for 308 yards and had a 3/0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Though his playing time was limited, he did post an impressive 101.7 QB rating. Going back a few years to his first season as a starter in 1996, Frerotte held the second lowest interception percentage in the league (2.3%) and threw for over 3,400 yards.

The Broncos don’t expect to resign Frerotte. On Sunday, the team resigned the untested Todd Husak to compete with Steve Beuerlein and Jarious Jackson for backup responsibilities. This opens up Frerotte’s services to the team that either (1) makes the highest offer, or (2) offers him the best shot at a starting job. Houston could fit both his needs.

Resembling Dilfer, Frerotte knows his limitations as a quarterback and plays within himself. He rarely makes the mistakes that put his team in tough positions. He’s the type of player that does just enough of what it takes to win. It may not be pretty, but football is not a pretty game.

Aside from his head-butting headache, Frerotte does carry some injury baggage with him. He finished the 2001 season on injured reserve following a third-degree shoulder separation. Frerotte underwent surgery last month to repair the damage. Fellow teammate Brian Griese needed four months to recover from a similar operation a year ago, so Frerotte’s shoulder will have plenty of time to heal before training camp begins this summer.

The familiarity Frerotte has with the man making Houston’s personnel decisions may play a huge role in Frerotte pulling on a deep steel blue #12 jersey this fall. Casserly may feel more comfortable in offering a known commodity a two-year deal than in taking a chance with another unfamiliar veteran quarterback. The question Casserly needs to answer is whether Frerotte is the guy he wants hanging around his prized rookie as Carr learns the ropes…

…or, might he be worried that Frerotte jinxes yet another one of his first round quarterbacks?

Keith Weiland has a 15-1 record as an Advance Scout writer. Patriot fans have yet to let him forget that one article where he labeled their Super Bowl team as “sorry” in mid-October. Like Gus Frerotte, Keith is a gamer and laughs off the criticism.