Heath Shuler: Rushed in, phased out

Redskins took QB 3rd in ‘94, but he was far from a good fit

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A new collective bargaining agreement made the terms more complicated. Shuler made it clear that even as he asked Casserly what needed to be done to get into camp, he didn’t blame the Redskins‘ front office for the timing. Second-round pick Tre Johnson signed late, too, and Casserly explained the league needed extra time to go over Shuler’s deal.

Shuler missed two weeks of training camp before signing an eight-year, $19.25 million contract that was the richest in franchise history and biggest rookie deal in NFL history.

Turner at the time said the holdout was a “short-term setback in what’s going to be a long-term relationship.” But by the time Shuler reported to camp, Frerotte had impressed and it took time to catch up.

“Basically what happens is, the coaches looked at me and said, ‘We don’t have time to play catch-up. We’re just going to have to go,’” Shuler said. “And it was a totally different offense from what I had been accustomed to, and I think that, to me, was the most difficult thing.”

Perhaps the most difficult thing was gaining respect within the locker room. Return specialist Brian Mitchell, who was in his fifth season with the Redskins when Shuler arrived, said it didn’t take long for he and his teammates to figure out this 22-year-old prospect wasn’t going to be the guy.

“After we started practicing we felt that he was just another guy,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t see him as that guy that deserves all that hype.”

Bring on the pressure

The 1994 Redskins didn’t win. Not under their September starter, veteran John Friesz, who went 1-3. Not under Frerotte (1-3) and certainly not under Shuler (1-7).

But Shuler got his chance before Frerotte, facing the Cowboys on Oct. 2 in his pro debut. Casserly called starting an unproven, unpolished rookie against Jimmy Johnson’s juggernaut “absolutely the worst situation” Shuler could be in.

“I felt that they threw him to the wolves too quick,” Mitchell said. “But that’s the NFL: They draft somebody high, they have to prove that they did the right thing and they’ll do everything they can to make sure that we believe what they did is right.”

The 34-7 loss portended more disappointment. Shuler didn’t win his first game with the Redskins until Christmas Eve.

“If you’re playing bad, then obviously the pressure completely increases,” said Shuler, who said the seven losses were more than he had in high school and college combined. “I think that’s kind of obviously what I felt going into it that the pressure actually built up when you started losing games.”

Shuler said he would have rather spent time being mentored by someone such as Rich Gannon, but that didn’t happen. He got into 11 games and showed little promise: 10 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 45.3 completion percentage.

“We just weren’t successful as a team,” Shuler said. “I wasn’t successful as a quarterback.”

Where it went wrong

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