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Heath Shuler: Rushed in, phased out
Redskins took QB 3rd in ‘94, but he was far from a good fit
The Shuler experiment may have been doomed from the start.
For one, Turner’s offense was built more for a more traditional quarterback in the sense that he liked to drop back and throw the ball. Shuler was not. The former high school high-jumper knew he wasn’t a pocket passer like Troy Aikman.
“You get in the game and they say, ‘All those things that you did in college, forget that. We may have drafted you because of your abilities in college but kind of forget that now,’ ” Shuler said.
“If you draft a guy at that high of a pick and he doesn’t fit your system, then you’re the fool, not him,” Mitchell said.
While Frerotte developed into a Pro Bowl quarterback by 1996, Shuler was dogged by injuries, notably a second-degree shoulder separation and a sprained ankle. After that season, the Redskins had to choose which quarterback to pay as their starter. They went with Frerotte.
“Part of what hurt Shuler was the injuries. And Frerotte playing well,” Casserly said. “So you’re not going to bench the guy who’s playing well. And the other guy because of the injuries has not really got a fair opportunity.”
Dealt to the New Orleans Saints for a third- and a fifth-round pick, Shuler dislocated toes on his left foot and never recovered. Even though it ended quickly, Shuler called his time with the Redskins “the single greatest learning experience” of his life.
Casserly said injuries shouldn’t be glossed over in explaining why Shuler’s football career lasted less time than his tenure as a congressman, which will end in January. But even before that, it wasn’t on the right track.
“I think there would be some things that I would do differently, but I’d rather not talk about them,” Casserly said.
“I wasn’t the partier, I spent every waking minute on the offense, I worked out, I didn’t miss workouts, I did everything I was ever asked to do,” he said. “Sometimes I felt like I spent too much time because I wanted it so bad that I didn’t take a break from football.”
The Redskins badly wanted Shuler to be the team’s next franchise quarterback, or at least join Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien in the exclusive club of Super Bowl winners. Instead, the clock ran out on Shuler before he had the chance to prove his worth.
“He was a guy who was going to need some time to develop, and as things happened, he didn’t get the time to develop,” Casserly said. “So I don’t think we ever knew what he was going to be.”
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