- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 14, 2001

In many ways, this has been Gus Frerotte's longest autumn since he was redshirted as a Tulsa freshman in 1989.
He has played in only one of Denver's nine games, Nov. 5 at Oakland, completing four of six passes for 50 yards and a touchdown in mop-up duty after 26-year-old starting quarterback Brian Griese was pulled.
Frerotte admitted that not playing has been frustrating, but given the maturity that comes with being an eight-year veteran and a married father of three, he put a positive spin on his situation as he heads toward a fourth straight winter as a free agent.
"It's very hard to stand on the sidelines, but I'm looking at this as a learning year," Frerotte said. "I'm so much more confident in what I'm doing in this [West Coast] offense after being here two years. Knowing this offense and [the scheme I ran in Washington under coach Norv Turner], I'm even more prepared to be a starter again."
That won't happen in Denver, and it's unclear how many starting jobs will be available in the offseason other than that of the expansion Houston Texans whose general manager, Charley Casserly, picked Frerotte for the Redskins in the 1994 draft. In the meantime, the 30-year-old Frerotte best known for knocking himself woozy when he head-butted an end zone retaining wall with the Washington Redskins in 1997 has become something of a wise old head for the Broncos.
"The good thing about Gus is that he does his job, but I don't think he ever really accepts [being the backup]," said Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who spent nine years behind Denver legend John Elway. "Gus and Brian have always gotten along well. He has handled everything the right way. He keeps preparing, and he goes in the other night and goes right down the field. Gus is smart enough to know what type of future he has."
Frerotte believes and Kubiak agrees that he showed enough in Detroit in 1999 and Denver in 2000 to make himself a viable No. 1 quarterback again.
Frerotte started six games for the Lions in 1999, posting a 2-4 record. He hit 61 percent of his passes for 2,117 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. And Frerotte avenged his release by Washington by completing 21 of 32 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown to end the Lions' 16-game losing streak to the Redskins. Washington returned the favor by humbling Frerotte and Detroit in a wild-card playoff rematch.
Knowing the Lions were committed to Charlie Batch as their starter, Frerotte signed with Denver in 2000. The expected training camp battle with Griese never really happened, but Frerotte won four of his six starts and led Denver past San Francisco after Griese was hurt again on the opening series.
On Nov. 19 at San Diego, he rallied the Broncos to a 38-37 victory with three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter en route to setting or tying franchise records with 462 yards, 36 completions and five touchdowns. Frerotte completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,776 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions before he and the entire offense struggled in the wild-card playoff loss at eventual champion Baltimore.
"I think I've shown I can be a starter," said Frerotte, the Redskins' starter for most of 1995-1997 and a Pro Bowl replacement pick in 1996. "I had a very good game [132.3 passer rating] against a very tough New Orleans defense in their place last year. I've started two playoff games. Last year, I was playing without fully understanding the offense and Brian had taken most of the reps with our starting receivers, so I'm surprised I played as well as I did. It was a great experience for me."
Frerotte thought he would be Cincinnati's starter this year, but he and the Bengals couldn't agree on the structure of a four-year contract. The Bengals wanted a cut and dry deal. Frerotte wanted the option to be a free agent again if he didn't play much and Akili Smith, Cincinnati's top pick in the 1999 draft, won the job back.
When the Bengals opted for former Seattle starter Jon Kitna and no other No. 1 jobs were seemingly available, Frerotte chose to stay put and re-signed a one-year deal with Denver.
While he's not playing much, the hard-nosed Western Pennsylvania native is proud to be just one of three quarterbacks (along with Seattle's Trent Dilfer and Chicago's Jim Miller) still active from the 1994 draft.
"I've been through a lot of tough times and a lot of good times, but I've never stopped working," Frerotte said. "I still love competing and playing football."


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