- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

Michael and Gus, together again.
Who knew there was such nostalgia in Cincinnati for the Redskins offense of the mid-to-late '90s? Who would have guessed the Bengals wanted to reunite the Fearsome Twosome of Michael Westbrook and Gus Frerotte? (Certainly not Norv Turner, who tried, mostly in vain, to build an offense around them in those dark years.)
Reports in the local press of Westbrook's signing in Cincy overlooked this delicious detail that the team had added his old quarterback, Frerotte, just two months earlier. This is why the Bengals are the Bengals, why they haven't had a winning season since 1990. Because they think it might be a good idea to bring in a QB and receiver who, when they were in Washington, rarely seemed be reading the same playbook, never mind being on the same page.
Redskins fans certainly haven't forgotten the disconnect between the two, the sight all too frequent of the ball going one way and the wideout going the other. That is, if Gus managed to find Michael in his radar screen at all. That was probably their biggest problem, you may recall. With Westbrook always getting hurt or setting himself back with some behavioral faux pas, Frerotte had to turn to others (Henry Ellard, Jamie Asher) to keep the offense moving and never really developed any confidence in him.
No game spoke louder than the Monday Nighter against the Giants in '97. Most remember it as the game Gus head-butted the end zone wall, but it was also the game Michael caught nine passes, a career high at the time. And why did he catch nine passes? Well, having Jeff Hostetler instead of Frerotte as his quarterback that night might have had something to do with it.
When Westbrook finally did have a decent season, in '99, it was with Brad Johnson throwing the passes. (Gus had departed for Detroit.) And it wasn't really that great a year except maybe in Michael's mind. You know how many receivers have caught at least 65 balls for 1,191 yards and nine touchdowns in a season since he entered the league in '95? Twenty-three (counting tight end Tony Gonzalez). Heck, that very same year, one of Westbrook's teammates, Albert Connell, put up almost identical numbers (62, 1,132, 7).
But then, Michael never did get it. The offense's shortcomings were always somebody else's fault, never his. They just never got him the darn ball enough. This is explains why, over time, he alienated himself from every group imaginable players, coaches, fans, you name it. It also explains the laughter that rippled across Redskinsland when Westbrook told the Cincinnati Post, "Anywhere I go, I want to bring leadership to the team, and I think I can do that for this team."
Leadership? Oh, wait, I know what he means. This way to the whirlpool, boys!
The Redskins gave Westbrook seven years to develop into a dependable, No.1 receiver. Not a superstar, mind you, just a consistent, go-to guy. But he couldn't even manage that. He was a myth, a rumor, a fraud. He had exceptional speed, and yet how often did you see him run away from a defender? He had terrific size, but how often did you see him make a tough grab in traffic? (A crucial drop was more like it.)
But the gullible Bengals, it seems, are still mesmerized by Michael's speed and size. Or perhaps they've just tired of Darnay Scott the way the Redskins have tired of Westbrook. Here's the funny thing, though: Scott has had a much more productive career than Westbrook (six seasons with 50-plus receptions to Michael's two) and, believe it or not, they're the exact I mean exact same age. They both turn 30 Sunday.
If I were Mike Brown, I'd think twice about cutting Scott loose because of his high cap number (almost $4million) and try to find a way to hang onto both receivers. When you've got Westbrook penciled in as a starter, Mike, it's always wise to have a PlanB. Trust me on this one.
(How different the Turner era might have been if the Redskins had drafted perennial Pro Bowl guard Ruben Brown with the fourth pick in '94 he was the other player they were considering and taken a receiver such as Antonio Freeman in the third round. But you can drive yourself crazy playing the what-if game. I mean, what if God, instead of telling Sean Gilbert to hold out in '97, had told him to change his name to Melissa? Never thought of that, did ya?)
As for Frerotte, all he has to do is beat out Jon Kitna, and he and Westbrook will be a team again. It's enough to make you all misty-eyed. And just think: Connell is available, too.


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