Obscure Athletes

Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End

The Lions’ QB Saga: Gus Frerotte

Frerotte getting smacked around in his only playoff appearance for Detroit

I remember Gus Frerotte as the quarterback who 1) seemed to always be brought in when a team was down by about a zillion points in the fourth quarter, and 2) once slammed his helmetted head against a concrete wall on Sunday Night Football, straining his neck in the midst of celebrating a touchdown run. And with Charlie Batch injured for the Lions in 1999, Detroit called upon none other than the great Gus Frerotte to lead them in the playoffs against the Redskins–the very team that drafted him five seasons earlier. They lost, 27-13 and Frerotte completed just 21 of 47 passes, throwing two interceptions and posting a passer rating of just 52.0.

Frerotte’s the pride of the University of Tulsa, where he holds several major passing records. Surprisingly Tulsa’s not exactly pumping out NFL quarterbacks, so most of his records still stand. As a second-year quarterback for Washington, Frerotte became the starter. It was the Redskins for whom Gus would have his greatest success, and in 1997, made his first and only trip to the Pro Bowl.

Frerotte would see spot-starting action in 2000 with the Broncos, and made another starting appearance in 2005

Gus in Prime Time, presumably before he bashed his head into a wall.

when he beat out obscure athletes AJ Feeley and Jay Fiedler for the starting job in Miami. 2008 saw Gus Frerotte once again in the starting role, this time in Minnesota, where he led the Vikes to an 8-3 record in 11 games before suffering a back injury and losing his starting job. After being cut by the Vikings a year later, Frerotte retired. His 74.2 career passer rating is right on par with how mediocre you’d imagine it would be, and it nicely compliments his 114 touchdowns to 106 interceptions.

I was surprised to find that Frerotte only started six games for the Lions, all during that ’99 campaign.  Maybe a Charlie Batch-led Lions team would have won a game or two in the playoffs. But I doubt it. Interestingly enough, the Lions haven’t been to the playoffs since. Perhaps it’s that Gus Frerotte was the key to their magical 8-8 playoff run in 1999. Or maybe he’s just another stop on the wonderfully, beautifully mediocre carousel of Lions starting quarterbacks.


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