I get a tremendous sense of deja vu from the strange quarterback
situation in Washington, which will crystallize on Monday night
when Trent Green goes against the 49ers in his first NFL start.
Four years ago Heath Shuler was the Redskins' golden boy, the
third player picked in the draft, a can't-miss prospect from
Tennessee. Gus Frerotte was an underrated seventh-round
selection from Tulsa; the problem was, he was better. Two years
later the coaches got the picture. With the starting job came a
lucrative contract for Frerotte, but last season things started
to go sour. Who was there to back up Frerotte? Jeff Hostetler,
who quarterbacked the Greeks against the Trojans and has as many
dents in his armor as Achilles? Trent Green? Oh, yes, he's the
guy who had bounced around on the fringes of unemployment since
1993, the backup to the backup.
On Sunday, with Hostetler injured and unavailable and with
Frerotte's world collapsing around him, Green became a living,
breathing NFL signal-caller, leading a spirited comeback against
the Giants. He was the Frerotte of two years ago. Frerotte has
become vintage Shuler, and Green, operating behind a line that
gave up eight sacks to the Giants, must try to tame the Niners
with the world watching.
As one-sided as the Trent Green-Steve Young matchup seems, I
like the Redskins over the Niners. The Glenn Foley-Steve Young
duel seemed just as overloaded on Sunday when the Jets took the
Niners into overtime, but when all was said and done, the kid
from New York had 415 passing yards and almost had a win. I
think Green will put it to San Francisco with the same boldness.
Add to that the fact that the Niners are hurting in the
secondary (they ended the Jets game with only two healthy
cornerbacks), and you've got the ingredients for...for what?
Well, we'll see, won't we?
The Giants sacked Redskins quarterbacks eight times. The Raiders
gave up 10 to the Chiefs. Now the Raiders play host to the
Giants, and I'm sure Oakland quarterback Jeff George can't wait.
Has this guy ever had a decent line? I know it's fashionable to
knock him, but I saw him take terrible beatings in Indianapolis
behind some of the worst lines ever assembled.
Then George came to Oakland and hit the canvas 58 times last
year, the most in the league. Hang in, kid. Jon Gruden will go
to a short-passing attack, which means a quick drop and the old
zip-zap before the pass rushers can get to you. Except for those
10 times on Sunday.
The Chiefs like to use exotic blitz and rush schemes. The Giants
are power rushers, bringing heavy pressure from their front
four. They don't have anyone with the speed of Kansas City
linebacker Derrick Thomas, who simply killed the Raiders. Yes,
I'm picking the Giants, but not just because I think they'll get
to George. The whole Oakland operation looked cockamamie against
K.C. I mean, what was the point of calling last-minute timeouts
and sending George out to absorb still more lumps after the
issue was decided?
Am I disenchanted with my Super Bowl picks, Jacksonville and
Tampa Bay, after last weekend's action? Well, yes and no. Yes
for the Buccaneers, no for the Jaguars. Why were the Bucs giving
Vikings wideout Randy Moss so much room to operate when the book
said to get in his face and play him tough? Where was the
short-yardage offense? And the pass rush? And Warren Sapp? Well,
I think Tampa Bay will bounce back against the Packers and play
well, but not well enough to win at Lambeau. Stay patient. The
Bucs will sort things out. It's a long season.
Jacksonville came up with the blahs against a fired-up Bears
team and was still good enough to come out on top. To me, that's
the mark of a serious team, winning games it should lose,
especially on the road. Now the Jaguars host K.C. in my favorite
game on the board. The Chiefs' defense is scary, their offense
is dreary. Jacksonville has a big, sturdy offensive line that
won't be intimidated by a fancy assortment of pass rushes. Its
defense is good enough to clamp down on a Chiefs attack that
still relies on muscle and always will, as long as Marty
Schottenheimer is coaching. Jaguars to beat the Chiefs.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO NEXT Having dispensed with Frerotte, Michael Strahan (92) and the Giants can turn their attention to George. [Gus Frerotte, Michael Strahan and other football players in game]