Vikings veteran Frerotte getting job done

By Dave Campbell

Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Gus Frerotte is the first to acknowledge his biggest flaw as a quarterback: The limited mobility he once had is now nearly nonexistent at age 37.

Frerotte’s accuracy this season has been well below average, too, a 57.6 completion percentage that currently ranks 26th in the NFL. He’s thrown the same amount of interceptions, eight, as touchdowns, and the 50-50 ratio can never be construed as good.

The most important numbers, though, are these: Minnesota’s 4-2 record since he took over as the starter for Tarvaris Jackson.


"I think he’s getting a lot more comfortable in our offense, a lot more comfortable with the plays that are called," said wide receiver Bobby Wade. "I think he’s doing a lot more before the game that allows us to give ourselves the best chance to win."

Namely an increasing influence on the gameplan.

"He’s not afraid to speak up and say, ’Hey, I like this. I’m not comfortable with that,’ " Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "We usually milk some plays out of him and make him put pen to paper as we start the week, too."

Coach loosens up

In 2006, Childress’s first season, Brad Johnson was the veteran quarterback. He complained, though subtly and diplomatically, that his input on the offense wasn’t thoroughly considered and thus his strengths weren’t fully maximized.

Over time, Childress has loosened up a little. While his style would still fall on the rigid side of the spectrum, his looking to Frerotte for ideas is a noteworthy development.

"You build equity in that regard," Childress said.

According to the coach, Frerotte showed the staff a couple of strategic concepts during last week’s video preparation that were apparently insightful enough to take into Sunday’s game against Houston.


Childress said lobbying to change the gameplan is usually about as successful for players as children trying to skip their asparagus. "You’re going to eat it anyway," Childress said.

Frerotte, however, has been convincing enough to make his voice count.

"With the time he’s spending on it and looking at it and pulling it apart, as we’re always doing, it’s better than, ’Well, it seems to me you ought to ..."’ Childress said, trailing off. "He gives you an informed opinion."

Though he spent two seasons with the Vikings, in 2003 and 2004, Frerotte was clear upon arrival that learning these coaches and teammates would take time no matter how savvy a guy gets in 15 years in the league.

"We are all getting more comfortable as we go," Frerotte said after the 28-21 victory over the Texans in which he threw three touchdown passes and had one interception. "It’s been a learning process."

Finding a rhythm

Frerotte has begun to find a rhythm with his receivers over the last month, in particular wide receiver Bernard Berrian and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. They have four scores apiece, all in the last six games since Frerotte stepped in.

He has helped instill a confidence in them that the ball will keep coming their way, even if they didn’t catch it the last time. Shiancoe has displayed surer hands than before, and Berrian has backed up several bobbles with a growing list of long gains.


One skill that remains sharp for Frerotte is his arm strength. He’s been easy to bring down, sacked 16 times for a total loss of 94 yards, but he can still zip the ball downfield with the best of them.

Though this offense remains far from the NFL’s elite, the play-calling, third-down conversions and run-pass balance have certainly been better in the second quarter of the season than the first. As a result the Vikings (4-4) have slowly become less predictable to the opposition. The deep balls to Berrian helped open up the field for running back Adrian Peterson down the stretch on Sunday.

When defenses are stacking the line to stop Peterson, it’s imperative that the passing attack be on target — and have some length.

"We’re going to try and push the ball downfield," Frerotte said. "Sometimes we’re going to get sacked. Sometimes we’re going to have incompletions, but when they bring all of those guys in like we said, ’We’ve just got to throw it."’

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