After muttering an expletive, Gus had Annie sell the tickets for face value, and they returned to their hotel room to watch the second half on TV. "I thought about writing a letter to [NFL commissioner] Paul Tagliabue, but I never did," Frerotte says.
That story will be often retold if and when Frerotte leads Washington to a Super Bowl. In the meantime several other Redskins have tales worth telling. For starters there are the two ageless wonders, Ellard and Green, who have a combined 28 seasons' worth of experience to offer this youthful team. Ellard, who caught five passes for 119 yards on Sunday and is third in the NFL with a 20.1-yards-per-catch average, is among the most anonymous big-play receivers in league history. A former Los Angeles Rams star who is in his third season with Washington, Ellard ranks sixth on the NFL career reception list, with 747 catches, and is fifth in receiving yards, with 12,646. Yet, as he says, "if you take 20 people and ask them who the top-10 receivers are, I don't think my name would even come up." In recent years he has compensated for a loss of speed by running meticulous patterns, most of which, he says, "I can run with my eyes closed."
If Ellard has lost a step, it's possible Green has stolen it. With three minutes to go in the first half on Sunday, Green looked ready to win a fourth NFL Fastest Man title. With the Redskins leading 21-0, having held the Giants to three first downs, Green got his 43rd career interception when New York wideout Thomas Lewis bobbled quarterback Dave Brown's pass. Green snatched the ball and raced so rapidly down the right sideline that the Giants appeared to be chasing him in slow motion.
How long can Green, 36, keep it up? "That's like saying, 'Do you know how long you're going to live?' " he says. "I really don't know." In a notebook he keeps for studying game plans, Green this year inscribed the message, "Play every play like it's my last play. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy."
Washington's first three trips to the end zone were completed by halfback Terry Allen, who has twice recovered from career-threatening injuries—a torn anterior cruciate ligament in each knee—to become one of the NFL's best runners and its leader in touchdowns this season, with 10. Allen rushed for 1,031 yards with the Minnesota Vikings in 1994, only to be waived after refusing to take a pay cut. He is yet another low-key Redskin who thrives outside the limelight. "That way," he says, "I can sneak up on people."
Perhaps Washington is lulling opponents into submission with its lack of bravado. Outside linebacker Ken Harvey, one of the league's best pass rushers, has written a children's book. Defensive tackle Sean Gilbert, acquired in a predraft trade with the St. Louis Rams last April for the sixth overall pick, has been Mr. Milquetoast since becoming a born-again Christian two years ago. "Before that," Gilbert told The Washington Post last spring, "I had a master's degree in cussing, a bachelor's degree in deceiving and a Ph.D. in psychology, playing mind games. I was doing wicked things."
The biggest reason things are hunky-dory in Washington is Turner, whose players remained faithful to him, though he lost 22 of his first 28 games with the Redskins. "We probably lost more close games in a 1½-year period than any team ever," Turner says. "We knew the problems were correctable." Liquid Paper was never this good: Dating back to a victory at Dallas last December, the Skins are 9-2. Their only defeat this season was a 17-14 loss to the Eagles in the opener.
"The spirit of the kingdom emanates from the king," backup tight end Scott Galbraith said in the giddy locker room on Sunday. "Norv has created an environment of unselfishness and maximum effort, and we love him because he cares. He's not like a Bill Belichick or a Bill Parcells—some czar, ruler or dictator. He takes a back seat and allows personalities to shine."
On Sunday that meant letting the post-game revelry proceed unabated. "This team is growing up so quickly," Turner said. He sounded sentimental, perhaps even a little sad.