Cigars are usually handed out in celebration. New babies, a promotion. When Sonny Jurgensen went searching for Jeff Hostetler at Redskin Park on Monday, he didn't know the handful of cigars he was delivering to the backup quarterback would be viewed a few hours later as a celebratory gesture.
But once Jurgensen found out that Hostetler would be finishing the season as Washington's starter in place of Gus Frerotte, who fractured his hip against the St. Louis Rams last week, the old quarterback grinned as if something good might be about to happen.
"There are no guarantees, but usually, when something like this happens, it generates a lot of new energy and excitement," said Jurgensen, the Redskins Hall of Famer and color man on the team's radio broadcasts. "But then, Jeff has to make the plays and the whole team has to go play. If they do, maybe we'll see RTC the 1990 history he made repeat itself."
In 1990, Hostetler came off the bench for the New York Giants, led them to back-to-back wins over the Phoenix Cardinals and New England Patriots and then took them to victory in Super Bowl XXV against the Buffalo Bills.
Seven years later, Hostetler, 36, is the owner of two Super Bowl rings and is again the starter against the Cardinals at Sun Devil Stadium today.
But this team is 6-6-1, and Hostetler has nothing to prove. But that doesn't mean he doesn't relish the opportunity to show he can still get the job done.
"I'm excited about the opportunity," said Hostetler, who, after six years with the Giants and the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, signed as a backup in Washington this season. "Guys are looking for an answer to what's going on and sometimes you can provide that spark -- sometimes you can't. I'm hoping this is a situation where I can come in and provide it."
Hostetler has always been an exceptional passer, with a career completion rate of 53.3 percent and a quarterback rating of 82.1.
With Pro Bowl running back Terry Allen out with a seriously sprained ankle and backup Stephen Davis stepping in, Hostetler (19-for-41 with three interceptions two weeks ago) will need his passing skill to revitalize an anemic air game and open some space for the ground attack.
"I'm going to try to turn around our passing game," he said. "I think the reps and practice during the week [are bringing] the passing game together. I'm getting to know the receivers. During training camp and practice I never threw with [Henry] Ellard or [Michael] Westbrook, not one route."
Hostetler said his expectations are high, but added that he also has to be realistic.
"I've got to find ways to get it done," he said. "I'll rely on my experience, overcome my own rustiness and if I have a chance to run, I'll run.
"But everyone's got to do his job. I'm just a cog in that. The big thing for me is just feeling comfortable and being prepared for the ball snap."
Pub Date: 12/07/97