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Dilfer waits, searches for starting job at QB

The former Buc wants to dispel the notion the Ravens won last season solely on their defense.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001

BALTIMORE -- For all his glittering resume, Trent Dilfer can't find a job he wants.

He won the Super Bowl and was 11-1 as a starter last year, but the Ravens didn't want him back and other teams haven't shown much interest.

His plan is to wait until training camps begin in August for a chance to compete for a job as a starter and to dispel the notion he won with the Ravens solely because of the team's record-setting defense.

Six weeks after Dilfer led Baltimore to the championship, the Ravens thanked him for his workmanlike performance and turned over the offense to free agent Elvis Grbac, who ranked third in the league in passing yardage and fourth in touchdown passes with the Chiefs.

Although Grbac was impressive, the Chiefs finished 7-9 and third in the AFC West. Yet Grbac and his prolific right arm received a five-year, $30-million contract from the Ravens on March 8, and Dilfer was shown the door.

Grbac slammed it shut.

"It's time that a quarterback comes in here and provides leadership, a go-to guy, a vertical passing game," Grbac said upon signing. "This is a great team. I can make it better."

Dilfer handled his ouster from Baltimore in much the same fashion he treated his ouster from Tampa Bay after the 1999 season: with class. He attended the Ravens ring ceremony on June 9 and hugged almost everyone in sight.

"It's the great culmination of a wonderful year," he told reporters. "The ring will eventually rot away. I'm proud of it, but the relationships I've made with these guys are far greater than the ring."

The feeling is mutual.

"I'll remember Trent now and I'll remember him 20 years from now. We've been through a lot," Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister said. "While you don't develop a close, intimate relationship with everybody, you do develop a type of bond."

Dilfer doesn't play for the Ravens anymore, but this is what he does have: $25-million in career NFL earnings, a Super Bowl ring and fond memories of his compelling season of vindication and triumph.

That he does not yet have work is partly his choice.

Dilfer recently rejected contract offers from Green Bay and Indianapolis because he was not interested in being the dutiful backup to a franchise quarterback such as Brett Favre or Peyton Manning.

A year ago, Dilfer took a chance by signing a one-year contract with the Ravens to play behind Tony Banks, who had been handed the starting job and a four-year deal after a successful 1999 season.

Dilfer was on the sideline for the first seven weeks. Then, after taking over for an ineffective Banks in late October, he began a journey that took him to the pinnacle of his profession and then to the unemployment line.

After losing his first start, Dilfer guided Baltimore to 11 straight wins, a run that ended with a 34-7 rout of the Giants in the Super Bowl in Tampa, where he began his career in 1994.

He went from Tampa to Disney World, where so many Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks had gone before him. But Dilfer is unlike all the rest -- he is the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl and be deprived the chance to defend the title.

Dilfer wasn't spectacular, but he was efficient, and that was enough on a team that had one of the best defenses in history. His 76.6 quarterback rating in the regular season was mediocre, as were his Super Bowl numbers: 12-for-23, 153 yards, one touchdown.

Nonetheless, the Ravens won when he played.

"There's a huge amount of gratitude for Trent Dilfer," Baltimore coach Brian Billick said.

But Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, said he signed Grbac because Baltimore didn't want to rely on defense to win. Grbac, he said, would turn a cautious offense into the attacking, prolific unit that Billick envisioned when he took over in 1999.

Dilfer has chosen not to talk about his situation, said his agent, Michael Sullivan, who also refused to be quoted.

In this era of free agency, players come and go. Dilfer isn't the first player from a Super Bowl winner who was forced to move on; he just happens to be the first quarterback.

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