Dilfer left in purple haze

QB's job with Ravens goes up in smoke with acquisition of Grbac

March 08, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

For one exhilarating moment, the Ravens' Trent Dilfer had the dream quarterbacking job of his life. In the next moment, he had no job at all.

When the Ravens agreed to terms on a five-year contract with Elvis Grbac this week, Dilfer went down in history as the first quarterback to win the Super Bowl and lose his job before the next season.

The only other Super Bowl-winning quarterback who did not return to his team the next season was the Denver Broncos' John Elway, who retired after consecutive world championships in 1997 and '98.

In a span of six months, Dilfer went from the bench to the Super Bowl to the unemployment line.

Despite that roller-coaster ride, and the fact that he dangled in limbo for a month before learning his fate Tuesday, his agent said yesterday that Dilfer was at peace with his predicament.

"In spite of what may have been coming out of the Ravens' organization, Trent has known he hasn't been in their plans since mid-February," said Mike Sullivan, director of football for the Octagon sports agency in Walnut Creek, Calif.

"Therefore, he's very comfortable with moving on to another opportunity. He'll always think of his season with the Ravens as one of the greatest experiences of his life. Trent was proud to be part of the special bond that developed among players on the team, and will never think of this as anything but a positive experience."

Dilfer, who turns 29 next Tuesday, became an unrestricted free agent March 2 in a free-agent class that featured Grbac and Brad Johnson. In an attempt to upgrade the position, the Ravens negotiated with Grbac and Johnson.

Dilfer was their fallback position. It was a position they never assumed.

"He is like me, an unrestricted free agent who doesn't have a team yet," said linebacker Cornell Brown. "That's just the way it is. It's business as usual in the NFL.

"Actually with Trent, the process has worked in reverse. He was in a better situation a year ago when he didn't win anything. Now he has won a Super Bowl and doesn't have a job."

While Dilfer may be at peace with his situation, his agent remains rankled by the absence of a phone call from Ravens coach Brian Billick. Sullivan said Billick attempted to call Dilfer on Tuesday night for the first time since the team's postseason evaluation of players began in early February, but he was unable to reach him.

"It's disappointing that Coach Billick would not be willing to personally contact Trent to express privately what the whole world knew - before the whole world knew it," said Sullivan.

Billick was out of town yesterday and unavailable to comment. Dilfer also was unavailable.

Two weeks ago, before free agency began, Billick maintained that the Ravens were unable to ascertain the market value of any of the potential free-agent quarterbacks. He invited a proposal - or a phone call - from Sullivan to start negotiations.

Without knowing Dilfer's status on the team, however, Sullivan declined to submit the proposal.

There is little in Super Bowl history to match this scenario, although free agency has only existed since 1993.

The last time a quarterback started the season as a backup and won the Super Bowl was after the 1990 season. Jeff Hostetler, who replaced an injured Phil Simms in the regular season, quarterbacked the New York Giants to a 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV.

Hostetler won a training camp competition with Simms the next season, but he lost his job to injury later in the year.

In the 1987 season, the Washington Redskins' Doug Williams was MVP of Super Bowl XXII, a 42-10 victory over the Broncos. He made 10 starts the following year before emergency appendicitis sidelined him, then lost his job to Mark Rypien in 1989 on a coaching decision by Joe Gibbs.

"Coaches make decisions, and you have to live with them," said Williams, now the head coach at Grambling. "When you make a decision as a coach, you make them based on what's best for the team.

"I'm sure the decision to sign Grbac was made because they thought it was best for the team. That's what it's all about. It's bigger than individuals. It's not a sympathy thing. You can't get caught up emotionally, or you'll get [beat].

"It ain't John Elway they replaced. They didn't replace Joe Montana or Troy Aikman. I can see it being very unusual if it was one of those guys."

Williams voiced a common perception of Dilfer, who went 11-1 as the Ravens' starter after replacing Tony Banks at midseason, but struggled at times with his accuracy.

"We all have to be realistic in this day and time," Williams said. "I like Trent. It's good he won a Super Bowl. He got something a lot of quarterbacks don't have. [But] if you were to ask anybody across the league, they would probably say the Ravens won in spite of Trent."

Williams agreed with several of Dilfer's teammates that this was simply the business side of the game.

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