Dilfer returns to Baltimore

October 16, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) - It's been four years since the Baltimore Ravens dumped Trent Dilfer, and they still haven't found an adequate replacement for the quarterback who led them to victory in the 2001 Super Bowl.

The six players that have manned the position since Dilfer's ill-fated dismissal have produced exactly one postseason victory. From Elvis Grbac to Jeff Blake to Kyle Boller, no one has directed the Baltimore offense as effectively as Dilfer did during the magical 2000 season.

Things haven't gone perfectly for Dilfer, either. But the gritty quarterback appears to have revived his career with the Cleveland Browns, and today he will attempt to thrust his former team deeper into the cellar of the AFC North.

"They are all big weeks," Dilfer said, "but this one obviously has a little something extra."

The Ravens signed Dilfer as a backup before the 2000 season, then made him the starter after the offense stumbled under Tony Banks. Dilfer lost his first game before guiding the Ravens to 11 straight victories, including a 34-7 rout of the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.


A few months later, he was gone. The Ravens did not offer Dilfer a contract for 2001 and instead signed Grbac, a Pro Bowl quarterback who was perceived to have a better arm and was more accurate on the short tosses.

"We went through a very specific and collective process," Ravens coach Brian Billick recalled this week as he prepared Baltimore (1-3) for Dilfer and the Browns (2-2).

Dilfer still hasn't come to terms with the snub.

"It was a shock to me, and no one ever called me. The only one who called was Matt Cavanaugh," Dilfer said, referring to the Ravens' former offensive coordinator.

"It's never been explained to me, and I've never quite been able to figure it out," he added. "I think the greatest disappointment was not getting to go back and be with those guys I had grown so fond of and had developed a bond with, and go through the challenge of trying to repeat."

Dilfer latched on with Seattle, where he made only 12 starts in four years. This season, he's completed 67 percent of his passes in helping Cleveland get off to a surprisingly good start.

"I think Trent has played pretty well overall," Browns first-year coach Romeo Crennel said. "There were a couple times when we wanted him to be more consistent, but I think he's done a nice job of leading this team, doing the things that we need him to do."

Dilfer returned to Baltimore in 2003 as a backup with Seattle. Now he's a starter, which means his emotions should be running high. But Crennel isn't worried about Dilfer making Sunday's game a personal mission of revenge.

"He's a professional," Crennel said. "I know he's human, and sometimes you need to put a word in his ear. And if I need to put a word in his ear, it'll be on the sidelines. I expect him to do his job to the best of his ability."

Before the game, and perhaps afterward, the Ravens will share a handshake and a hug with the guy who helped them earn a Super Bowl ring.

"You could tell he was a veteran. I was a rookie back then," Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis said. "You could tell he had been in the league for a while, just by his leadership in the huddle. He just drove us and pushed us to do better as an offense."

It's impossible to determine how Dilfer and the Ravens would have fared if Baltimore hadn't decided to turn to Grbac, who fared so poorly in 2001 that he retired after the season.

"You can't cry over spilled milk. You just have to let it go," said Dilfer, the first quarterback to win the Super Bowl and lose his job before the next season. "Those things just make you stronger as a person."

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