Straws in hand, Dilfer could hurt the camel this Sunday

October 02, 2007 | Drew Forrester

If ever there was a weekend the Ravens DON’T want Trent Dilfer to beat them, it has to be this Sunday in San Francisco.

Fresh off of losing to the NFL’s equivalent of AAA Norfolk, the Ravens are still smarting from that defeat in Cleveland and now must regroup and face a guy with a bigger axe than Paul Bunyan.  Only Paris Hilton can grind it more than Trent Dilfer.  And it’s only going to get worse as the week goes on.

Dilfer, of course, was the Ravens QB of record back in 2000 when the team rose from the depths of a red zone funk (sound familiar?) to buzz through the league over the last two months and win the Super Bowl with ease.  Trent, as everyone knows, merely kept the offense on its feet long enough for Ray Lewis and Company to take over, which they did throughout the post-season.  And on the one occasion when Dilfer’s experience was necessary, he merely dumped a 5-yard pass to Shannon Sharpe in Oakland and Sharpe raced nearly the length of the field for a game-changing TD in the AFC Championship game.

(Edit:  Earlier today on The Comcast Morning Show, in a heated exchange with a listener who won’t let the Dilfer departure go, I reacted (over-reacted) to a statement that Dilfer was a “great quarterback” by saying he was a “turd”.  Upon reflection, I’d like it noted that I was wrong for labeling him as such.  Just like any golfer who wins ONE major championship is NOT a turd (Jeff Sluman, Corey Pavin, Fred Couples — three names that come to mind), neither can a quarterback who plays in the Super Bowl for the winning team be a “turd”.  I later said Dilfer was a “journeyman” and I feel much more comfortable with that description of his career and abilities.  Now back to your regular programming.)

This week, Dilfer will no doubt cry a river about how wronged he was back in ’01 when the team jettisoned him in favor of Elvis Grbac (now there was a turd).  We’ve heard this whole song and dance before.  Dilfer never got a call from Billick.  He would have led the Ravens to another Super Bowl in ’01 – “guaranteed”, he told us last year at the Super Bowl in Miami.  The players all wanted him back.  And so on, and so on and so on.  It’s like seeing “Rocky 3” all over again.  Every time I watch, Clubber Lang beats Rocky to a pulp the first time around, then Rocky somehow gets the better of him about 90 minutes later.  It never changes.  Neither does Dilfer’s whiny trip down memory lane.

Trent Dilfer has had numerous opportunties to beat the Ravens since his dismissal seven seasons ago.  He has stopped off in Seattle, Cleveland and San Francisco since leaving Baltimore and, at every stop, he’s never been able to wrestle the starting job away from anyone and, in The Bay City, they’ve handed the reins over to Alex Smith despite the fact he has very little experience (when compared to Dilfer) at taking his team to the promised land.  I give you that review of Dilfer’s career to remind him (and maybe you) that if Ozzie Newsome and Brian Billick made such a bad decision in letting him go after the Super Bowl, why is that no other team in the league has ever seen fit to give him their starting job, clarte blanche?  Think about some of the miscreants who have made a ton of money in the league as #1 QB’s during the height of Dilfer’s career — Aaron Brooks, Tim Couch, Jake Plummer, Jon Kitna, Brian Griese, Jeff Blake…the list goes on from there.

The debate about whether or not the Ravens were right or wrong for letting Dilfer go will NEVER be settled.  Ever.

Dilfer hasn’t established himself as a starter in the league since then, but the Ravens haven’t advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2001 either.  They were right to move him on, it seems, given the fact he’s been a glorified car washer for the better part of the 2000’s.  And the Ravens haven’t done any better WITHOUT him, for sure.

The debate will NEVER get old, because that’s the kind of city we live in.  Much of what we focus on here in Baltimore is “the past” for some reason.  And that’s one of the reasons why Trent’s constant harping about the whole mess is more aggravating with each passing year.  Rather than help us forget about it all and move on – something we’re not too good at in Baltimore (see:  The Colts) – Dilfer insists on digging up old skeletons at every opportunity.  He had a right to be upset in ’01.  The key word in that sentence? — “HAD”.

So, while the debate will never get old, hearing Dilfer piss and moan about it is already old.

And please don’t take my disdain for listening to Trent’s broken record as an indication that I don’t realize how valuable he was to the Ravens in 2000.  If that team was a puzzle, Dilfer was the missing piece that your Aunt Betty found under the couch and made the whole thing complete.  As Ozzie often says in the off-season when pursuing free agents – “right player, right price” – well, Dilfer was “right player, right time”. At that point in the 2000 season, with the rest of the league absolutely terrified of Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper, Pete Boulware, Tony Siragusa, etc., all the Ravens needed was a quarterback who could put HIS ego in check, let the defense win the game, and celebrate with a championship ring and a legacy in Baltimore.  Enter Trent Dilfer.  “Right player, right time.”  He WAS the winning quarterback in the Super Bowl and that can never be taken away from him.  Then again, so was Doug Williams and he was nothing more than a journeyman.  Other Super Bowl winning QB’s included Jeff Hostetler and Brad Johnson – and both of those guys were/are, at best, decent quarterbacks who were also the “right player” at “the right time”.

And that brings us to this weekend out west.

Ravens fans all over town now have TWO scapegoats firmly centered in their crosshairs:  Brian Billick and Steve McNair.  You remember Billick, he’s the guy who is responsible for everything BAD that happens with HIS team.  And you most certainly remember McNair.  Two years ago when Kyle Boller was disliked about as much as Jimmy Irsay, the city nearly held a parade for McNair when Ozzie Newsome pulled the trigger on a trade with the Titans to bring McNair to Purple-Town.  Now, after a season and a quarter, McNair’s a bum and Boller is somehow in everyone’s good graces.  Only in Baltimore.

You’ve heard the old saying…”that was the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Trent Dilfer can do some serious damage to that camel’s back this weekend if he can somehow orchestrate a victory for his 49’ers over Billick, McNair and the Ravens.  How ironic would it be if it were Dilfer who started to apply the finishing blow to this already-young season that many around town are ready to give up on?  It’s not week #16 and there’s not a playoff berth on the line, but this is a game the Ravens fully expect to win, regardless of WHO is behind center for the 49’ers.  It just happens to be Trent Dilfer, filling in for the injured Alex Smith.

He’s never been able to prove to Ozzie and Brian that they were wrong for letting him go.  He’s said it a lot and he’ll say it a lot again this week, but he’s never exorcised those demons ON THE FIELD, which is all that really matters.

And make no mistake about it, if sometime shortly after 7:00 pm this Sunday the 49’ers come out on top, Billick and McNair will both face the brunt of the Monday morning cat-calls.  Billick, for sure, will do something to draw everyone’s ire (the Ravens could win 27-0 and I’d get at least one call blaming Billick for the final score not being 34-0) and McNair needs to go 25-29 for 315 and 3 TD’s or he’s in for more bashing on Monday as well.

If Trent Dilfer beats the Ravens on Sunday, it won’t be 49’ers 20-Ravens 17.

It will be:  Dilfer 20 – Billick 17

In a weird kind of way, I’d almost sacrifice a loss if we could all get a guarantee from Dilfer that this will be the final time he brings up the 2001 dismissal.  I’m so sick of hearing him blather on I’d let him win this game – just this once – if he’d just pipe down about the whole thing.  But, with the Ravens at 2-2, I can’t make that sacrifice.  Baltimore desperately needs a victory.

So, let’s root like hell for a Ravens win in San Francisco.

Maybe THAT will shut up Dilfer, the Billick-McNair Bashing Lodge and, at least temporarily, get everyone in Baltimore back on track.