Owl: The Legendary Veteran Backup

Our feathered friend looks at the situation at quarterback, as Trent Dilfer seeks escape velocity from Cleveland. Is there such a thing as a happy veteran backup quarterback? If so, where do you find one? What sort of care and feeding does it need? These questions, and more, are pondered by The Owl...

After enduring one year of Jeff Garcia and now hearing stories of how Trent Dilfer is unhappy (not for the first time), I have come to the conclusion veteran quarterbacks willing to tutor a young passer to take his job are like unicorns; they're mythical creatures.

Gary Danielson, signed by the Browns in 1985 for the purpose of bringing Bernie Kosar into the NFL, was the exception, but even Danielson wanted to play. Fans with long memories can probably recall an epic battle against the Giants in New York. Danielson was injured, but played. He led the Browns to the Giants 9 and then his shoulder gave out. Kosar took over and handed off to Earnest Byner. Byner scored and the first player off the sideline to greet Kosar and Byner was Danielson. He couldn't even raise his arm because doing so was too painful.

There is nothing wrong with a quarterback wanting to start, by the way. Throughout their careers at every level, the quarterback was in the spotlight. To willingly step back into the shadows must be nearly impossible.

Reportedly, Dilfer's unhappiness this time is with offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon. History shows Dilfer did not like the way he was treated in Baltimore, either. He asked to be traded from Seattle because he wanted the chance to start - that's legitimate - but during his first stop long, long ago in Tampa Bay he had a less than harmonious relationship with the Buccaneers.

General Manager Phil Savage was embarrassed during the draft when Lions president Matt Millen let everybody know the Browns were snooping around about Joey Harrington. Millen was trying to squeeze more out of the Dolphins who offered a token 2007 draft choice for Harrington, but like everything else Millen does, the ploy did not work. All it did was create an awkward situation for the Browns.

But if Savage is seeking another quarterback it means he is not counting on Dilfer returning in 2006 as a happy man. The Browns won't trade Dilfer until they have another quarterback, of course, but this has the potential of being very ugly if Dilfer is here and he pouts.

Let's face it - Dilfer is not a great quarterback. Not even a good one. Yes, he won a Super Bowl in Baltimore. Brian Billick was made out to be a fool when he did not re-sign Dilfer, but watching Dilfer live for 11 games it is evident it wasn't John Elway or Joe Montana that Billick let go.

Dilfer thinks he is a starter. He was angry last year when Romeo Crennel used Charlie Frye against the Dolphins when the Browns were winning. Dilfer did not like being pulled in the Minnesota game.

If we believe Frye, Dilfer has not let his dissatisfaction sour the relationship between the two quarterbacks. The Browns need a veteran because Frye is not ready to go it alone yet. He hasn't even proven beyond doubt he is the starter.

This is a precarious situation. Everything has gone well this offseason in free agency, and outsiders are praising the draft. A quarterback situation - controversy is not the right word - can bring all that down.

A happy Dilfer would be best. Harrington won't be content on the bench and neither will Kerry Collins. Marques Tuiasosoppo is another name that has come up in trade talks, but no one has ever mentioned his name and mentor in the same breath.

The Browns won't get a lot for Dilfer in a trade, though his salary of $1 million is certainly club friendly. The bigger issue is getting a replacement if it comes to that. The Browns hope it won't, but Crennel and Savage should know for sure what Dilfer is thinking before they stop making phone calls to learn what other quarterbacks are available.


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