Erickson puts starting job in
If there is a quarterback controversy, it is not in Trent Dilfer's mind. Regardless of who Bucs coach Sam Wyche calls on to start next Sunday against the Bears, Dilfer would just as soon see Craig Erickson taking all the snaps. After Dilfer's disastrous first NFL start a week ago in San Francisco, Wyche restored Erickson as No. 1 on the Tampa Bay depth chart. The result Sunday against Minnesota: a 10-for-18 afternoon for 129 yards (almost half of them on one play for a TD) and two interceptions - and a third-quarter hook. "Craig had some good moments," Wyche said after the 36-13 loss to the Vikings, "but we weren't moving the ball. That's not all the quarterback, but he certainly had his share of the blame."

So who will he start Sunday? "I'll have to sleep on it," Wyche replied, leaving open the possibility that it might be Dilfer, his $16.5-million man. Even Erickson had to admit that, given the starting job back, he didn't take advantage of the opportunity and latch onto it with the kind of performance that would guarantee another one. "I didn't get the job done, that's for sure," he said. "Who starts next time, that's Sam's decision and I'd prefer not to say anything - but, no, I didn't do the job."

Some of the luster has been rubbed off Dilfer, the latest Bucs quarterback savior. "Do you know how many sixteen point five million-dollar jokes I've heard?" he mused. For the third time this year, Dilfer went in to mop up, "to let him battle through some of the things he's going to go through as he progresses," Wyche said. More garbage time prompted a locker-room soliloquy.

"To be honest," Dilfer said, "I'd rather not play a lick and have Craig throwing for 350 yards and us winning football games. When I go in there, it means things are going bad and I don't like that. I appreciate the repetitions, I appreciate getting better because of it, but that's not the goal here. The goal of this football team is not to develop Trent Dilfer as a quarterback. The goal is to win football games. I'm not concerned about my development right now. I'm concerned about the team's development. My development happens from Monday to Saturday every week. Sunday is the time to win games. I can't say it enough: Sunday's not the time to develop Trent."

It is a goal Tampa Bay has achieved with ever-increasing rarity. The constant losing has taken its toll on the psyche of some former Bucs, not to mention Bucs fans. "Maybe people have become numb to (the losing) because it's happened for so long, but I'm not numb to it," Dilfer said. "This is new for me and it hurts like hell. "I promise you this won't beat me down. I've got a good feeling about the people on this team and it's not going to beat us down. I'll say that if we end up 2-14."

Standing on the sideline as the Erickson-led Bucs offense stumbled along, Dilfer could hear the rage of the customers in the stands - the language, the, umm, suggestions they roared at Wyche and the Bucs. "They have the right to criticize us," Dilfer said, "but if I was a fan I'd never be yelling at Sam, saying those things. I guess what I'm saying is I'd only say things up in the stands that I'd say to Sam's face and my face and Craig's face. I bet there's not three people that would come up to Sam and say those things to his face or mine or Craig's or the rest of the team. They're frustrated and they're letting it out because they're 30 yards from the field."

Bruce Lowitt, The St.Petersburg Times 1994