Perhaps no one knows better than Trent Dilfer what Charlie Batch is in for.
Batch, a rookie out of Eastern Michigan, will get his second NFL start Monday night when Detroit (0-3) plays Dilfer and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) in what some are calling a must game for the Lions."He's in for a tough season," Dilfer said. "I'm not saying he won't have success. I'm sure the kid's talented and confident.
"He's going to have some success and he needs to know why he's having it and continue to gain confidence, and not let the discouraging times get him down."
As a rookie in 1994, Dilfer played in five games, with two starts. He completed just 38 of 82 passes for 433 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions. A rib cage injury kept him on the bench for the Bucs' final seven games.
The following season, Dilfer started all 16 games. That's where the NFL's hard lessons really began to sink in. Dilfer passed for 2,774 yards in 1995, throwing four touchdowns against 18 interceptions. His quarterback rating was 60.1.
"I let some of the discouraging things affect my confidence," Dilfer said. "That's why it took me a little bit longer."
Batch was thrown into the fray after Detroit coach Bobby Ross got tired of seeing veteran Scott Mitchell make the same game-killing mistakes over and over. Ross swears he isn't giving up on a still-young season, yet Batch didn't exactly have a memorable debut last week at Minnesota.
With the Vikings blitzing heavily, Batch managed to complete 20 of 40 passes for 160 yards. But he never got the Lions into the end zone and Minnesota pulled away from a 6-6 halftime tie for a comfortable 29-6 win.
"If you don't score touchdowns you don't win," Batch said. "That's the bottom line."
Batch's biggest asset in his first start might have been his legs. He got 63 yards on eight carries against the Vikings, only six fewer yards than Barry Sanders had on 14 more carries.
For his part, Batch has been quick to pick up the company line. He speaks with confidence. He says the Lions can still make a run at the playoffs. Yet he also acknowledges that talk is cheap.
"Nothing has changed," Batch said. "I'm the only thing that's changed around here. The offense has been here since last year. There's a lot of veteran talent around here, and that's what it takes to win."
Tampa Bay, of course, might have something to say about that. The Bucs seemingly got their season turned around by erasing a 15-0 deficit against the Bears with 27 second-half points last week.
It is almost certain Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy will follow the Vikings' lead and blitz Batch early and often.
"The NFL is tough on rookie quarterbacks," Dungy said. "Heck, it's tough on third- and fourth-year quarterbacks. Trent was in his third year when I got here, and he's playing much better now than he did two years ago.
"Year 2, Year 3, Year 4 is still tough, so I can empathize with what Charlie Batch is going through. But I think he's going to grow from it."