Grbac, 31, is in a difficult spot, taking over as quarterback of the Super Bowl champions, but it's a welcome challenge considering how badly he wanted out of Kansas City after four years with the Chiefs. Grbac threw for 7,558 yards and 50 touchdowns over the last two seasons, but KC. fans still criticized him for panicking in the two-minute offense and lacking the charisma of Rich Gannon, who split time with Grbac in 1997 and '98.
After Grbac recovered from a shoulder injury early in the 1998 season, Marty Schottenheimer, Kansas City's coach at the time, was so concerned about Grbac's psyche that he thought twice about starting him at Arrowhead Stadium out of fear that the crowd would boo excessively. During a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that season, Grbac's father, Ivan, became so upset by the profanity that fans directed toward his son that he left his seat at halftime and angrily paced around Arrowhead until the game's conelusion. He never watched his son play in Kansas City again. "The fans were on him every time he made a mistake because they wanted Rich to play," says Chiefs wide receiver Derrick Alexander. "When the organization stuck with Elvis [and Gannon signed with the Oakland Raiders after the 1998 season], the fans didn't like it. Elvis never said anything to me, but you could see that it beat him down."
"I'm not an outgoing guy, and Kansas City was a bad work environment for me, but I did bring some things on myself," Grbac says. "I called guys out in the paper. I didn't make a lot of friends. I came here looking to be more open."
Since arriving in Baltimore, Grbac, whose bookish appearance and conservative wardrobe have earned him the nickname Principal, has become a regular golfing partner with Redman and wide receiver Brandon Stokley. He also has benefited from the inclusive attitude inside the locker room, where vocal leaders abound and a player can be as bombastic as Siragusa or as reserved as Grbac without fear of reproach. The truth is, Grbac simply wants to do his job and go home to his wife, Lori, and their three children.
Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh love the way Grbac prepares. Instead of kicking back during the little free time he gets on Saturday, he'll find an out-of-the-way coffee shop, hunker down with the game plan and jot down questions for Cavanaugh. Also, the coaches are helping him deal with the high-pressure, hurry-up situations that he struggled with in Kansas City. "I can look over to the sideline, and they might signal a timeout or call a play for me," says Grbac. "It takes some of the burden off me because sometimes I might not come up with the right play."
Such a perspective should help Grbac avoid the turmoil that plagued him in Kansas City. "The combination of what I've gone through and who I am has helped me feel good about where I am," Grbac says. "I know that I've found my gig."