The man who would have been quarterback finds himself thinking, at times, that it could have been him -- leading the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl, playing Sunday night against the Tennessee Titans.
Trent Green never has felt angry or bitter, but he has asked, "Why me?"
"It's tough to be the one who got it started and not get to finish it," Green said as his team prepared for Super Bowl XXXIV.
Green was to have been the Rams' quarterback. He's a St. Louis kid and was signed in the off-season as a free agent. He started 1998 as the Washington Redskins' third quarterback and ended it as the starter. He then signed a four-year, $16 million deal with the Rams.
Green was joined in St. Louis by quarterbacks coach Mike Martz, who was hired to bring in the four-wide receiver offense that Green had run with the Redskins. Here was Green, in his hometown, running an offense he knew extremely well.
He started the exhibition season 28 of 32 (with two drops) and looked excellent.
But in the team's third exhibition game, he took a shot from behind from San Diego safety Rodney Harrison and tore his anterior cruciate ligament (knee).
His season was over, and the Rams were devastated. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce pounded the turf in frustration. Coach Dick Vermeil fought back tears at a news conference.
Then Kurt Warner stepped in, threw 41 touchdown passes, won the league's MVP award and led the Rams to the Super Bowl.
"You go through all the 'what if' games," Green said. "Would I have gone to the Pro Bowl? Would I have the numbers he has? Would I have been MVP? You go through all the scenarios, and it gets frustrating at times."
Although Green was happy for his team and Warner -- the story of the year in the NFL -- it wasn't easy going from starting quarterback to watching from the sideline in street clothes.
"Every game was hard," he said. "After getting hurt, here was the home opener two weeks later, and I was supposed to be the hometown guy coming back. That was hard. I'm happy for the organization, but it does get tough to deal with those situations.
"I was very emotional last week. I'm part of the celebration, but emotionally it was tough not being more a part of it."
The Rams have tried to keep Green involved. Players and coaches both have said they have no doubt that Green also could have led the team to the Super Bowl. Martz, who is very close to Green, has gone out of his way to include Green. Warner said Green was classy all season.
But Warner also has said he will not sit down for anyone. And, after five years as a backup, Green wants to start as well.
One of the Rams' toughest decisions after the Super Bowl will be about Green. Warner surely will command a large deal after his MVP season.
The Rams would like to keep both, but there are salary-cap considerations and personal considerations, with two starters on the same team and one forced to sit.
There are teams out there -- New Orleans, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Baltimore -- that need a quarterback. Green wants to start, and knows that he might not get that opportunity in St. Louis -- no matter how good of a preseason he has in the fall.
"I'd be kidding myself, coming into training camp thinking it would be an open competition," he said. "What the organization has to decide is if they're going to keep me to be the backup."