BALTIMORE — As the Ravens celebrate Thursday the 20th anniversary of their Super Bowl XXXV triumph, Trent Dilfer is still disappointed that he did not get the chance to defend his title as the first quarterback to do so.
On January 28, 2001, Dilfer made a triumphant return to Tampa, Florida, where he was the Buccaneers’ first choice, helping the Ravens to a 34-7 victory over the New York Giants. Two weeks later, Dilfer was told that Baltimore planned to sign another free agent starting quarterback.
“You know, I’ve been through a lot in my life and I try not to be bitter about anything,” said Dilfer, who is now the high school head coach at Lipscomb Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. “I would say that’s something that still makes me bitter. They misjudged him so much. They knew I was hurting.”
Dilfer, 48, plans to attend a virtual meeting of the Ravens and looks forward to the camaraderie of the 2000 team. He became the starting quarterback at 11-1, including 11 consecutive wins, and is considered the perfect addition to Baltimore’s historic defense. He produced several turnarounds and great opportunistic play, including a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokely in the Super Bowl.
But Dilfer made only 47.9% of his passes after the season and was criticized for being the worst quarterback to play in the Super Bowl. He estimated that he played at 65-70% because he injured his shoulder last season and suffered from pubic osteitis, an inflammation around the pubic bone and hip flexor muscle.
“There are legendary stories about how bad I was at practice, and they’re all true,” Dilfer said. “I had one of the worst workouts in the history of football for a quarterback. If my high school quarterback had trained like I did sometimes that year, I wouldn’t have played against him. But it hurt. There was a reason for that. It’s not that I wasn’t trying. I wasn’t bad. I was physically bad.
Dilfer, who joined the Ravens in a million dollar deal, was a free agent after winning the Super Bowl and hoped to return to Baltimore in better health than last year. While waiting at the airport with his wife to fly to the ESPYS, Dilfer received a call from offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh.
“He could barely talk. He could barely get it out of his mouth,” Dilfer said. “You’re their third choice in free agency. And I thought, “What, I was shocked.”
The Ravens finally contracted Elvis Grbac to replace Dilfer after Brad Johnson, their top pick, signed with Tampa Bay. Baltimore was excited about the big man of Grbac, who just went to the Pro Bowl after throwing for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 4,000 yards.
Dilfer said that neither General Manager Ozzie Newsome nor Coach Brian Billick ever called to inform him of the team’s decision not to re-contract him. Newsome and Billick did not respond to messages requesting comment.
“It’s one of the few things Brian Billick did that I disagree with,” said Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden. “Give him a chance to come back and win his job. But it didn’t work out that way.”
Ravens defenseman Sam Adams said Dilfer had earned the right to compete for another championship.
“I felt cheated by the fact that they let Trent go,” Adams said. “It hurt me. He was a great leader, a fighter, and the perfect Baltimore Ravens. If it wasn’t for Trent Dilfer – I don’t care what we did on defense – if he hadn’t come in and done what he did, we never would have won a Super Bowl.
Dilfer said he approached Newsome at the team’s 10-year Super Bowl reunion to tell him not to bring him back.
“It didn’t go too far,” Dilfer said. “It didn’t matter at the time, but it was tough. It’s still hard, because I think the 2001 team was better, probably in terms of talent, and I would have been happy if I could have run this ship.
Grbac spent only one season with the Ravens, who lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round. He resigned after refusing a $5 million pay cut.
“I’m going to try Elvis, because it doesn’t bother me at all,” Dilfer said. “The main value of this team was resilience.” And Brian didn’t understand that. He wasn’t their coach. It wasn’t their talent assessment. It wasn’t what they thought. The core value of this team was mental toughness and physical toughness, and that’s what I am, and that’s the opposite of what Elvis is. They put their personality on the back burner by doing it wrong.”
Dilfer remains the only quarterback to change teams within a season after winning the Super Bowl. He played six more seasons, from the Seattle Seahawks to the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers, from 13 to 16 as starting linebacker from 2001 to 2007 and never returned after the season.
Dilfer, who worked as an analyst for ESPN after his playing career, kept his Super Bowl ring mostly in his underwear drawer for years. He still hasn’t seen the Giants win the Super Bowl from start to finish.
“This is a time in my life that I am so grateful for, and sometimes I feel guilty for not thinking about it more, but I don’t,” Ms. Dilfer said. “I don’t identify with it. I identify with my husband, my father, my coach. The only thing that isn’t stupid is that I’ve had things happen in my life since then. You can never underestimate how involvement in great things helps accelerate your ability to do other great things in life.
Frequently asked questions
Trent Dilfer has a Super Bowl ring?
Trent Farris Dilfer (born March 13, 1972) is a former quarterback and American football analyst who played 14 seasons in the National Football League (NFL). Although he won a championship, Dilfer did not resign from the Ravens and became the first starting quarterback to be fired after winning the Super Bowl. He was the first player to be fired after winning the …
Has Trent Dilfer ever won a Super Bowl?
The Pro Bowler played 13 seasons in the NFL and won Super Bowl XXXV against the Baltimore Ravens in 2000. Dilfer threw for 20,158 yards in his career and spent his first six seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
How many Super Bowls have the Ravens lost?
The Ravens have been one of the most successful franchises since their inception. The team has made the NFL playoffs 13 times since 2000, with two Super Bowl championships (Super Bowl XXXV and Super Bowl XLVII), two AFC championships (2000 and 2012), four NFL playoffs and one NFL playoff appearance.