During the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Bullies of Baltimore, former Ravens Super Bowl QB Trent Dilfer said that various rule changes have made modern NFL QB play “super easy” and unimpressive.
Specifically, Dilfer mentioned Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
“It’s super easy when you don’t get hit as a quarterback and when you can’t re-route receivers and when you can’t hit guys across the middle,” Dilfer said. “I love Tom Brady. I love Aaron Rodgers. I love these guys. It’s not impressive.”
Trent Dilfer is not impressed with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. pic.twitter.com/oVoNVtF4AT
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) February 6, 2023
Dilfer spent much of Monday getting savaged on Twitter for the thoroughly mediocre QB play he displayed during his career. The high point of which came in 2000 when the most fearsome defense in the history of the NFL carried him and the rest of the underwhelming Ravens offense to a Super Bowl championship.
However, it’s important to note Dilfer wasn’t saying that he was a better QB than Brady or Rodgers. Instead, he was saying the era he played in was tougher.
Is he right? Of course, he’s right! There’s not a doubt in the world that he’s right!
The NFL is an infinitely softer game in general and a far more “offense-friendly” game now than it was in 2000 when the “Bullies of Baltimore” roamed the field. Dan Marino would throw for eleventy thousand yards a year if he played today.
To put it in perspective, “When Dilfer and the Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl in 2000, Peyton Manning led the NFL in passing yards with 4,413,” Bleacher Report’s Joseph Zucker writes. “He was one of three passers to eclipse 4,000 yards through the air.
“Five years later, it was the same story. Tom Brady (4,110) and Trent Green (4,014) were the only 4,000-yard passers. By 2010, however, five quarterbacks hit that threshold, with Manning and Philip Rivers both going for 4,700-plus yards. The number swelled to 12 by 2020.”
So, Dilfer isn’t wrong with what he said about the rule changes and how they’ve made things easier for offenses and their quarterbacks. However, he is wrong to use Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady as examples of people who won in the soft age of the NFL. Remember, the NFL didn’t really start cracking down on hits on the QB and the re-routing of receivers until about 2010 or 2011, not in the strict way those rules are reinforced today.
Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers won a combined four Super Bowls between 2001 and 2011. Meaning they had significant success in the defense-focused, run-heavy NFL that preceded the modern game.
If Dilfer wanted to use real examples of players who excelled in the “soft age,” he would have done better to include Pat Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Matt Stafford, and Josh Allen, among others.
For the record, I think Mahomes and Burrow would be impressive in any era. But neither of them enjoyed any success in the era of football that preceded the one in which they now play.
Dilfer is a successful high school football coach and no dummy. He was not wrong about what he said. He was just wrong about who he threw under the bus.
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