Introducing The Trent Dilfer Club

In 2000, thanks to one of the greatest defenses of all time, Trent Dilfer became one of the most mediocre quarterbacks ever to win a Super Bowl.  He won despite a -0.67 WPA in the regular season and        -0.25 WPA in the playoffs.  Dilfer could not win games for the Ravens, but he could lose them.  His highest contribution was +0.33 WPA in a 24-23 win over Tennessee but had 4 separate games with a WPA below -0.25.   As long as Dilfer didn't dig too deep a hole, that Ravens defense would prevail.  So, without further ado, I give you the 2011 Trent Dilfer Club.  

These are the QBs who win games by limiting their self-destruction and will often be the primary cause for losses.  To qualify, the player must satisfy the following criteria:
  • No games above +0.50 WPA
  • Win-Loss record of at least .500
  • WPA below 0 in at least 40% of their games
President: Mark Sanchez (5-5, -0.84 WPA)

Current heir to the Dilfer throne - minus the Super Bowl title - the Sanchize is lucky enough to play with one of the best defenses in the league.  The Jets rank 3rd in defensive EPA and 4th in defensive WPA.  Sanchez has personally lost the Jets 3 games (DAL: -0.28 WPA, BAL: -0.60 WPA, DEN: -0.28 WPA) including last Thursday's thriller against the Denver Tebows.  Were it not for Sanchez' game-tying pick six, Tim Tebow may never have had the chance to drive 95 yards for the win.

Vice President: Tim Tebow (4-1, -0.06 WPA)

Tim Tebow made his greatest contribution last week thanks to the aforementioned El Presidente, putting up a +0.29 WPA. Granted, Tebow did win the game for the Broncos, but that was only because his poor play put them in a hole to begin with.  So, how is Tebow winning?  Mostly on Defense.  In his 4 wins, the Broncos defense has a -.89 WPA.  Tebow personally lost the Detroit game and would have lost the Miami, Oakland and New York games, had it not been for the Broncos solid defense and some late game heroics.  

Treasurer: Alex Smith (9-1, +0.64 WPA)

Alex Smith is the most likely to end up in Trent Dilfer territory this year, as he leads the 9-1, playoff-bound, 49ers.  He has done a fantastic job limiting turnovers (4 INT this year) and allowing his dominant defense to win games.  The 49ers defense leads the league in WPA at      -1.64 and has been the #1 team against the run.  Smith has posted a negative WPA in 4 of his games, including the Week 2 overtime loss to Dallas (-0.11 WPA).  His best game? A +0.28 WPA performance against Tampa Bay in a 48-3 blow out.

Secretary: Andy Dalton (6-4, -0.40 WPA)

Andy Dalton has had a solid rookie season filling in for the once-retired Carson Palmer.  Dalton led a Bengals squad to a 6-2 record before dropping back-to-back games.  Cincinnati defense owns the 3rd best defensive WPA at -0.89 and has been the primary contributor to the early season success.  Dalton had big games against Indy and Tennessee, posting +0.41 and +0.40 WPA respectively but also lost games against Denver (-0.29), San Francisco (-0.54) and Baltimore (-0.41).

Keith Goldner is the creator of Drive-By Football, and Chief Analyst at - The leading fantasy sports analytics platform.  Follow him on twitter @drivebyfootball or check out numberFire on Facebook

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21 Responses to “Introducing The Trent Dilfer Club”

  1. James says:

    I really like this article.

    I just wanted to point out that although Sanchez did his best to lose the Dallas game, Revis and Bart Scott made sure he didn't (combined 0.91 WPA) and the Jets ultimately won.

  2. bigmouth says:

    The Smith comparison to Dilfer is a little misleading. Leaving aside the positive WPA, Smith has been above average in every advanced passing category except Sack%+ according to Pro Football Reference. Dilfer was below average in every category except Cmpl%+ and TD%+.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Seattle Seahawks are 4-4 in Tarvaris Jackson's 8 starts. Can he be an honorary member?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I would love to see some work on how Tebow has done if you swap his defense with defenses from other teams.

    Like Tebow's record vs Cam's record if you swap their defenses and special teams. Cam is now 8-2 and RotY lock, and Tebow is 0-5 and huge bust pilloried throughout the media? Maybe that wouldn't be the result, but I have my suspicions.

    I cannot believe that DEN defense hasn't gotten more credit for their turnaround. The improvement has been entirely on that side of the ball, the offense looks the same as it did earlier in the year.

  5. Richie says:

    Would there be an opposite of this?

    A QB who adds WP to his team, never has a horrible game, yet his team has a losing record?

  6. bigmouth says:

    Cam Newton?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Cam Newton? The dude has over 1 WPA and is on a 2-8 team, did you even read this article at all, let alone the requirements of entry.

    Rodgers might have been that guy in 2008 as a 1st year starter just off the top of my head, but there are probably much better examples.

  8. Keith Goldner says:

    Tarvaris Jackson was definitely considered for the club.

    Richie - I'd be interested to look into it. I would doubt there are very many like that (since losing QBs tend to be ostracized). My first inclination would be Matt Cassel or Josh Freeman.

  9. Jeff Fogle says:

    First...that link to Trent Dilfer's page shows him playing for the Cleveland Browns in 2000, but the games listed are from the Ravens. Is that because the old Browns became the Ravens and this site's software won't allow a correction? Just wondering about that.

    Regarding Dilfer:

    *You said "Dilfer could not win games for the Ravens, but he could lose them." Then you mentioned the 24-23 game...which is known for Dilfer leading a last second drive that he finished with a short TD pass with about half a minute to go. And, that Tennessee defense was also an all-time great along with that year's Baltimore D. Tennessee ranked #1 in yards allowed with the Ravens at #2 in 2000. So, Dilfer led a game winning drive that culiminated with a TD pass against a fantastic defense.

    They would sweep their remaining games by a score of 237-60, with only one victory margin in single digits. I'm not going to lobby for Dilfer as an all-time great or anything...but he did lead them to a key victory in his best passing game, and that came against a great defense the only time that was needed in the last two months.

    *You said "As long as Dilfer didn't dig too deep a hole, that Ravens defense would prevail."

    Not seeing any holes that he dug that year. His only loss as a starter was 9-6 to Pittsburgh in his first start. In the game where he replaced Banks for good they lost 14-6 to Tennessee. So, he obviously wasn't producing anything...but he wasn't digging shallow holes let alone deep ones with mistakes.

    I get the lack of production elements as he had his limitations and was on a team with a great defense and a strong running attack. But, there weren't examples of results being switched because of implosions or other "deep holes" that were dug.

    So, given 2011 to this point, I can see Smith and Tebow being members of that club because their wins have been grinders...and Harbaugh has basically turned Smith into a Dilfer-style manager it would seem. But, Sanchez? He's one of the most prominent hole-diggers in the league one could argue. His production has been poor when the Jets are within one score this year...and he's had a few notable mistakes that created early deficits.

    A hole-digger is the "President" of the "doesn't dig holes?"

    Maybe Sanchez is a better match for the full career of Dilfer. But, if the goal is to find "managers" that are approximating the theme of the opening sentence regarding the year 2000...Sanchez seems like a horrible fit. Dilfer of 2000 never did what Sanchez is repeatedly doing.

    Would it be worth considering a profile of:
    Team Run/Pass ratio
    Third Down conversion rate (Balt top 10 in '00)
    Time of Possession (Balt at 33 minutes in '00)

    So, you get a quarterback who was moving the chains, helping the defense stay fresh, and avoiding game killing mistakes. (And, when needed, showing the ability to lead a game-winning drive in the final moments against a great opposing defense).

    Alex Smith has been transformed from a hole digger into the Dilfer-2000 model (which starred David Carradine). Denver is trying to win in that spirit with Tebow.

    Sanchez? Tough to see Sanchez in the Trent Dilfer Club (let alone President) unless you're talking about Dilfer's entire career...but the opening sentence specifically referenced Dilfer of 2000 as the inspiration for the article.

  10. Anonymous says:

    "Cam Newton? The dude has over 1 WPA and is on a 2-8 team, did you even read this article at all, let alone the requirements of entry."

    Pretty sure bigmouth was responding to the person who asked what the opposite of the Dilfer Club would be - that is, a QB who performs well in most games but has a bad record because of other factors.

  11. Keith Goldner says:

    Jeff -

    Dilfer is the inspiration for the club. That season, he did a solid job limiting his mistakes (in other words, not digging holes) but in general is known more for poor performance than good. As mentioned, Dilfer had 4 games where he almost single-handidly lost games (that is hole-digging) in the Loss to TEN, Loss to PIT, Win over ARI, Win over NYJ (WPA of -0.27, -0.42, -0.41, -0.30) and that's not even mentioning his last two playoff games (including the Super Bowl) where he posted -0.11 and -0.15.

    The Dilfer comeback against Tennessee was a good one, and there are certainly going to be outlier cases, but he is not a quarterback who consistently won games for his team. On the other hand, throughout his career, he did lose quite a few for his teams.

    If Sanchez could limit his mistakes (like Alex Smith currently is), no one would question the Jets as a Super Bowl contender; there is a reason they've been deep in the playoffs the last few years, and it's not Marky Mark.

  12. bigmouth says:

    Anonymous #2 is correct. Anonymous #1 might want to read all the comments before accusing people of not reading carefully.

  13. Jeff Fogle says:


    Appreciate the response. I think we need to be careful turning numbers into words. You said:

    "Dilfer had 4 games where he almost single-handidly lost games (that is hole-digging) in the Loss to TEN, Loss to PIT, Win over ARI, Win over NYJ (WPA of -0.27, -0.42, -0.41, -0.30) and that's not even mentioning his last two playoff games (including the Super Bowl) where he posted -0.11 and -0.15."

    You're saying he "almost single-handedly" lost:

    *the Tennesse game where Banks threw 3 interceptions in 32 attempts before getting benched, and Dilfer couldn't rally them with his 7 of 13 attempts coming in for his first action of the season against a great defense. That goes down as "almost single-handedly?"

    *the Pittsburgh game, where the whole team had trouble finding the end zone (Dilfer had 1 pick, and there were 2 other fumbles...but I can't tell who had the fumbles...if Dilfer suffered those two fumbles, and had the pick...then I can see giving him the bulk of the blame for this his first start of the season.) The final score was 9-6. So, how big could the hole have been anyway?

    *the win over Arizona where their biggest deficit was 7-3 and the Ravens scored the last 10 points of the game. (when Sanchez digs a hole, the margins are by a lot more than 3-4 points)

    *the 14-point win over the Jets, where the defense allowed 481 passing yards to Testaverde (messing up their end-of-season yardage stats).

    *the playoff win in Oakland...which started with a 96-yard TD pass from Dilfer to Shannon Sharpe and never saw the Ravens lead by less than 7 after that.

    *the 34-7 Super Bowl win over the Giants that started with a 38-yard TD pass from Dilfer to Brandon Stokely, in which the Ravens led by double digits from a second quarter field goal onward.

    Running an ultra-conservative offense isn't the same as digging a hole. Sanchez has been repeatedly digging actual holes this year. The Jets only have three halftime leads in 10 games. They have four double digit losses in their last eight games.

    Maybe a more clearly defined Trent Dilfer Club would have been better...where the paragraph about the 2000 Ravens comes at the end to give Jets fans hope for its mediocre quarterback... rather than at the beginning in a way that sets a tone for conservative grinding before settling on Sanchez as the best match.

    And, the sentence, "Dilfer could not win games for the Ravens, but he could lose them" doesn't really fit the eventual theme because Sanchez can win games for the Jets when he plays well (and Dilfer was, what 7-1 as a starter for Baltimore that year?).

    Thanks again for your response...

  14. Jeff Fogle says:

    Clarifying...sorry, you obviously very clearly defined the parameters for the club with the bullet points. To me they didn't match the story of Dilfer in 2000. So the transition was awkward. I think that's what I'm saying (lol).

  15. Anonymous says:

    What about leadership points? Under Orton the team was mired in mediocrity, under Tebow they seem to have pulled together. If any team lost both starting DT's and HB to injuries they would start to flounder some. Under Tebow the team actually believes that no matter what they will win. Watch the Von Miller video after the Jets game.
    I sat there in amazement on the winning drive. How could a lousy QB actually take his team 95 yards? In a pressure cooker, must-win game? I dunno, but Tebow did. That's leadership.

  16. Rick says:

    Weird that Tebow's leadership only manifests itself in the last 5 minutes of the game.

  17. Tarr says:

    This article is awesome.

  18. Sunrise089 says:

    @Rick - actually I think people are saying throughout the comments above that Denver's defense is playing consistently better during the entire game. If the theory is that Tebow is bad but makes people play better we should expect to see exactly what we're seeing - more improvement when he isn't on the field.

    I'm not saying this is what's happening, but if people are going to question whether one person can inspire others or not I think the argument should actually be properly stated.

  19. Sean McAlevey says:

    @Anonymous who claimed A-Rodg should be consider "off the top of [his] head" for president of the Trent Dilfer Club in '08.
    First, GB was 8-8, so they barely made the first part of the criteria for this list (it's not like they were 14-2 and A-Rodg was doing nothing).
    Second, here's A-Rodg's stat line from '08 for this nutjob anonymous: 63.6% comp, 4,038 yds passing, 28 TDs passing, 13 INTs, with a 93.8 QB rating. How in hell can you be so retarded to even mention such a good season for Rodgers (backed by his '08 objective stats) as worthy of consideration for the Trent Dilfer Club?
    Watch some football, don't just guess at random names (Aaron Rodgers is definitely a household name by now) you've overheard Uncle Tommy discussing at family dinner.

  20. Bob M. says:

    @Sean - I think he was talking about Aaron Rodgers as an opposite of the Dilfer club like Cam Newton. I think another great example from that year was Jay Cutler's '08 season. 8-8 record, Denver #1 in offensive WPA, #31 in defensive WPA

  21. ArtB says:

    He won a Super Bowl, played in the Pro bowl and at one point he won around 14 straight games (look it up). He played 14 seasons in the NFL, started the majority of those years. There have been 100's of NFL quarterbacks worst than him, I've heard commentators say that a certain team needs a Dilfer type quaterback to win, it's a positive legacy that he left. Not to mention his family morales and Christian values. I'll like to see what your stats are in your chosen profession and how you stack up to everybody in the USA. I would say you are not in the top 100,000 in your profession. A negative website that just what we need, I can only imagine you have a negative outlook on life.

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