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Ray Lewis: 'Biggest mistake' in Ravens history was cutting Trent Dilfer

It takes a lot of courage, hard work and personal experience with average quarterback play to draw a through line from Blake Bortles to Trent Dilfer, but that’s where Ray Lewis went Wednesday.

Appearing on Fox Sports 1’s “The Herd with Colin Cowherd,” the Ravens legend and Hall of Fame-bound linebacker said the Jacksonville Jaguars were right to sign Bortles to a three-year, $54 million contract. He’d helped get them to the AFC championship game, Lewis said, and to run it back with anyone else under center would be foolish.

After all, remember what the Ravens did after their own big breakthrough?

“One of the biggest mistakes we made in the Ravens’ history,” Lewis said, “was we go and win a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer … ”

“Yeah, why didn’t you bring him back?” Cowherd interjected.

“Why don’t you bring Trent Dilfer back?” Lewis echoed.

“You brought Elvis Grbac.”

“Which we don’t know.”

The Ravens didn’t know Dilfer all that well — he had been signed as a backup before the Super Bowl season, and started just eight regular-season games in 2000 after Tony Banks was benched — but they had seen enough to conclude that he deserved to remain in Baltimore, Lewis said.

“We didn’t even know that they were going to cut him,” he said of the team’s decision to not offer Dilfer a new contract. “So when we found out, it came like a shock to all of us. Like, ‘The Ravens just let Trent Dilfer go.’ Are you serious? Like, how do you get better from a Super Bowl quarterback?”

The Ravens hoped Grbac would be the answer. In 2000, he had made the Pro Bowl after passing for 4,169 yards and 28 touchdowns, both career highs, along with 14 interceptions for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Ravens made the playoffs in their first year with Grbac, going 10-6 and losing in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but their new quarterback was no better than their old quarterback.

“Because what we had learned from [Dilfer], and similar to what Blake Bortles and Jacksonville’s learning from each other, we know what Trent can do well and we know what Trent can’t do well,” Lewis said. “But we do know this: We know what we’ve just done together, and we’re willing to go try that again. It took us a 12-year stint to get back to another Super Bowl. We went through, what, 17 quarterbacks?

“I’m counting on one hand an opportunity of at least five to six Super Bowls that are supposed to be in my closet. But we made that decision.”

jshaffer@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jonas_shaffer

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