Trent Dilfer knows criticism. The guy won a Super Bowl, and has been a radio-talk punch line ever since -- "Come on, even Dilfer has a ring."
You better believe the former Fresno State quarterback remembers what's been said about him before he goes on ESPN to discuss 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's tendency to be a one-read pony, as he did last month.
And, when the backlash comes -- and it came with prejudice from Kaepernick, and the Niner Nation -- Dilfer wishes people could understand how his NFL analyst job works.
Just because Dilfer calls it as he sees it, that doesn't mean he's calling anyone out.
"I think the biggest misconception is that, when you're critical, you're saying, 'I did it better,' " Dilfer said Friday at the Fresno State-San Jose State game, where he got nothing but love from his home-school fans, because they remember him as the guy who actually did do it better than anyone before him in school history.
"I'm very transparent with my mistakes, but I also know a lot more than I did then. My intentions are never to intentionally hurt or harm anyone. I wish I could fully explain myself all of the time because my intention 99% of the time is pretty good."
Dilfer likes to say he criticizes plays, not players. The fact he is critical at all is what's helped him land a prominent seat on multiple NFL platforms for the worldwide leader.
Some NFL analysts keep their on-air jobs because they were oh-so-good as players. The ones like Dilfer stay on because they are oh-so-smart, and honest, too.
Dilfer had to know when he criticized Kaepernick's play that he may not be welcomed back to the 49ers' locker room for a while. In 2011, when Dilfer criticized Vikings draft pick Christian Ponder, surely he realized he opened himself up to embarrassment if Ponder actually panned out down the road.
But, Dilfer said what he saw anyway. When the 49ers refused to acknowledge anything was wrong with the NFL's last-ranked passing game, viewers could count on Dilfer to explain what was behind the real tire fire of it all. He cares more about doing his job well than laying cover for the fraternity or guarding the NFL shield.
That is why you'll hear him all week on ESPN and ESPN Radio. Dilfer's bosses obviously like what they've heard the past five years, as well they should. Let the Warren Sapps of the network world use their bully pulpit to call someone a clown. At least Dilfer will bust out the chalk and put X's and O's to the clown-ship and offer measures for improvement.
If the tunnel-visioned fan wants all gush, all the time, that's what Jon Gruden is for (Did you catch the episode where Gruden raves about soon-to-be-benched Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor?).
If they want detailed criticism of what just went wrong, that's what Dilfer is for. Love it or disdain it, appreciate the idea that it's awfully true or hardly personal.
"I never had a problem when I was criticized for plays that I made, because you make a lot of bad plays no matter what," Dilfer said. "I talk to Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees all the time. They don't mind when I criticize a play. They get it. They know they messed up, too.
"I hope the audience likes the fact that, when I give an analysis, that it's something that helps them understand what they're watching better, or rocks their boat a little bit and maybe challenges the way they're thinking.
"At least that's what I'm trying to do. And makeup doesn't hurt. Makes me look better than I do."