Has Kurt Warner already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame?
By Bill Smith
Kurt Warner will be only the third QB in the history of the NFL to go to the Super Bowl with 2 different teams. But unlike Craig Morton (1970 Dallas & 1977 Denver when he had a passer rating of 0.0 in the Super Bowl vs. Dallas) or Earl Morrall (1968 Baltimore & 1972 Miami who was benched for a recovered Bob Griese) Kurt carried the entire franchise on his back all the way to Tampa Bay. Most of you probably know that.
Warner has also ranked right at the top since 2003 in NFL history for all time quarterback rating. He was #1 after the 2003 season, and is now #3 (as of the end of 07). Most of the other guys below him on that list are already in the Hall. But you probably never thought about the two teams that Kurt took to the Super Bowl.
1999 St. Louis Lambs—The lambs were perhaps the most dysfunctional team in the league. Head coach Dick Vermeil almost walked away for the second time in his career after the 1998 4-12 season. The Rosenblooms were about ready to fire the entire staff at the end of the 1998 season but decided to give them one more chance. The Lambs had so much faith in Kurt Warner that they put him on the expansion draft list for the Browns. The Browns could have selected him as a vet allocation player. Had they selected Warner, the fortunes of both teams would have been totally different.
Then in a preseason game, starting QB Trent Green went down with a season ending injury. Vermeil looked around and the only one standing there ready to take the ball—Kurt Warner. All Kurt did was carry the team with the able assistance of another newcomer to the Lambs Marshall Faulk to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl. Kurt won the 1999 league MVP and the Super Bowl MVP. Vermeil quit on top and the offensive coordinator Mike Martz took over as head coach. The Lambs were officially the Rams again and being called the Greatest show on Turf.
Over the next two seasons, the Rams went 24-8 and were in the NFC championship game both years and the Super Bowl once. In the 2001 season, Kurt again won the league MVP but the Rams lost the Super Bowl to the Pats on a field goal in the last seconds of the game.
There were differences between the Vermeil and Martz systems. The biggest one is that Martz didn’t believe in keeping a TE or RB in to help protect the QB. Add that to the rotation of what were at best average O-linemen because of injury and the QBs got hit often and hard.
In 2002, the all pro left tackle Orlando Pace went down along with a couple of other members of the O line. Warner suffered a broken hand in the 6th game of the season. Bulger took over as the starter. In 02 the Rams went 7-9 and in 03 with Bulger at the helm they went 12-4 but didn’t make the Super Bowl. Since then the Rams have become the Lambs again and have regrown their wool. They have been sheared regularly by every team in the NFL. After the beating that Kurt took in the Martz system, he was never able to get healthy again at St. Louis.
In 2004 Warner was released and signed with the Giants. He tutored rookie Eli Manning and helped turn the other Manning into a future Super Bowl QB. In 2005 Warner went to Arizona again to be the tutor and mentor to a rookie QB Matt Leinart. In both cases, the organization had to put the first round rookies in even though Warner was the better QB. They had not only used high first round choices on them, the teams’ GMs had spent millions of dollars to sign them. But in 05 at Arizona, Warner started 10 games because Leinart wasn’t ready to start. In 06 Kurt started the season but the coaching staff was feeling the heat over the Leinart draft and head coach Dennis Green put the youngster in at Atlanta in game 5 then let him start at home against the Chiefs in game 6. He struggled and was only able to produce a QB rating of 74 in 10 games that season. Also being as fragile as fine china, he went down again in game 15 and was replaced by Warner.
In 07 Ken Whisenhunt became the head coach replacing Green. Whisenhunt was not wedded to the Leinart pick but did start him in game 1. Warner came in as a relief pitcher in games 3-5 and won two of them. Again, Leinart went down and Warner came to the rescue. Kurt played very well in 07 despite suffering a major injury to his left (non-throwing) arm due to poor pass protection but still had a passer rating of 89.8.
In 08, Whisenhunt named Leinart the starter but promised to have an open competition. Kurt won the competition and had another MVP type season and was a favorite until the Cards hit a rough patch late in the regular season. But in the playoffs, Kurt was back at the very top of his game. Despite very questionable pass protection, almost no running game, and a very up and down defense, Kurt led the Cards to the Super Bowl. In the game against the Eagles for the NFC championship, he had a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
In my opinion, even if he can not reproduce the 1999 Rams magic and win the 09 Super Bowl, Kurt has done enough to earn election to the NFL Hall of Fame. He has done more with less than most of those QBs already there.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for NFLDraftDog.com and edits fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .Has Kurt Warner already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame? by Bill Smith