Kurt Warner: The Greatest of All-Time

Man, the X-files were great.
Kurt Warner isn't a lock for the hall of fame. He only started 116 games and won one super bowl. Eli Manning is at 108 games and counting (without missing one) and has a ring too. One thing the Hall looks for is longevity. They don't like guys that were great for a couple of years. They like the Jerry Rices and the Reggie Whites. Kurt Warner just doesn't fit that bill. 

He might still make it based more on his public image and the underdog story he embodied, but I think that's missing the point.

If you were building a franchise and could pick any QB in history to be your guy, maybe you go Brady, Manning, Montana, Elway, Marino, and you'd have success for a decade and a half.

If you had to win one game and could pick any QB in his prime to lead your team, I'd pick Kurt Warner. Just one game? Warner is the guy. And here's why:

Here come the PANTHERS
1. Kurt Warner has only ever started all 16 games three times in his career. 

He's tough, it's not because he can't take the pounding, it's because he never gives up on the play. He hangs in there and waits for that opening. He takes more sacks, but also makes big plays. 

So when he stays healthy and plays all 16 games, how does his team fare in the playoffs? Oh They went to the Super Bowl every year. Like clockwork. Warner's totally healthy? Super Bowl bound. One year he started 15 games, that was 2009. They beat Green Bay in a shootout to open the playoffs, then went to New Orleans and lost to the eventual champs. So in the 4 years he played more than 11 games, his playoff record was 9-3. And every one of those losses was to the eventual champion.

2. He is unstoppable in the playoffs. 

"Pop" Warner.
There are plenty of QBs that can put up monster numbers in the regular season, but when the games start to really count, suddenly it's like they just graduated from college to the pros. The hits are harder, everyone's covered, they make mistakes. 

Peyton Manning's QB rating is about 7 points lower in the postseason (94.9 to 88.4). Tom Brady's is 10 points lower (95.7 to 85.7). Joe Montana, Mr. Clutch, goes up about 3 points in the postseason (92.3 to 95.6).  Warner goes up nearly 10 points, from 93.7 to 102.3. That means that the degree to which Brady gets worse in the playoffs, Warner changes that much, but for the better. 

Warner's career playoff stats:
3952 Yards, 31 TD 14 INT, 66.5% 

Tom Brady's playoff stats:
4407 Yards, 30 TD, 16 INT, 62.2%

Hey Trent, can I play? LOL
Hey, they're almost the same! So Warner's playoff resume should be just about as good as Brady's unless you're just looking at SB wins. 

Oh wait, Brady has played in 19 playoff games. Warner only 13. It took Brady 6 more playoff games to have 1 fewer TD, 2 more INTs, and only 450 more yards. 

Warner throws for 306 yards per game in the playoffs. Extrapolate his 13 career playoff games into a 16 game season and it looks like this:

4864 Yards (only 220 shy of the NFL record), 38 TDs, 17 INTs.
You're too old Kurt.

That's how good he is in just playoff games. For comparison, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the last 2 guys to set the single-season TD record (50 and 49), have only ever thrown for 38 TDs in a season once each, the year they set the record. Marino only ever did it twice. And that's in the regular season, not the playoffs.

Another metric to look at is yards per attempt, which shows how much the QB is stretching the field. Some teams use dump-offs as essentially an aspect of the running game, which inflates their passing numbers. 

Here's some career YPA numbers:
Brady 7.5
Manning 7.6
Marino 7.3
Montana 7.5
Warner 7.9
Time to see what the kid can do.

Go to their career playoff numbers and it looks like this:
Brady 6.5
Manning 7.5
Marino 6.5
Montana 7.8
Warner 8.5

Again we see evidence that when Kurt drops back to pass, he ain't looking to dump it off. He wants it all. 

One of these guys is the quarterback of the future.

3. He's TOO Good.

With just over 2 minutes to go in Super Bowl 34, the Titans just tied the game 16-16. Kurt Warner and the Rams take over at their 27 yard line. This is the Joe Montana, Tom Brady moment. Where the QB leads his team on a game winning drive to run out the clock as time expires.

 NO JUST KIDDING. This is the part where Kurt Warner throws a 73 yard touchdown bomb on the first play. Because Warner is TOO GOOD, they left a lot of time on the clock, enabling the Titans to come just a yard short.

I'd like to thank our defense for letting
Warner torch them and leaving me some time.
Two years later, Super Bowl 36. The story we remember is that Patriots shutting down the Rams greatest show on turf, and Tom Brady leading the great drive to win the game. However, Warner threw for the 2nd highest yard total in Super Bowl history. 
The Rams trailed 17-3 mid-way through the 4th quarter. He led the Rams back to tie the game. The Rams toook the ball on their 45, with 1:51 left, down by a touchdown. This is going to be the moment, right? Where Warner leads a dink-and-dunk touchdown drive? No.

Three complete passes later and the rams were in the end zone. Warner was too good, leaving the Patriots too much time on the clock, enough for Vinatieri to win it.

7 years later. Cardinals, Steelers. Warner took a sub-par team, once laughed at as the worst playoff team in history, threw them on his god-like throwing arm and nearly won the whole damn thing.

Having trailed the entire game, the Cards took over on their own 36 with 3 minutes to go, down 20-16. It took only 2 plays, one for 3 yards, and the other a 64 yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald. A magnificent 21 second drive to the endzone and to take the lead in the super bowl. 
Thanks Kurt.

Unfortunately, Warner was too good, left too much time on the clock, and the result was Santonio Holmes tiptoing a TD with mere seconds left.

We so often measure greatness in a QB by wins and losses. But it is a team sport. While Troy Aikman, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady have quarterbacked teams to 3 or more super bowl appearances, they had great coaching staffs, excellent protection, and most of all, a defense that could win championships. Just ask Trent Dilfer about a great defense. 

While it's a passing league now, you don't often see teams that are Pass-first, run-second, winning championships. How many can you think of? The Saints in the epic Saints-Colts Super Bowl. The Colts in 06? Well, they actually ran more in that rainy super bowl. The answer is not many. Most super bowls are won by great defenses, strong clock-controlling running games, and effective quarterbacks that don't make mistakes.
Kurt Warner typically had none of those advantages. He had himself, a split second to throw the ball, and his receivers. With just that, he was the definition of clutch. He would have won 3 super bowls, with 3 game-winning or tying drives in the final minutes, capped with touchdown passes. In fact, those 3 drives only took him a total of 6 plays. 
Damnit Kurt, couldn't you have scored faster?

But we remember more the last second heroics of the other team either beating his defense, or his defense making a miraculous stop. 

Remember the 2007 Patriots, when Tom Brady became a Touchdown machine. How'd that Super Bowl end? Brady led a 12 play, 80 yard drive to the end zone to take a 14-10 lead with 2:42 left. Remember that? No, we remember the Giants desperation drive down the field to take the lead with little time left. It's the curse of the great passing team. They can't control the clock. They leave too much time for heroics.

Imagine if Warner had been a first round pick, a guy given the reigns at 22, a solid defense, a great coaching staff. What could he have done in a 14 year career? Instead, he was overlooked, finally got a chance, and won the whole damn thing, wasn't that long before they took his team away to give it to a younger QB. Then he got a new team, but not for long, he was just keeping it warm for a great new rookie. Then again. The dude never quit, and when it came down to the end of games and seasons, he never flinched.

1 comment:

  1. AND he sings and dances.. check out this awesome interview!