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Back in September 1999, I spent $2 on Kurt Warner’s rights as a free agent in my fantasy football league. To this day, it’s one of the single ten best investments I’ve ever made along with buying a home and my 2010 Toyota Camry (or so I thought).
Fast forwarding over 10 years later, the joyride is officially over. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner announced his retirement on Friday, ending one of the greatest rags to riches to rags back to riches stories in NFL history.
There will be plenty of time to reflect on the devastation this might cause the Cardinals franchise for weeks and months to come. Thus, we will save all of the “sky is falling” talk for later. This is the time to appreciate Kurtis Eugene Warner.
While an odd and unlikely story, Warner’s tale should land him a spot in Canton. In fact, if he doesn’t get there. I’ll stage a protest at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Seriously. This man deserves to get there without question.
I know he has that bizarre career arc from ’02 to ’05 because of the problems with Mike Martz and numerous hand injuries but when he was on from ’99 to ’01, nobody and I mean nobody, was as good.
We know that he won a Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP, and two league MVP honors; we know he put up gaudy numbers with the “Greatest Show on Turf “Rams from 1999- 2001; and we know that he nearly he won his second Super Bowl ring last February.
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Yet, what is somewhat brushed aside is that he took two fledgling franchises that no one cared about and made them prominent in the NFL landscape.
The Rams had been losers for a decade before Warner subbed for an injured Trent Green in 1999. He took them to two Super Bowls and if not for the NFL law firm of Brady, Belichick, & Vinatieri, he’d have two rings. With Warner, the Rams were a powerhouse. Without him, they are as bad as the ’90-’98 Rams.
His work as a Cardinal was nearly as impressive. Prior to Warner, Arizona had last won a home playoff game in 1947…when they were the Chicago Cardinals (for historical perspective, Harry S. Truman was the leader of the free world at this point). Warner also led them to back to back division titles for the first time since the St. Louis Cardinals in 1974 and ’75.
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Only a faulty secondary (and untimely interception) kept Warner and the Cardinals from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa last February after one of the most improbable postseason runs for a team in NFL history
Being a postseason buzzsaw was nothing new for Warner. His first playoff pass was a 77-yard strike to Isaac Bruce in the 1999 NFC Divisional playoffs versus the Minnesota Vikings. That single play set the tone for Warner, the postseason marvel. Here’s a glimpse of his postseason credentials.
Rec. Comp. % Yds TDs INTs Rating SB Wins
9-4 66% 3,952 31 14 102.8 1
He never appeared scared or severely flustered by the moment like some big name quarterbacks we’ve seen before. Instead, Warner rose to the moment and played inspired football.
From working at a Hy-Vee supermarket in Cedar Falls, Iowa stocking shelves to becoming Super Bowl MVP, Warner’s journey is one that is not likely to be duplicated again.
To the man who sent me an autographed card in the mail after the ’99 season, I say thank you. It was a glorious ride.