Warner made the most of his short time in St. Louis
Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
St. Louis lost one of its all-time sports heroes Tuesday afternoon when the Rams gave Kurt Warner the short haircut.
For sure, Warner's run was short. But what he accomplished during a glorious three-year span — two NFC Championships, one Super Bowl triumph, two regular season MVP awards, one Super Bowl MVP — made him an historic figure in this town.
He accomplished more during his short term as Rams quarterback than all the great Gridbirds from the old days. I'd argue that Warner is the second-greatest St. Louis pro football player ever, right behind running back (and fellow champion) Marshall Faulk.
Warner won it all here. He won it all with an epic performance, too, leading the Rams past the Tennessee Titans in that spectacular Super Bowl 34.
On North America's greatest sports stage, he delivered the ultimate clutch performance. How can anybody ever top that?
Let's face it, St. Louis teams seldom win it all. The Cardinals haven't won it all since 1982, despite the best efforts of managers Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and a legion of great players.
The Blues have never won it all. Bill Bidwill's football Cardinals obviously failed to win it all, too.
In these parts, we see a world championship about as often as we see a comet. And for St. Louis to see a World Championship won in such wildly entertaining fashion . . . well, that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
What Warner did at the helm of that '99 Rams team is the stuff of legends. He came from nowhere, an unheralded back-up quarterback liberated from the Arena Football League and NFL Europe.
Each generation of athletes produces storybook figures, but Warner may have been the greatest of them all. A former grocery store stock boy took the NFL's most pathetic franchise and led it to the top, revolutionizing pro offenses in the process.
Had Trent Green not suffered his catastrophic preseason knee injury, he might have passed through the league without making a bit of noise. He might have ended up back in the grocery store, stocking shelves.
Opportunity finally knocked, however, and Warner lived the dream that keeps every spare player going.
All those yards, all those touchdowns, all that drama at the end of the NFC title game and the Super Bowl -- who could ever match those highs? I'd argue that no NFL quarterback has EVER had the year Warner had with that team, given all the circumstances.
Warner nearly did it again in '01, once again leading the Rams to the Super Bowl with a monstrous offensive performance. But then the feisty New England Patriots ruined everything with their Super Bowl 36 upset and the Rams haven't quite been the same since.
Perhaps Warner's injury-related struggles in '02 tarnished his image with some fans. Perhaps his benching last season after one fumble-filled performance at Giants Stadium cost him his icon standing with many.
Perhaps Brenda Warner's weird outbursts and Kurt's own Biblegate controversy made some fans eager to the turn the page. Perhaps Marc Bulger's 18-4 regular-season record prompted many fans to jilt Kurt to rally around The Next New Thing.
But what Warner did for this franchise and this city will loom large for decades to come. He set a performance bar so high in this town that no future Ram may ever reach it.
An era ended Tuesday, an era none of us will ever forget.