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  1. #1
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    Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top

    Oct. 13, 2004
    By Pete Prisco
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
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    Insider | Notebook | Mailbag
    New York Giants quarterback Kurt Warner is on a cell phone, driving somewhere in New Jersey, talking about his new team and his new situation. As he speaks, he sounds more upbeat than he has in years, which is saying something because this is one happy dude.

    "I'm loving it here," Warner said.


    Showing vintage form so far, Kurt Warner is proving just how little his critics know.
    Why wouldn't he? This was a man who was written off the past year, many speculating that his time at the top had come and gone. They said his 15 minutes of fame were over.

    That feel-good story of grocery stock boy to league MVP was nice at the time, but as quick as he rose to the top, it was sure to be followed by talk that he would fall just as fast.

    Washed up. Over. Done. Finished.

    Warner heard it all the past couple of seasons, the talk growing from murmurs into a full-blown amplified beat by late last season in St. Louis. Forget his two MVP awards he won with the Rams. Forget his Super Bowl victory after the 1999 season. Forget all the passing numbers.

    The doubters, including the St. Louis Rams coaches, insisted his time was up.

    "I guess it's unprecedented what happened to me," Warner said. "To go from where I was to the last two years, it's hard to make sense of it. People formed an opinion on what was wrong with me and they all seemed to jump on the bandwagon. It was easy to come to the conclusion that I wasn't the same player based on the past couple of years. But I never put a lot of stock in what people were saying. I knew what I was capable of doing. The bottom line for me has not been what people think about me, but what the people in my locker room and in the organization think about me. I knew I could still play and still win."

    He's doing both, too.

    The Giants are the surprise team of the first five weeks, winning four consecutive games after losing their opener to the Eagles. At 4-1, heading into their bye week Sunday, they are a half game behind Philadelphia in the NFC East.

    Warner is big reason for the success.


    So much for his just keeping the seat warm until rookie first-round pick Eli Manning takes over. Warner isn't going anywhere. Not the way he's playing. There had been some talk that Warner would keep the spot until the bye week, and then hand the keys to the car over to the younger kid. That's laughable now.


    Warner may not be putting up the huge numbers he did with the Rams from 1999-2001, but he is running the offense with precision, he's taking care of the ball and he's getting it out on time.

    Through five games, Warner has completed 95 of 147 passes for 1,125 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception. The yardage total, which is ninth in the league, projects to a 3,600-yard season. By Warner's Rams standards, where he twice threw for over 4,300 yards, it's low. The Giants' offense is far more conventional, so his numbers will be lower, but he's adjusted well.

    What's interesting is that his completion percentage of 64.6 is just under his career average of 66.3, putting to rest any talk that he no longer had what it took to stay in the pocket and hit receivers in stride.

    The perception that too many hits had left him a little gun shy, unable to handle the rush and thus make inaccurate throws, appears to be way off.

    "I don't know why people came to that conclusion," Warner said. "The facts didn't back it up. Even in the year (2002) I had a thumb problem, I still hit on 65 percent of my passes. But when you aren't as successful as you had been, they look for reasons to tear you down."

    Maybe it's because he came to success the unconventional way. This was a kid who came from the Arena League with a stint in NFL Europe to win a Super Bowl in his first year as a starter. That makes scouting people look bad, so when he starts to go bad, they have a tendency to turn on him.

    Reports came out of St. Louis the past two years that he wasn't the same player who won the two MVPS. His eye-level had come down because of all the hits, and he no longer would stare down the gun barrel to make a big throw. He started throwing quicker, skeptics said, to avoid the hits. He'd never again be the same.

    "Why they said that, I'll never know," Warner said. "I knew it wasn't true."

    His three-year passing run from 1999-2001 is as good as any quarterback in league history had in a three-year period.

    He had big numbers, the Rams went to two Super Bowls, winning one, and yet as soon as things started to go slightly bad, they turned on Warner quickly, which was hard to understand considering he might be the most unassuming player in the league.

    Look up nice guy in the dictionary, and Warner's picture would be there. You'd think this was a loud, brash, look-at-me player the way he was torn up in the media and by fans.

    It didn't help the situation that a rift developed in St. Louis with Rams coach Mike Martz, who made the decision to go with Marc Bulger as his quarterback this year, only a season after he insisted Warner was his guy for the long term.

    That relationship went sour quicker than a Britney Spears marriage, ending when Warner was traded to the Giants last spring. He started just one game in 2003 -- against the Giants, no less -- before a concussion that day led to his being benched in favor of Bulger. It mattered little to Martz that Warner had a big-time preseason and threw for 144 yards in the fourth quarter against the Giants after suffering the concussion and playing on.

    All that mattered was that with spaghetti for brains, he fumbled six times and was sacked six times as he took a beating from the Giants defense.

    The slide to football oblivion became complete that day in the eyes of many. His body, they said, was falling apart and he no longer could be the MVP-like quarterback. A thumb injury from the previous year made it impossible for him to hold the football, the doubters said. His passes no longer had the zip.

    Anything and everything with negativity came his way.

    "I think until you do it for a long enough period where people can't get used to you doing it, then you're going to hear a lot of criticism," Warner said. "It really was only three years for me. People would say that I was surrounded by great players, which is why we had success. Maybe he wasn't as talented as we thought. Three years later, when I was on the bench, it was easy to hang onto that."

    Warner stewed at that talk, but he held it all in. That's just him. Plus, he knew he still could play. If the Rams didn't want him, he knew somebody would.

    That isn't to say he didn't have some doubt creep in, not about his abilities but rather about opportunity.

    I wondered if I'd ever get a legitimate opportunity to do it again," Warner said. "I wondered if I'd get a chance to hear someone say, 'here's the ball, it's your team.' A number of teams called, but they said they wanted me to be a backup for a young guy. I just wanted a legitimate chance to prove to people I could still play. The one reason I liked the idea of going to the Giants was they were the one team that told me they would put the best player on the field. They said it would be an open competition, and they kept their word."


    Warner beat out Manning in the preseason, but most expected it was a temporary thing. The Giants had so much invested in the kid, how could they play the breaking-down veteran for long?

    Only it hasn't been that way. Warner has looked like the two-time MVP at times running the Giants offense. With the Giants 4-1, there's no way a change is coming anytime soon, nor should it.

    Manning is going to be a great NFL quarterback, but Warner is intent on showing he still is that -- and more.

    "After what we did in the preseason, I don't think anyone thought we'd be sitting here 4-1," Warner said. "But here we are. Things are going well. We're jelling. We believe in each other. And we're growing as a team."

    Warner loves this group. He likes the players, has adjusted to the rigid ways of coach Tom Coughlin and now has a firm grasp of the offense. The proof is in the results.

    Yet there are still doubters. When will he fall again? When will he revert to the Kurt Warner of the last two years, paving the way for Manning to take over?

    "I know people say things like that," Warner said. "I just block it all out, try not to pay attention to any of it."

    He says proving people wrong doesn't drive him. He's past that. Yet as you talk to him, it's clear that maybe a little part of him is driven to prove to those doubters that he still can play. Any other player would blurt out that type of thing, especially being back near the top again. Warner is too nice a guy to lash out.

    Instead he's going to let his play prove them all wrong, without saying a word.

    "My motivation isn't to prove anybody wrong," Warner said. "I just enjoy being part of this team. We have great camaraderie and chemistry, which is why I'm enjoying playing football again. I'm not doing this to throw it back in somebody's face, to prove them wrong. My thought process isn't to show them I can still play. I knew I could. I just want to go out and win games and have fun doing it, and right now we're winning and I'm having fun."

    Yes, he certainly is loving football again.

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  2. #2
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    Re: Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top

    Prisco did a good job on the article, and I'm happy that Warner is finally getting a FAIR shot (something he was promised in St. Louis by Martz, but was not given.) His current play, although not up to his MVP years (which is to be expected with a much less talented group of teammates to work with, and a much more conservative offense) kinda makes me wonder if there really was a conspiracy against him in St. Louis, or at least a major dislike on the part of the Rams HC. Sad for a lot of people...
    "Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie', until you can find a rock." Will Rogers

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    Re: Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top

    Glad to see Prisco finally write something worth reading. I'm one of the biggest Warner fans in the world, but he couldn't have remained a Ram this year. It was a lose-lose situation all the way around. We cut him, he moves on to success (at least sounds like a lose). He stays with us and rides pine (a definite lose). He stays with us and starts, only furthering the frustration between himself, Martz, Bulger, & any other out-of-joint nose in the locker room or front office (an absolute loss).

    I hate it, but he had to move on. As is, he's having success, Bulger & the Rams are having success and the future of both parties appear bright. For as crappy a situation as this whole ordeal was, I think the best possible scenario has played out.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  4. #4
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    Re: Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top

    Good point, bison.
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  5. #5
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    Re: Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top

    I don't think the show will make it. The writing is poor and Jason Alexander's character is too much like George Costanza. Its got a good time slot, but that's about it.


    Oh... wait... I'm sorry...

    I thought this thread was about Malcolm-Jamaal Warner.

    Never mind.

  6. #6
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    Re: Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top

    This is one case, argument you lost Avenger, the facts are coming in every week Warner can and still can play. Best thing to do is just stay out of such threads like TX and let some Ram fans feel good for Warner. I’m happy for the guy but Marc is really starting grow on me, Marc is getting better every week.

    Go Rams

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    Re: Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos
    This is one case, argument you lost Avenger, the facts are coming in every week Warner can and still can play. Best thing to do is just stay out of such threads like TX and let some Ram fans feel good for Warner. I’m happy for the guy but Marc is really starting grow on me, Marc is getting better every week.

    Go Rams
    If anyone can find a thread in which I stated that Warner "cannot still play" I will readily admit that I "lost" the argument and never speak of Warner again.

    Let me save you the trouble...

    I've never said that.

    I have said: (1) I didn't think Kurt could ever play at the level he did from 1999-2001 (he hasn't), (2) that I thought he caused unnecessary disruption with his offseason comments (I still believe that), and (3) that I think Marc Bulger is - RIGHT NOW - the better man for the job of starting QB in Mike Martz's offense (again, I still believe that).

    So, to use a metaphor... you may have achieved "check mate," but, unfortunately for you, we are actually playing checkers.

    What any of this has to do with Malcolm-Jamaal Warner, I have no idea.

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