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  • Warner must prove he can still produce - Pasquarelli

    Warner must prove he can still produce
    By Len Pasquarelli
    ESPN.com


    The Giants are hoping that Kurt Warner will take better care of the ball.

    On the New York Giants' Web site Thursday morning, a hastily photographed digital image of the franchise's newest starting quarterback appeared -- Kurt Warner in a red practice jersey bearing his familiar No. 13.

    Given the recent performance of the all-time league leader in passing efficiency -- remember, this is a player who hasn't won a game as a starter since 2001 -- both the color of the practice shirt and the numerals emblazoned on the front and back of it might, alas, prove pretty appropriate.

    The Giants are hoping that Kurt Warner will take better care of the ball.
    The Giants wear blue uniforms, of course, and the red practice jersey is a universal "don't touch" cautionary measure designed to keep pass rushers from jostling the quarterback. As for the No. 13, well, surely the most non-superstitious among us understands its ominous implications. Even the great Dan Marino, who also thumbed his nose at fate by donning No. 13 for all 17 of his mostly brilliant seasons, eventually could not elude the misfortune attached to those dire digits.

    And so, while we hope we're wrong about this, given that Warner is a good guy and one who couldn't depart St. Louis before first passing through the Rams' complex to visit with the people who served as his support group for six seasons, that red practice shirt and the No. 13 represent an ominous beginning to the next chapter of his career.

    During an afternoon news conference, a smiling Warner noted Giants officials were kind enough to allow him to retain his favorite uniform number. Maybe a change of scenery, though, begged for a change from the recently cursed 13. Warner also noted that, after starting just one game in 2003, it is time to get his feet wet again. But should he spend much of '04 submerged beneath the opposition pass rush, desperately trying to tread water behind New York's remodeled offensive line, Warner might someday look back on the irony of his words.

    Make no mistake, signing Warner to a two-year contract worth $9.5 million -- which, in reality, is a one-year deal at $3 million, since the second year is voidable -- was a solid enough gamble by New York. But there is no mistaking as well that Warner, who will turn 33 in a couple weeks and who was sacked six times while throwing but one touchdown pass in 2003, isn't the same guy who claimed two league MVP awards and led the Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV championship.

    Once the ego of Kerry Collins kept him from collecting a $7 million paycheck this year for introducing the Tutor Dynasty at Giants Stadium, serving as a grizzled starter/mentor to Eli Manning, the team sought Neil O'Donnell for that position. When he declined, and it became clear Warner was persona non grata in St. Louis, the rags-to-riches guy became the next target. Give the savvy Warner credit for this much: Unlike Collins (who will require two seasons in Oakland to earn the $7 million he would have banked staying with the Giants), and O'Donnell, Warner knew a good opportunity when he saw one.

    What he doesn't see as clearly anymore, usually because you can't read a secondary when you're at the bottom of a pile, is open wide receivers. And therein lies a likely problem for the Giants, who wouldn't mind it if Manning only carries a clipboard this season, and isn't prematurely forced to carry a high-profile franchise coming off a disastrous 2003.

    General manager Ernie Accorsi is a guy who knows quarterbacks. He grew up in the NFL watching the great Johnny Unitas, arguably the premier practitioner of all-time at the position. He was against trading away John Elway, who threatened to sit out instead of playing for the Baltimore Colts in 1983. Six weeks ago, Accorsi beat the odds by pulling off a blockbuster trade to land the coveted Manning, a gambit that ought to ensure the Giants superb quarterback play for the next decade.

    That said, while we agree that Warner represented the most viable option to simply throwing Manning to the wolves, the results could be dicey.

    My good friend Gary Myers, the veteran and sage NFL columnist for the New York Daily News, suggested by phone the other day that Warner is essentially the stunt double for Manning this year. A great analogy and one I wished I'd conjured up first. Rather than steal the term from Myers, we'll substitute "crash test dummy" in its place. The Giants are going to strap Warner into the starter's throne, put him behind the rebuilt offensive line, and monitor the results.

    Here's hoping that Warner, who has been about as fragile as a Faberge egg over the last couple of seasons, can survive. Let's hope, too, that his biggest cheerleader, wife Brenda, isn't so quick to pick up the phone and call one of New York's sports-talk stations when hubby is jeered following his first interception. That schtick may have played well in the Midwest but in New York, where the radio hosts can contort the most benign syllable and turn every molehill into a tabloid headline, it won't sell at all.

    How well Warner sells remains to be seen. A super person, he is also a player in denial. He bristles when it is suggested he is damaged goods but, while Giants doctors insist that he is over his various injuries, Rams coaches who watched him throw every day during practice suggest otherwise. Those same coaches, by the way, adamantly deny Warner did not get along well with Marc Bulger, the Rams quarterback who replaced him.

    But even if Warner is physically whole, the suspicion in many league quarters is that he is at least psychologically wounded, that he isn't the same fearless player in the pocket. He plays, scouts say, with a lower eye level now. Translation: The man who was once totally oblivious to the pass rush, who hung in and took a ton of shots just so he could deliver the ball to an uncovering wideout, now sees every opponent situational pass rusher from the second the guy leaves the bench.

    The most pertinent image of Warner, especially in New York, is from his last start. Ironically, it was at Giants Stadium in the 2003 season opener, and Warner was sacked six times, fumbled on a half-dozen occasions and suffered a concussion. That image, of course, is not indelible. The supposedly difficult fans of New York are notorious for their selective amnesia, and the allegedly harsh media is mostly comprised of unabashed homers, so one game-winning touchdown pass can erase a lot of negative memories.

    For that to happen, though, Warner has to throw a winning touchdown pass and it seems forever since that has occurred.

    Don't ignore, either, that the Giants' first two regular-season games are against the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. In the 2001 opener, when Warner was with the Rams and facing the Eagles, we can recall Philly defensive coordinator Jim Johnson starting the contest with a blitz. And not just any blitz. He brought, on the opening snap, both corners, Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor off the edge. Watching through the binoculars, we can recall thinking it was the first time we had ever seen such an exotic maneuver.

    It's still three months until the opener but you can bet that Johnson, who is one of the best pressure coordinators in the game, already has conjured up a blitz package as thick as the Manhattan telephone directory. And the new Redskins coordinator, Gregg Williams, is another aggressive coordinator, a Buddy Ryan devotee who favors the "46" defense. The upshot is that, right out of the chute, Warner is going to be tested.

    Too bad that, once the season begins, they can't dress him in one of those red "hands off" jerseys he wore in practice Thursday morning.

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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  • WisRamsFan
    Warner in the correct forum
    by WisRamsFan
    Warner becomes caretaker QB until Manning ready

    By TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer
    June 3, 2004
    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New York Giants are taking some of the pressure off Eli Manning , signing Kurt Warner to be their caretaker quarterback until the top pick in the draft is ready to take over.

    While the two-time MVP got a two-year contract late Wednesday that will pay him a minimum of $3.5 million this year, there is no guarantee the two-time NFL MVP will play for the Giants for more than a year.

    When Manning is ready to go, he will be the Giants' quarterback.

    ADVERTISEMENT


    Until then, the job seemingly belongs to Warner, the soon-to-be 33-year-old who led the St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl appearances after the 1999 and 2001 seasons. Injuries and the emergence of Marc Bulger earned him a pink slip on Tuesday.

    ``I am looking to come in and to play and to re-establish myself,'' Warner said at Thursday, hours after his first practice. ``I would love this to be where I finish my career.''

    Warner has incentives that can push his salary to $8 million this season. However, the second year of his contract is voidable and his tenure may well be determined by Manning's progress in his rookie season.

    ``I don't want to keep moving and picking up my family,'' Warner added. ``I want to continue to have success. I would love it to be here in New York and I will do whatever in my time here to be successful. We'll just see what happens.''

    ``Obviously Manning is there, but this is New York and if Kurt wins, they are not going to want him to leave,'' said Mark Bartelstein, Warner's agent.

    The signing takes a ton of pressure off Manning.

    The son of Archie Manning and the brother of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning became the Giants' starting quarterback when Kerry Collins refused to take a pay cut and was released less than a week after New York got the No. 1 pick in a draft-day trade with San Diego.

    Manning, who has known for weeks the Giants planned to sign a veteran, still plans on competing for the starting job.

    ``I don't know if this takes the pressure off,'' Manning said. ``I don't know if anything has changed in my view. I am still going to practice just as hard as ever. I want to be ready.''

    Manning and Warner spoke for a few minutes on Thursday. Warner plans to tutor Manning, just as he did with Bulger in St. Louis.

    ``To teach a guy the little things and have him become a better quarterback was fun for me, as frustrating as it was not playing,'' Warner said. ``But I look forward to helping any way I can.''

    Warner also is looking forward to playing again. He suffered a concussion in a season-opening loss to the Giants last season and did not start for the rest of the year. He...
    -06-03-2004, 03:58 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Interesting Takes From Warner & Coughlin
    by r8rh8rmike
    Wednesday, June 9, 2004


    By Sal Paolantonio
    Special to ESPN.com

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- You can see it in his eyes. Kurt Warner's eyes are wide open, revealing the happiness of a man who has emerged from the long slumber of lost opportunity.


    "I feel completely re-energized," said Warner, as he came off the field after his first mini-camp practice with his new team, the New York Giants.



    Warner lacked some zip on his passes during practices.
    Rewind to Giants Stadium, Week 1 last year. Under constant pressure from Michael Strahan and company, Warner was sacked six times and fumbled six times, and started his last game for the St. Louis Rams. Sitting on the trainer's table in the visitors' locker room at Giants Stadium that Sunday afternoon, Warner had just been diagnosed with a mild concussion and his eyes had the vacant look of a man who had just bought a one-way ticket down the rabbit hole.


    The contrast between Warner then and Warner now couldn't be more stark. And the situation couldn't be more ironic -- the team that ended his season has now handed Warner a chance at NFL redemption.


    It's no wonder that Warner has displayed the same wide-eyed eagerness of the former stock boy from Iowa who emerged from NFL Europe and replaced the injured Trent Green to re-write the history of Rams football in St. Louis.


    "Normally, the player will sit down and will have to talk to his agent on the phone," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "He said, 'I don't want any of this. Let's get this done.' He signed right away. He was down the hall, looking for coaches, saying 'Let's go meet.' He wanted to get himself immersed in this offense right away."


    There is good reason for Warner to be anxious. Coming to New York means that Warner, who will be 33 on June 22, will be under-going several mid-life, mid-course adjustments.


    He must adjust to the demands of Coughlin's offense, which shall we say is a bit more conservative than the Greatest Show on Turf choreographed by Mike Martz. And Warner will be learning the new offense with a newly minted franchise quarterback, Eli Manning, looking over his shoulder.


    The Giants invested two first-round draft picks and expended a lot of public relations good will to acquire Manning in a trade with San Diego in this year's NFL draft. Some see Warner as the perfect mentor for Manning, or at least a temporary diversion so that Manning can incubate his talents without being over-exposed by the white, hot lights of the New York media.


    Warner will have none of that. You can tell by the tone and conviction in his voice that, for Warner, this is not about Peyton Manning's little brother.


    "Obviously, I'm coming in to...
    -06-10-2004, 05:07 PM
  • Nick
    Footballguys.com Analysis of Warner Situation
    by Nick
    Fantasy Notebook: Fool Me Once, Shame On You. ...
    By Bob Harris - Senior NFL Analyst - Footballguys.com

    Well, the latest reports filtering out of the Big Apple say Kurt Warner
    looked sharp during his initial mini-camp workouts this week. His passes
    were crisp and mostly on target. But as New York Daily News staffer Ralph
    Vacchiano noted, the surprise was that Eli Manning's passes looked even
    better.

    After struggling through his first mini-camp as a pro early last month,
    Manning put all that behind him Monday with a much-improved performance
    that caught the eyes of his coaches and teammates.

    According to Vacchiano, "his command in the huddle was better and he had a
    much greater knowledge of the offense. And as a result, he was able to
    show off the right arm that the Giants worked so hard to acquire in their
    blockbuster draft-day trade."

    Wow. Sounds pretty darned good. ...

    Unfortunately, Manning didn't fare as well Tuesday. Which should come as
    no surprise. Once again, we're talking about a rookie trying to get up to
    speed at the league's most difficult position to master.

    Which is why, I suspect, we'll see a growing media drumbeat surrounding
    the Warner/Manning competition with Warner putting increasing pressure on
    his younger teammate as he becomes familiar with the Giants' system and
    his NFL MVP experience begins to factor into the equation.

    But that doesn't mean I believe Warner is the best man for this job. Nor
    am I sure he's not. And I'm not alone in my confusion.

    In fact, after reviewing some of the opinions being floated by those "in
    the know," I've come to the conclusion that Warner is as mysterious to the
    rest of the world as he is to me.

    A sampling follows. ...

    In an article published Monday, Sports Illustrated insider Peter King
    advised readers: "I think Kurt Warner, whatever happens, will be a team
    player and will help Eli Manning as much as he can with the Giants. Warner
    is one of the few people I know in football who truly would help the guy
    behind him even if it meant it might hurt his situation."

    But former Giants quarterback Phil Simms disagreed.

    "The perfect guy (for the Giants) was Neil O'Donnell," Simms told the
    Newark Star-Ledger. "It's not a knock against Kurt, but the agendas are
    different. Kurt Warner still wants to be a franchise quarterback. He wants
    to be the guy. ... Kurt Warner will give information to Eli, but he's
    going to be more concerned about his performance, his knowledge and what
    he's doing."

    Another Sports Illustrated writer, NFL guru Paul Zimmerman, took things a
    step further,...
    -06-13-2004, 09:36 PM
  • Nick
    Warner's benching shows that Rams made right choice - PD
    by Nick
    Warner's benching shows that Rams made right choice
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    11/15/2004
    Bryan Burwell
    Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bryan Burwell
    (P-D)

    Back here in Kurt Warner's adopted home town, the varying opinions on
    the cause and effects of the meteoric rise and fall of his storybook
    football life always will be blurred under so many dreamy - and
    divergent - emotional clouds. With all we know about him here, how
    exactly do we reconcile the dramatic beginning that took him from
    stocking supermarket shelves to NFL MVP to the unceremonious end that
    has dropped him from heralded Super Bowl hero to declining
    arm-for-hire?

    There always will be an unresolved emotional debate here, where the
    polarizing after-effects of his departure from the Rams still conjure
    a divisive chasm between the unadulterated Warner worshipers who
    believe he left town too early and the unapologetic Warner bashers who
    are convinced he left far too late.

    But nine games into his comeback season in New York, far removed from
    the agonizing two-year-long Rams soap opera, Warner has been benched
    again in favor of another rising young passer. And now it's time to
    face three unemotional facts:

    Warner still can play.

    Warner no longer can play at his two-time MVP level.

    The Rams kept the right quarterback.

    The evidence is there if you're objective enough to digest it. The
    more you watched Warner play, the more you knew the star of the Rams'
    glory years looks better suited for a more limited role as an aging
    backup QB.

    Giants head coach Tom Coughlin had no other choice but to bench him.
    If the Giants' offense was going to struggle, it might as well
    struggle with $46 million rookie passer Eli Manning getting some
    valuable experience.

    "(Manning) is the future of the New York Giants, it just starts now,"
    Coughlin told reporters Monday. "I really felt the last four games we
    haven't been playing well offensively. We just need to make a change."

    This is why he could make the change with a clear heart.

    In all the important categories that measure a quarterback's worth,
    Warner has settled into a mediocre existence (15th in passer
    efficiency rating, 13th in completions, 16th in pass attempts, 13th in
    completion percentage, 14th in yardage, 27th in touchdown passes, 17th
    in yards per attempt and last in times sacked). The only category in
    which he is among the NFL leaders is in fewest interceptions (fourth).

    Meanwhile, in those same categories, younger, more mobile Rams QB Marc
    Bulger is decidedly better in every category but interceptions (Bulger...
    -11-16-2004, 01:24 PM
  • Yodude
    Why Coughlin Picked Warner....
    by Yodude
    Horrible game with Rams opened door for Warner to sign with Giants
    Friday, October 22, 2004
    By Tom Kowalski

    ALLEN PARK -- Kurt Warner has won a Super Bowl, a couple of NFL Most Valuable Player awards and has set all kinds of passing records, but he's currently the New York Giants quarterback because head coach Tom Coughlin was impressed with one of Warner's worst-ever games.

    In last year's season opener, when he was quarterbacking the St. Louis Rams, Warner had a horrific game against the Giants. He was sacked six times, fumbled six times (losing three) and was intercepted once in New York's 23-13 win against the Rams.

    Coughlin, who became the Giants head coach this year, remembered that performance (after watching game films) when he was deciding whether to sign Warner as a free agent in the off-season.

    "I looked hard at the game," said Coughlin, whose 4-1 Giants host the 3-2 Detroit Lions Sunday at Giants Stadium. "He had the turnovers, no question, but he also performed with outstanding toughness even well into the fourth quarter, despite the statistics, the turnovers and all of those things. He was battling and competing and had a high percentage completion rate even deep into the fourth quarter."

    Coughlin, who is a hard-nosed throwback coach, wanted a competitor and that's what he got in Warner, who only wanted an opportunity to play. After his glory years in St. Louis, Warner stumbled hard with the Rams and it appeared his career might be over.

    "I never had the doubt, from a personal standpoint, about my skills and that I could play at that level," Warner said. "I had some doubt about whether I'd get a legitimate chance to do it. That's where the doubts were. I always felt that if I ever got that opportunity, I could play this game as well as I've ever played it."

    That's why Warner didn't want to sign with the Lions as a backup to Joey Harrington.

    "It was kicked around and talked about a little bit but, obviously, they have a young quarterback who they've put some stock in and given him the opportunities to continue to progress," Warner said. "It wasn't the most conducive situation to what I was looking for, but I definitely considered it.

    "(Lions) Coach (Steve) Mariucci is an old friend of mine and I really love the guy. That would've been a great fit, other than the standpoint that they have Joey there and he has so much talent and he's proven that's the right direction to go."

    After a close training camp battle between Warner and first-round draft pick Eli Manning, the Giants decided they wanted to go with the veteran. Warner has responded with solid performances, completing 65 percent of his passes and throwing just one interception in five games. However, Warner -- and his three touchdown passes -- is...
    -10-22-2004, 05:57 PM
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