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  • ESPN on Warner

    Sunday, September 12, 2004


    By Seth Wickersham
    ESPN The Magazine

    PHILADELPHIA -- For a while, everything looked the same. The hunched-over pocket stance, the tap-tap-tapping of the ball, the fidgeting in the pocket finally giving way to his three-quarter, slingshot release to a crossing receiver. Kurt Warner was back to where he used to be, pre-2002, engaged in a first-quarter race with Donovan McNabb's Eagles.


    Then, almost as quickly, the man who led the greatest offense in NFL history years ago in St. Louis looked in over his head, average, and unable to keep up with a surging team racing past his own.



    Kurt Warner completed 16 of 28 passes for 203 yards.
    Warner's New York Giants debut, a 31-17 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, was as confusing as his drop from excellence the past two years. He wrapped big plays with ones that drive coaches into studio analysts. It's hard to judge the second lease in Warner's career after one game, but a few things seem certain.


    The thumb? Looked healed. Warner threw crisp spirals most of the day.


    The slippery fingers? Still there. Warner's two fumbles give him a total of eight in his last two season openers.


    The DSL-fast reading of defenses, his trademark in St. Louis? Eh.


    The result? Unfortunately for Warner, still the same. The guy who went to two Super Bowls in his first three years as a starter hasn't won in his last nine starts.


    And, as the case has been with Warner the past few years, he started the game but didn't finish it, as he was told by Eli Manning -- not coach Tom Coughlin -- that he was being benched late in the game. Warner was clearly ticked off by the decision, even though his stay in New York is a leaguewide audition for 2005. And Manning knew. As they passed each other in the press conference room after the game, Warner out and Manning in (as their Giants careers will eventually end), the 23-year-old patted the back of the guy 10 years his senior.


    It wasn't easy for either of them.


    For bursts on Sunday, Warner looked prepared and ready and excited, almost as much as McNabb. The Eagles quarterback threw two touchdown passes in his first seven attempts. Warner didn't match McNabb toss for toss, but in his biggest game since the Super Bowl against New England three years ago, he was efficient. On the Giants' second possession, Warner shook off a roughing the passer penalty and converted a third-and-5 with a six-yard pass to Tiki Barber. Two plays later, tailback Ron Dayne gave the Giants a 7-0 lead, and suddenly the Giants looked every bit as feisty as the Super Bowl-favorite Eagles. "I thought we did some good things today," Warner said. "We had opportunities."


    But Philly still led 14-7 after the first quarter, and as the half drained on, it was clear the Giants were in trouble. At the mercy of an offensive line that would struggle to get you through a Royal Fork buffet line, and throwing to a rusty Jeremy Shockey, Warner started misfiring. He didn't press into coverage -- none of his 28 passes were intercepted, the first full game since the '02 NFC Championship that he hasn't thrown a pick -- but didn't hit the ones he should have. Six plays after a long, arching, blanket-soft toss for 43 yards to Ike Hilliard, Warner had Hilliard open at the goal line. Back in the day, when the receiver would have been Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt, Warner would have fed it in perfectly.


    But on this pass, he threw it behind Hilliard, forcing the receiver to twist and drop the ball, and instead of closing the score to 24-14, New York went into the half down by two touchdowns. "That took a lot out of them," said Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard. "You could tell."


    When he had time, he could pick us apart. When he didn't, the odds weren't in his favor.
    Lito Sheppard, Eagles cornerback on Kurt Warner


    The blitz-happy Eagles didn't blitz much on Sunday, instead rushing out of their base defense and betting that the Giants' couldn't block them. They couldn't. Warner was sacked four times and had several passes hurried or tipped. He looked switchblade-sharp on a few passes, but confused on others.


    "When he had time," said Sheppard, "he could pick us apart. When he didn't, the odds weren't in his favor."


    As the second half went on, Warner looked a little more panicked, a little less cool, and that's when the turnovers started. He didn't spot cornerback Sheldon Brown on a blitz, was hit, and fumbled. Down 31-10, he drove the Giants down to the Eagles 1-yard line, but on third-and-goal fumbled the snap. "I just dropped the ball," he said later, "That one was on me."

    "That," said Eagles linebacker Mark Simoneau, "had to hurt."


    It did. But not as much as when Warner was pulled just before the two-minute warning, the news coming to him via the rookie who will one day take his job. On the sideline, Warner looked more miserable than he ever did last year, when Marc Bulger was taking over Warner's old team in St. Louis. After the game, Warner mentioned the positives. When he said, "Across the board, there were a lot of positives," he was right. But still, the final results were unnerving.


    So how good is Warner now? Not good enough to lead a mediocre team past a potentially great one. He's no longer the six-time fumbler of a year ago, but isn't a two-time MVP either.

    But, he's out there, and after a Week 1 loss, it's still his job to lose.


    And for Warner, that's a good start.


    Seth Wickersham covers the NFL for ESPN The Magazine.

  • #2
    Re: ESPN on Warner

    Yea, that stinkin' Warner. Who does he think he is? Not making a single tackle, not containing Owens, and KW didn't hit McNabb once. Let's burn him at the stake and spit on his mom.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: ESPN on Warner

      Originally posted by HUbison
      Yea, that stinkin' Warner. Who does he think he is? Not making a single tackle, not containing Owens, and KW didn't hit McNabb once. Let's burn him at the stake and spit on his mom.
      Interestingly, some people would make the same sarcastic response to a lot of the negativity Bulger receives at the hands of critics.

      However, to return to topic, the look of Kurt on the sideline after being benched sent chills up my spine. I don't think he played horribly, although he definitely needs to work on better ball protection and eliminate those fumbles. But I saw a number of plays where he showed good accuracy and made good decisions, as well as some where he didn't. The Giants seem to love that screen to Tiki, though. I didn't watch the entire game, but I saw it twice when I was watching.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: ESPN on Warner

        I think Wickersham summed it up perfectly...
        his stay in New York is a leaguewide audition for 2005
        No need for him to get too wrapped up in this season. Put on the best show he can, do his best to keep words like "controversy" out of the ears of other GMs and next year he will be starting somewhere else, with maybe a more permanent situation. Until then, he is just Manning's show-and-tell project. "Kurt, show me how to do this" "Kurt, tell me how to do that"
        The more things change, the more they stay the same.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: ESPN on Warner

          Sad part about all this, is that this is exactly what happened in St. Louis. He played well but when things were on the line something happened to the guy. I am still not sure what it is, whether it's is hand, his head or his wife, something is wrong. Many times over and over he shows his greatness of pre-2002, but since, he has shown he can not win any more and has some personal things he needs to deal with before moving on from this funk :-(


          Originally posted by NickSeiler
          Interestingly, some people would make the same sarcastic response to a lot of the negativity Bulger receives at the hands of critics.

          However, to return to topic, the look of Kurt on the sideline after being benched sent chills up my spine. I don't think he played horribly, although he definitely needs to work on better ball protection and eliminate those fumbles. But I saw a number of plays where he showed good accuracy and made good decisions, as well as some where he didn't. The Giants seem to love that screen to Tiki, though. I didn't watch the entire game, but I saw it twice when I was watching.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: ESPN on Warner

            He looked average, no matter how you slice it. Half the league did better, half the league did worse. But when he's working with an average offense, way below average O-line, and below average D, what can he expect? What he can't expect is to play the same game that he played in St. Louis. You just can't drive an Impala, the way you drive a Porsche, no matter how you are behind the wheel. He wouldn't be the first QB to play at the level of his surroundings.
            The more things change, the more they stay the same.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: ESPN on Warner

              agree HUb, HOWEVER it is his responsibility to hang on to the ball and to hit wide open receivers. That is not the rest of the teams fault. A few years ago Warner would have never have fumbled on the one, would never miss open guys and always take the team on his shoulders. THAT IS NOT HAPPENING. That is the difference from now and then. There are too many unexplained issues with him, that he is not dealing with. He had the SAME problems here the last 2 years.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: ESPN on Warner

                Originally posted by Wraith
                HOWEVER it is his responsibility to hang on to the ball and to hit wide open receivers.
                You're 100% correct. He used to be automatic, but apparently that's not so anymore.
                Originally posted by Wraith
                A few years ago Warner would have never have fumbled on the one
                Something is still wrong with that hand. Evidently, it's not something that shows up on a physical, but he's just not gripping the ball like he used to. Which is odd, in itself, in that his spiral doesn't seem to be affected. But bottom line, he's not holding the ball as well. It's as if his hands have shrunk. I don't know, maybe there's nerve damage in his forearm or something, that would lessen his grip. Eh, what do I know; I ain't no doctor.
                The more things change, the more they stay the same.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: ESPN on Warner

                  you know we should cut him a break...lets see how he is after he wins a game or two...hes there and has the skills just not the cinfidence....for 2 years hes heard nothing but negative words...let him get a win or two and let him regain his confidence...give the poor guy some time....ill bet you the moment they win a game his spirit and the sword of damiclese thats hanging over his head will dissapear...maybe not all at once...but IT will go away...its all about confidence and right now hes just putting on a good show.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: ESPN on Warner

                    AAAHHHHH---Warner deserves a break, but our own team member don't Martz and Bulger don't. *LOL*


                    Originally posted by ramsfan1975
                    you know we should cut him a break...lets see how he is after he wins a game or two...hes there and has the skills just not the cinfidence....for 2 years hes heard nothing but negative words...let him get a win or two and let him regain his confidence...give the poor guy some time....ill bet you the moment they win a game his spirit and the sword of damiclese thats hanging over his head will dissapear...maybe not all at once...but IT will go away...its all about confidence and right now hes just putting on a good show.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: ESPN on Warner

                      Originally posted by ramsfan1975
                      you know we should cut him a break...lets see how he is after he wins a game or two...hes there and has the skills just not the cinfidence....for 2 years hes heard nothing but negative words...let him get a win or two and let him regain his confidence...give the poor guy some time....ill bet you the moment they win a game his spirit and the sword of damiclese thats hanging over his head will dissapear...maybe not all at once...but IT will go away...its all about confidence and right now hes just putting on a good show.
                      I'm sure it's been quite a roller coaster ride. He spends four years bouncing from team to team, being told he's not good enough to play. Then, overnight, he starts a 3 year run that has never been (and IMO will never be) equaled and he can do no wrong. Then he spends the past two years with everybody telling how bad he sucks. So, yea, the psyche may have been affected.

                      Having said that, I still think there is nerve damage affecting his grip. Mental problems wouldn't cause him to lose his grip on the ball. I may be wrong, but I don't think he's 100% in that right forearm.
                      The more things change, the more they stay the same.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: ESPN on Warner

                        Originally posted by RamWraith
                        AAAHHHHH---Warner deserves a break, but our own team member don't Martz and Bulger don't. *LOL*
                        Amazing huh, RamsWraith, unfortunately your words may fall upon deaf ears.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: ESPN on Warner

                          This is thread is a prime example of what is wrong with the Ram fan

                          Thread - Victory is beautiful to Bulger, even with flaws -- posted for 13 hours ago and has recieved 35 views and 2 reponses

                          Thread - ESPN on Warner -- posted 3 hours ago gets 62 views, 9 replys

                          Any other Rams fan see a problem with this???

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: ESPN on Warner

                            Originally posted by RamWraith
                            This is thread is a prime example of what is wrong with the Ram fan

                            Thread - Victory is beautiful to Bulger, even with flaws -- posted for 13 hours ago and has recieved 35 views and 2 reponses

                            Thread - ESPN on Warner -- posted 3 hours ago gets 62 views, 9 replys

                            Any other Rams fan see a problem with this???
                            Everybody loves a trainwreck.
                            The more things change, the more they stay the same.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: ESPN on Warner

                              Originally posted by ramsfan1975
                              you know we should cut him a break...
                              I'm not sure it's in our hands. I'm afraid he has crossed swords with someone on the other side. It seems clear that somebody or something is making things as difficult as they can for him. Not sure why.

                              Otherwise, why couldn't Toomer make an acrobatic catch - all passes are not perfectly led. Why couldn't Shockey make his catch early on? Why of all times for Kurt to fumble was it on the one yard line? If it wasn't for bad luck, KW wouldn't have any at all at the momemt. Makes me wonder who he pissed off.

                              If I were KW I'd take heart, tt could be turning. Kurt could have been in the game on the last play and got blistered like Eli and had his sinuses cleared and his eyes watering instead of Eli. That was the definition of a football hit.

                              Comment

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