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Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top

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  • Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top

    Oct. 13, 2004
    By Pete Prisco
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Pete your opinion!



    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.
    Clannie Nominee for ClanRam's Thickest Poster

  • #2
    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...

    Comment


    • #3
      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.
      The more things change, the more they stay the same.

      Comment


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

        Good point, bison.

        Comment


        • #5
          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.

          Comment


          • #6
            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

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top

              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.

              Comment

              Related Topics

              Collapse

              • Nick
                Won't Get Any Better for Kurt / Newsday.com
                by Nick
                Won't get any better for Kurt
                Bob Glauber
                Friday, June 4, 2004

                Yes, even Kurt Warner can't figure out how it has come to this: How one minute, he was the most incredible story in pro sports, the stockboy-at-the-local-HyVee-turned-Super Bowl hero. And how the next minute, he was wearing a headset and a blank stare, wondering where in the world it all went wrong.

                "Sometimes you just sit back and say, 'Wow, how did I get here?'" the former St. Louis Rams quarterback said yesterday. "You wonder where it's going."

                Warner hopes it's going back in the other direction, that the pendulum will begin to swing in the direction of a Super Bowl now that he has left the wonder and heartbreak of the Rams behind and come to the Giants. He believes he again can be the dominant quarterback he was from 1999-2001, when he won a Super Bowl, went to another, collected two NFL MVP trophies and was named a Super Bowl MVP.

                Sorry, Kurt, I have my doubts.

                "I think that two or three years down the road, it's all going to make sense, and that a lot is going to be accomplished," he said. "Sometimes it's hard to make sense of it, but all I can do is take it day by day and see what tomorrow brings."

                Warner's enthusiasm is understandable in light of his experience the last two seasons, in which he failed to win any of his eight starts, suffered three broken bones in his throwing hand and a concussion, and ultimately lost his job.

                But Warner is kidding himself if he thinks he can get back to where he once was.

                He certainly gives the Giants a chance to win more games than if No. 1 pick Eli Manning were thrown into the starting lineup right away. But to imagine Warner throwing darts the way he did with The Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis is simply unrealistic.

                Once he steps onto the field against the blitz-happy Eagles in the regular-season opener Sept. 12, you will see the same problems that led to Warner's fall from grace. You will see him lock on to receivers the way he did during his difficult times in St. Louis. You will see him get jittery under a heavy rush. And with the shaky offensive line the Giants figure to have, Warner certainly can't expect the kind of protection that once gave him time in his seven-step drops to fuel the Rams' high-octane attack. It doesn't help that the Giants are without the collective speed and talent around Warner that he enjoyed with the Rams.

                Warner can't possibly be as bad as he was in last year's opener against the Giants, when he fumbled six times and suffered six sacks. A mild concussion can explain some of those problems, but certainly not all.

                One player who was with the Rams during their two Super Bowl seasons said Warner slowed down noticeably in recent years, that he was not making on-field decisions as quickly as...
                -06-04-2004, 10:55 AM
              • RamWraith
                Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read
                by RamWraith
                Just like with Rams and Giants, Warner out to prove critics wrong
                By Darren Urban, Tribune


                The resumé is too long for the story to begin where it once did. Kurt Warner knows that.
                His past is decorated with two MVP awards, three Pro Bowls, two Super Bowl appearances and a St. Louis fan base that still follows him two stops later.

                Warner is no longer the nobody who took over at quarterback for the Rams in 1999, but in some ways, he is starting over.

                He has more doubters than believers, which is where he stood that day St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil made him the starter after Trent Green's season-ending knee injury almost six years ago.

                And like his Rams back then, his new team in Arizona carries few expectations.

                "There are a lot of people out there that don't think I can still play, and there's a lot of people out there that don't think this team has a chance to do anything," Warner said. The statistics haven't been gaudy for three years, and for Warner, his history has become his burden. But it is also his proof.

                "There has never been a story like Kurt Warner's," Cardinals coach Dennis Green said. "It's a result of him believing in himself." Warner still believes. He believes that winning football, if not video game-like stats, remains in him.

                He believes politics dragged him out of the lineup with both the Rams and the New York Giants. He believes he will be reborn as an NFL starter with the Cardinals this season. And he believes he has lived this scenario before. "It's kind of my story, the underdog story, no chance to have success," Warner said. "It's kind of like what I stepped into in St. Louis.

                "I get a chance to rewrite my story, and I get a chance to hopefully rewrite the story of the Arizona Cardinals."

                FROM HERO TO HUMBLED

                The first version of Warner's story came straight from Hollywood.

                He was nowhere, bagging groceries at one point after college, eventually thinking a successful arena football career in his native Iowa was as far as the dream might go. Then, in one stunning two-year period, he rose from Iowa Barnstormer to St. Louis Ram as ringleader of the "Greatest Show on Turf."

                "St. Louis football was dog meat for so long," longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz said. "Then this mythical character out of a W.P. Kinsella novel walks out of the Iowa cornfields."

                He won a Super Bowl that first season as a starter. He set team records. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. And he was a good person, friendly almost to a fault, a sports hero fans could feel good about embracing.

                Warner was going to be a Ram forever.

                That he isn't now, "flabbergasts me a little bit," Warner
                ...
                -05-14-2005, 06:25 AM
              • 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, 08:36 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, 04:57 PM
              • Yodude
                Don't bet against Warner.....
                by Yodude
                Don't bet against Warner reviving his career in Arizona


                BY JEFF GORDON
                Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
                03/07/2005

                Kurt Warner’s gambit paid off.

                The former Rams hero signed with the New York Giants as the interim starter for last season. He agreed to direct that offense on a temporary basis while prized prospect Eli Manning learned the ropes.

                All along, Warner’s role was to mentor the kid. At some point, he knew that Manning would take his job. The Giants traded the farm for the kid, then paid him all the money in the world. His ascension was not a matter of if, but when.

                Kurt also knew the Giants had offensive shortcomings that would make this assignment doubly hard. But this was arguably his only guaranteed shot to re-establish himself in 2004, so he took it.

                Warner accomplished just enough to earn a real opportunity -– to quarterback the Arizona Cardinals in 2005, with no strings attached.

                Warner insists he is ready. He believes he can play for another five or six years. He promises the world that he still has game.

                “I still feel like I have a lot left,” Warner told ESPN Radio. “I wanted to be on the field. I wanted to be in a situation where, for the most part, I controlled my own destiny.”


                He flashed some of his old magic with the Giants last season, particularly earlier in his nine-game stint. The team was far more successful with him at the helm than Manning.

                “Obviously, I hated to be taken out,” Warner said. “Two weeks before I got pulled, we were sitting at 5-2. We were the second-best team in the NFC. Obviously, the next two weeks we didn’t play as well as we would have liked to.”

                But, he added, “In every single game we were competitive, we gave ourselves a chance to win.”

                Warner completed 174 of 277 passes for 2,054 yards last season. He threw six touchdown passes and four interceptions. His passer rating was 86.5. He finished with a 5-4 record as a starter.

                By contrast, Manning won just one game as a starter. He completed 95 of 197 passes for 1,043 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions. His passer rating was, ahem, 55.4.

                The benching, Warner said, “was unfortunate at the time. In the long-run, it was beneficial to me.”

                Manning’s dismal play and the Giants’ offensive demise put Warner’s so-so play in context. “People could see how well I was playing, or playing within that role,” he said. “I think my stock actually rose after that time.”

                What if Warner had finished out the season as starter?

                “My stats wouldn’t have been that good,” he said. “We would have finished 8-8, 9-7.”


                Many experts, though, argue that No. 13 is done. They point to his later work with the Giants, when he became tentative in the pocket and absorbed...
                -03-09-2005, 02:56 PM
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