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Setting the Standard

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  • Setting the Standard

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    By the time Kurt Warner’s time as the starting quarterback for the Rams was done, he had set the bar so high for the next person in line that it would have taken the world’s largest ladder to reach.

    Marc Bulger was the unfortunate next person in line charged with the task of following in the footsteps of the man who, from a statistical standpoint, had the single greatest three-year run of any quarterback ever to play in the NFL.

    But Bulger wasn’t the only one who was being asked to live up to those expectations. It was easy to forget that the reason Warner’s time in St. Louis was done was because he too could no longer reach the standard he had set.

    To this day, Bulger still hears criticism with every interception, every fumble and every loss. And so does Warner.

    “It’s the same way in my situation that I know Marc’s dealing with,” Warner said. “You have that standard whether it was me ahead of him or even in my situation that every year every time you step on the football field they expect you to perform at that type of level. It’s hard to do. It was a great run that we had. We had everything going, we had everything clicking, we were together for a long period and it was one of those special, special periods.”

    Warner’s time with the Rams included a pair of Super Bowl appearances with one championship and two MVPs mixed in. Fair or not, he set the bar that high for himself and anyone who would play the position for St. Louis in the coming years.

    So while Warner does feel for Bulger’s situation, he doesn’t feel too bad for the quarterback who was good enough to win the job and has proven to be an excellent quarterback in his own right.

    “Yea, I feel for him, but at the same time I don’t feel too bad for him,” Warner said. “The guy has done nothing but had success in the league. You can’t get caught up with what the media says or what the fans want, the guy has played good football and that’s why he is the starting quarterback there, that’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl. He is an excellent quarterback and has proven it year in, year out. I don’t look at it like he hasn’t lived up to the standard. I think he has played very good football and played very well.”

    Bulger is the first to say that a big reason for his success since taking over as the starter can be directly attributed to Warner. Although coach Mike Martz’s ability to develop and recognize quarterback talent is ultimately the main reason for the success of both players, Warner never wavered in his support of Bulger, even when the two were in direct competition for the job.

    Because of Warner’s approach to helping Bulger understand the nuances of the offense and adjusting to the speed of an NFL game, Bulger and Warner forged a friendship that has managed to withstand the test of time and controversy.

    “He helped me out a whole lot,” Bulger said. “He was here and knew the system when I was third. When I started to play he was great. When I took over he was great. Nothing has changed in the past year. He just taught me pretty much how to become a quarterback in this league and what it takes, the dedication and how much you have to study.”

    Bulger and Warner still talk about once a month, whether it’s just about life in general or football. Bulger doesn’t know if he will talk to Warner before the two meet up in Arizona this weekend, but he isn’t worried about it.

    “It’s not like we are going to call each other just to make it a good story,” Bulger said. “I’m sure we might talk, we might not. We’ll see.”

    Whether the two talk or not, one thing is for sure when they do see each other at Sun Devil Stadium; both are going to want to win.

    Bulger and Warner both posted solid passing numbers in week one, but neither was able to do enough to lead their team to a victory. With their teams at 0-1 heading into a week two showdown, neither wants to walk off the field at 0-2, nevermind the added incentive both have in playing against one another.

    Obviously this is a game that has been circled on the calendars of Rams’ fans since Warner elected to sign with the Cardinals on March 6. Warner signed with the Giants after being granted his release from the Rams after the 2003 season.

    But Warner wasn’t able to fend off No. 1 pick Eli Manning for too long and was relegated to the backup job nine games into the season. With the knowledge that he wasn’t going to be the starter in New York, Warner went searching for an opportunity to be a starter somewhere.

    When Arizona coach Dennis Green made his pitch, Warner jumped at the chance to take a one-year deal throwing to the likes of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. When the NFL schedule for this season was released, it appeared to be a coincidence that Warner would start the year with a trip to New York followed by a game against the Rams.

    Warner says that’s not the case.

    “I don’t think that its coincidence, by any means,” Warner said. “I think that they knew what they were doing. I think it adds something to it. It brings a little more national attention, little more excitement between the teams that are involved. So I don’t think that it’s a coincidence at all. I’m just hoping that we fare a little better against this team than we did the last one.”

    And Bulger would also like his team to fare better than the last game. It’s that common mentality that has Warner and Bulger with a better understanding of what they need to do.

    Neither quarterback expects to throw for 4,800 yards or 40 touchdowns, but both know that the only statistic that matters is wins.

    “I think always trying to uphold the standard you set is always difficult because that takes a level of consistency year in and year out,” Warner said. “You get in there and you have success, that’s great. There’s a lot of guys that can have success for a year, but sustaining that level of success year in and year out in my opinion is no question the most difficult thing. That’s why you have got the Hall of Fame. It’s for guys that not only have done it once or twice but have done it over the length of their career. That’s what makes those guys so special.”

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Some fans expect Bulger to be what Warner was
    by RamWraith
    By Bernie Miklasz
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Sep. 14 2005

    So many things changed when Marc Bulger's last pass of a topsy-turvy afternoon
    got snatched by a San Francisco defensive back. The Rams' miracle march to
    victory was stopped, and the shock waves could be felt all the way in St.
    Louis, where Rams fans raged the rest of the night and into Monday.

    The loss immediately became Marc Bulger's fault.

    We heard the usual catcall: Bulger is no Kurt Warner.

    Never mind that Bulger was attacked on all sides by a furious San Francisco
    pass rush and managed to complete 19 of 30 passes for 181 yards and two
    touchdowns after the ***** jumped the Rams for a 28-9 lead. True, Bulger's last
    pass was behind Isaac Bruce, and it wasn't a good throw, but Bruce has made
    those type of catches many times before. And it's true that Bulger needs to
    have more cool-handed efficiency in the red zone; the Rams are letting too many
    TDs dissolve into field goals.

    But the reaction to Sunday's 28-25 loss offered the latest look into Bulger's
    professional life in St. Louis. Unless Bulger wins the Super Bowl, unless he
    wins a couple of MVP awards, unless he plays at the extreme level of excellence
    achieved by Warner from 1999 through 2001, he'll never be fully accepted in
    this town.

    And if Bulger and the Rams go to Arizona and lose to Warner and the Cardinals
    on Sunday, Bulger will lose even more status in St. Louis. Bulger's Warner
    burden will grow heavier.

    Bulger needs to have a beer with Tony La Russa and soak in some friendly advice
    about what it's like to follow a legend. La Russa still lives with the ghost of
    Whitey Herzog hovering at Busch Stadium. And Warner's specter never drifts far
    from Bulger's place in the huddle.

    "I could be in a situation where I'm not playing or the expectations aren't
    high," Bulger said. "But you've got to win a Super Bowl here. It's obvious if
    you want to be compared to that 1999 through 2001 team, you know what the goal
    is. You're going to have to win the Super Bowl, and anything besides that is
    not going to cut it. I can handle it. Really, it doesn't bother me."

    Bulger is a very good quarterback who ranks third in yards per attempt and
    seventh in the passer efficiency rating among all NFL QBs since the start of
    the 2002 season. But that's not satisfactory to some who saw Warner average 292
    yards and throw 98 touchdown passes from 1999-2001, with the Rams scoring 32
    points a game.

    This was spectacular, and abnormal. It may have been the greatest three-year
    run by a QB in NFL history. And no quarterback has come close to repeating ...
    -09-15-2005, 02:09 PM
  • skelley
    Reviewing the Franchise choice.....
    by skelley
    It's been a while now, long enough to review the decision to dump Warner for Bulger.

    I have since the very start of Martz's stint thought he was bad for the talent the Rams blessed him with. Warner most of all. As the 3rd season rolled in the Rams played more and more to Martz's ego. H epretty much saw a chance to scapegoat Warner and prove it was him that brought the Rams to it's highest high. Bulger was merely a tool.

    True, youth always wins in sports........but I thought even last year we'd been better with Warner these "Bulger years". Bulger seems to do just enough to have good stats, but not enough to make his team better.

    I just have always wanted to ask every Rams fan I meet this question......

    "was it a mistake to dump Warner for Bulger?"
    -06-10-2008, 08:29 PM
  • Spiderwolf
    Kurt Warner the better Quarterback
    by Spiderwolf
    To this day, I still maintain we should never have gotten rid of Warner. He proved he is still the better quarterback. Bulger has not impressed me. This team has gone downhill ever since Bulger took over. I realize a lot of you like this guy but I dont. I think he is an average quarterback at best and does not come anywhere near the talent level of Manning or Brady. He has done nothing to help this team and is way to fragile. The guy is always hurt and I think its time for a change. That being said, I dont think that will happen and we are stuck with this average do nothing quarterback for the next 3 or 4 years. Im looking forward to next year, and will root for Bulger b ecause I love the Rams, and I hope he proves me wrong and becomes one of the elite qurterbacks in the league, but I think thats extremely wishful thinking. I just dont think this is the guy to lead us.
    -01-01-2008, 05:44 PM
  • psycho9985
    Warner on Sunday:Rams game nothing special.
    by psycho9985
    September 14, 2005

    TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Kurt Warner made his fame as quarterback of the St. Louis Rams, then lost his starting job before moving on.

    For the first time since that uncomfortable separation two years ago, Warner will go against the Rams, directing the Arizona Cardinals in a matchup Sunday of NFC West teams trying to avoid 0-2 starts.

    But he brushed aside any suggestion that he has added motivation for this one.

    "Of course how it all came to an end was not how I had dreamed it up and was disappointing for me," Warner said after the Cardinals' worked out Wednesday. "But how do you have any animosity for an organization that gave the opportunities that they gave me, that allowed me to fulfill a dream when nobody else would?"

    Warner's abrupt rise from an Arena Football League quarterback to NFL and Super Bowl MVP was the sport's biggest story six years ago. He was league MVP again, and the Rams made the Super Bowl, in 2001.

    But injuries slowed him in 2002, and he went down with a concussion in the opener of the 2003 season. Warner never started a game with St. Louis again, watching from the sidelines as Marc Bulger took over.

    "It had gotten to the point where we just felt like we needed a change to try and stimulate something, whether it was Kurt or whoever it was in that situation," Rams coach Mike Martz said in a conference call Wednesday. "Unfortunately, it was Kurt. And it was good for Kurt to change scenery probably and get in a different situation."

    If any hard feelings linger from those days, Warner is keeping them to himself.

    "I still love the people there. I still love the people in that organization," he said. "I still have strong feelings for so many people there that I can't say a bad word. I know you want one, but as of now I've got nothing for you."

    Warner signed with the New York Giants, and never got a chance to face the Rams last season. Now that he's with Arizona, he'll get the opportunity twice a season. His previously stated motivation for the entire season is to prove he still can be an elite quarterback.

    "That doesn't have anything to do with St. Louis," he said. "I want to prove that to everybody. That has nothing to do with this game or trying to prove it to them. I think they know as an organization what kind of quarterback I am, what I still am."

    Warner still has contact with many of his old teammates. He said he talked to Bulger on the phone Tuesday night.

    "He's doing great. It was a good conversation," Warner said. "I think...
    -09-14-2005, 07:13 PM
  • Yodude
    Insider: Warner earns vindication, another turn on top
    by Yodude
    Oct. 13, 2004
    By Pete Prisco 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.

    -10-17-2004, 09:21 AM