Kurt Warner in WSJ
A second article to blog about today from Allen Barra in the WSJ...
Warner has had an amazing career-- twice. The first was a staggering and fabled ascension from bag-boy to NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion. The second and on-going effort is the renaissance of this prolific passer this year.
If you're into trivia contests at your neighborhood bar, try this question out on your pub pals this weekend: "Among all the quarterbacks in the record book who have thrown at least 2,500 passes, I have the highest pass completion percentage and I'm second in the NFL's all-time passer rating (behind Steve Young). Of all the NFL passers over the past half-century, I've averaged the highest yards per throw. Who am I?"
Chances are your friends won't get the right answer in 10 tries, even if you toss in additional information such as "I've been to two Super Bowls, won one ring, and been named MVP twice."That's the way it's been for the Arizona Cardinals' Kurt Warner, who has had one of the most sensational and probably the strangest career of any great passer in NFL history. He's been called underrated so often that it almost seems like his middle name. But, as he said in a recent phone interview, "that's not so bad. At least they haven't called me overrated."
As yet, no one is overrating the Arizona Cardinals, who haven't had a winning season since 1998 but are currently 7-3. For the first time since 1988, when the franchise relocated from St. Louis, they're four games over .500.
Mr. Warner, who this season is the league's highest-rated passer both by the NFL's method and the even more complex system developed by Pro Football Prospectus, is now being mentioned as the leading candidate for MVP. His 70.9% pass completion rate is the best in the NFL, and he has thrown 20 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions.
"That's an outstanding achievement at any age," says PFP's Aaron Schatz, "and for a 37-year-old quarterback, it's really remarkable."
How can you still be underrated in the NFL at age 37? It hasn't been easy. Signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent out of the unheralded University of Northern Iowa in 1994, he was cut before he got a chance to throw a pass in a real game. A job stocking shelves in a supermarket, supplemented by food stamps, fed his family while he tried to hang on in the game with the Arena Football League.
The NFL spends millions every year scouting, analyzing and evaluating players, but somehow one of the biggest talents of the decade slipped right by it. Finally given a chance to start by the St. Louis Rams in 1999 at age 28, Mr. Warner responded with one of the greatest years recorded by an NFL passer, throwing 41 touchdown passes, leading the league in the most significant passing stat, yards per attempt, at 8.7, and taking the Rams to a Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans.
In 2000, he led the league with a 9.9 YPA -- the highest in the NFL since Norm Van Brocklin in 1954 and the football equivalent of a hitter in baseball batting .400 or a pitcher winning 30 games. Neither Dan Marino nor Joe Montana nor Peyton Manning has ever come close to that mark. Last season, football pundits gasped when New England's Tom Brady posted an 8.3 YPA, an average Mr. Warner surpassed for three straight seasons from 1999 through 2001.
The glory quickly faded, though. After two injury-plagued seasons with the Rams, Mr. Warner found himself with a terrible New York Giants team in 2004...
In 2005 Mr. Warner moved on to Arizona and, amazingly, into another quarterback controversy. This one involved Matt Leinart -- the Southern Cal Heisman Trophy winner -- who, like Eli Manning, "needed the experience." But after Mr. Leinart threw more interceptions than touchdowns over two seasons, Mr. Warner was given the starting position in 2007, the third time since 1998 he had to prove himself....A great story for a great guy-- and a strong Christian from everything I've heard.
I hope Kurt continues to shine!