If Kurt Warner doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, then they should just blow the whole building up and start over.
Although he’d probably never say such a thing, it’s not Kurt Warner’s fault that the football world never fully grasped his greatness. After all, the only reason that Warner’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame, now that his career has come to a close, is even debatable, is due to the failures of 32 NFL football teams to realize that Warner was the truth. Forget about the numbers, Warner’s back-story alone is Hall of Fame worthy.
We’ve all known that guy, the one holding on to his pro sports dream for far longer than reason or common sense should allow. You try to encourage them, and hope that when reality inevitably sets in for them, as it did for all of us sooner or later, they won’t have wasted too much of their life. You can imagine the reactions that Warner must’ve gotten from his co-workers at the Hy-Vee market, as he espoused on his NFL dreams.
In a story too sappy to have been written for a Disney movie, Kurt Warner achieved heights that likely even surpassed what once seemed like little more than delusions of grandeur. Scour the landscape of sports, or American history for that matter, and you’ll likely find no better spokesperson for the concept of chasing your dreams, regardless of what anyone else may believe. Eventually, what Warner proved to us all was simply that doubting him was never a good idea.
Even as Dick Vermeil was giving his teary eyed, now famous, press conference, trying to convince the world that the team had confidence in Warner, it seemed he was likewise trying to convince himself. What he failed to realize at that time, what none of us could have realized, was that Warner had enough confidence and conviction to overcome what his teammates or anyone else lacked in him.
From there the rest should have been history. Warner’s exclusion from the NFL had been corrected to the tune of a pair of Super Bowl appearances, with a win in one, a pair of league MVP awards and a Super Bowl MVP award to boot. One might look at this season’s Super Bowl participants and the overall change of the NFL toward that of a passing game, and declare Warner and his “greatest show on turf”, the forefathers of modern offense.
Instead, Mike Martz instead declared himself the mastermind behind the “G.S.O.T.”, and jettisoned Warner to make way for Marc Bulger. One rocky season in New York, and Warner’s fairy tale ride appeared over. Shiftless and benched a few times in Arizona, Warner almost began to give the appearance of a guy holding on for too long. And who could have blamed him? After all he had fought to overcome to gain entry to the league, no one would’ve expected him to go out willingly.
A Sunday afternoon in Baltimore in 2007 saw Warner get another chance. Taking over for an ineffective Matt Leinart late in a 23-6 Ravens’ blowout, Warner led a memorable comeback effort, which eventually saw his Cardinals lose 26-23 in overtime. In a way it’s kind of fitting that it happened against the Ravens, the team against whom he made his improbable debut in 1999.
Now after leading the Cardinals, as he did the Rams, through an unprecedented stretch of success for their history, Warner rides off into the sunset; having put the exclamation point on not just a hall of fame career, but also a hall of fame story, a hall of fame pursuit of a dream, and is generally regarded as an even better human being than football player.
It’s kind of ironic that Warner goes out without much suspense or fanfare, not looking to command the spotlight, simply going away on his own terms, after fighting for so long to justify his belief in himself and his own belief that he belonged. Meanwhile, we prepare as well for the inevitable opposite as Brett Favre will soon begin the public spectacle that is his retirement watch. Especially interesting since Warner’s first taste of the NFL was as a free agent invite to Packers camp, hoping only to back up Favre, as unseating him would have been out of the question.
Forget about the numbers, which also stack up pretty well against current hall of fame quarterbacks, what Warner accomplished goes far beyond numbers. If ever there was a deserving Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner is the one.