The Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2014 will be enshrined on Saturday. Each day this week, the Around the League crew will pick a player that we believe is also deserving of enshrinement.
Kurt Warner had one of the strangest NFL careers of all-time.
You (probably) know the origin story: Warner works his way up from twentysomething grocery store stock boy, to arena football star, to the NFL. After the Rams lose their starting QB to a knee injury, a teary-eyed Dick Vermeil tells reporters the team will rally around their unknown backup. Warner and the Rams go on to win the Super Bowl. It's the stuff of movies. Literally.
But that's not why Kurt Warner had one of the strangest NFL careers of all time.
It's what happened after that Super Bowl win. Kurt Warner went from being One Of The Best Quarterbacks In The World (1999-2001) to Just Another Guy (2002-2006) to One Of The Best Quarterbacks In The World (2007-2009). Then, at the height of his powers, Warner walked away.
We imagine that strange ebb-and-flow to his career, combined with his late start, gives Pro Football Hall of Fame voters pause. We get that, but it shouldn't stop voters from coming to the eventual realization that Warner was one of the iconic players of his era. Aren't those the types of players Canton is supposed to celebrate?
Let's go back to those Rams years. Warner was the ringmaster of a monster offensive attack known as the Greatest Show On Turf. From 1999-2001, he won two MVPs, threw 98 touchdowns, led the league in completion percentage each season and went to two Super Bowls (1-1). The Rams scored more than 500 points all three years, a feat not accomplished before or since.
Warner mysteriously faded after 2001, as injuries and ineffectiveness led to the end of his Rams career. He resurfaced with the Giants in 2004, but was quickly supplanted as starter by some rookie named Eli. Then came Warner's career rebirth in Arizona, highlighted by a another narrow miss in Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers.
In all, Warner appeared in three Super Bowls. He came tantalizing close to winning all three. Had he done that (damn you Adam Vinatieri and Santonio Holmes), we wouldn't even be having this debate. Instead, Warner's HOF candidacy sits on the fence. Sports are weird like that.
And yes, Kurt Warner -- like yours truly -- is employed by NFL Media. But I don't know the man and stand nothing to gain from his inclusion in Canton. I met him in the office commissary once and he seemed nice.