Kurt Warner: Hall of Famer?
compiled by Vince Verhei
This is an Audibles special, reprinting a recent e-mail discussion among the FO writers regarding the Hall of Fame chances of Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner.
Ned Macey: I missed out on Audibles because I was out of town on Sunday, but I ran across the discussion of Kurt Warner, Hall of Famer. I did this research outraged at the suggestion that he was a Hall of Famer but not remembering exactly what was said. Upon further review, Sean's statement was reasonable, but since I already spent the past hour watching this atrocious baseball game, I figured I'd send it out.
I looked at our stats (passing only) for four random quarterbacks: Warner, Steve McNair, Trent Green, and Chad Pennington. The first two have some HOF support, the latter two none.
In terms of career DYAR before this season:
In terms of career DVOA
Career 1,000-DYAR seasons
Career 500-DYAR seasons
In terms of Warner's great seasons, he was playing with an amazing collection of talent: Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt. In 2000, Warner's DVOA was 25.2%. Filling in, Green's was 25.2%. In 2002, Warner's DVOA was -17.2%. Filling in, Bulger's was 34.6% (the woeful Jamie Martin's was -19.8%.)
Unless Warner has two or three more years like this in him, Green clearly is ahead of him, and based on surrounding talent, I'd take McNair too. When their careers are all done, I think among "contemporaries" of Warner, he'll be behind: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb, Green, McNair. I don't think eight quarterbacks playing at the same time should ever make the HOF.
Mike Tanier: You can't discount the Super Bowls in a HOF argument. Hall of Fame arguments are different from arguments of current value, etc. It's more an argument of "What he did" as opposed to "How good he was".
Warner is behind Peyton, Favre, and Brady (threw shoo-ins), but he is ahead of the others because he is 1-1 in Super Bowls while the others are 0-0 or 0-1. This may not be fair or logical on some levels, but the Hall exists for casual fans and medium fans, not just for heavy-duty fans like us and our readers.
I am lukewarmish about Warner as a Hall of Famer. Just sayin'.
Let me throw this idea out there: Say there was a player whose entire career was spent doing nothing but rushing for 1-yard touchdowns. He was a 275-pound benchwarmer who only got the ball on the 1-yard line and, let's say, long snapped. Every year, he would get 15 carries for 12 yards and 12 touchdowns. He did this for five years on a great team. Each year, his team made the playoffs and 3 times this guy made the Super Bowl.
In two of the three Super Bowls, he scored 1-yard touchdowns that either gave his team the lead at the end or tied the game. All told, he scored six 1-yard touchdowns on eight tries, and his team won three Super Bowls. He scored a total of 14 playoff touchdowns in his career, most of them victory-important.
This guy made the cover of Madden one year (they were featuring their Goalline Dive Stick), got a McDonald's ad, got famous in a William Perry way but never became a laughingstock. He was respected by his teammates, all agreed that he helped the team. He made the Pro Bowl as a fullback in two slow years. After his career, he became a color commentator and was generally liked.
1) Do you think this guy would get HOF support?
2) Would you vote for him?
I don't have answers, just throwing it out there.
Doug Farrar: Thing that has always hit me about Warner is that his three greatest seasons coincided with Faulk's greatest Rams seasons. And as much as Warner did, I'd put the reasons for that great offense as 1) Faulk; 2) Martz; 3) Warner/Offensive line. From 1998 through 2001, Faulk made a really strong case for himself as the greatest multi-purpose back of all time. He did it with Warner and other guys more than Warner did it with Faulk at his peak and other guys. Faulk had that kind of season on a 3-13 Colts team in 1998 as well.
If I'm considering a quarterback was that much of a beneficiary of a teammate who was more of a slam-dunk HOFer than he, I want crazy, insane, bats**t numbers for more than three years. Not a guy whose career numbers are fairly similar to Jeff Garcia's. Beyond those three seasons, he's been sort of a stat-compiler, to dig up a word Mike and I used a lot in the HOF Index piece.
Aaron Schatz: I just remember that Bill Belichick's game plan for the Super Bowl was not "Stop Warner." It was "Stop Marshall Faulk." Warner's stats in 2002-2003 were pretty bad. Obviously there were injuries, but he had Holt, Bruce, Orlando Pace, Faulk all around him in those years as well. You can't forget Pace when you talk about the collection of talent Warner played with -- he played in an offense that was designed to have very little protection besides the five linemen, but he happened to have the best left tackle of the generation to anchor that line.
Russell Levine: He was certainly playing at Hall of Fame level on a Super Bowl champion, and we was the justifiable league and Super Bowl MVP that year. That and what are likely to be pretty impressive career totals will earn him consideration, but his peak just didn't last long enough.
Then again, the football hall of fame seems to have the lowest standards for entry of any of the four major sports, so who knows.
Aaron Schatz: Heh. It only has the lowest standards if you play quarterback or running back. If you play offensive line or any defensive position other than "pass rusher" it seems to have the highest standards.
Ned Macey: Here's my point about Warner: He often is compared to Terrell Davis as guys with ridiculous peaks. But, we never got to see Davis' decline because of injuries, so we are sort of are left assuming he would keep dominating. While Warner has had minor injuries for years, we've seen for the past seven years that he is a pretty good quarterback when not surrounded by Faulk in his prime and Bruce/Holt/Pace. For three straight years and three different coaches (2003-2005) he was benched after being the Week 1 starter. I'm not really sure he's a better quarterback than Jeff Garcia.
Considering the success Green and then Bulger had with those same weapons and Martz, it seems pretty ridiculous to think that the guy who has shown nothing that would indicate HOF without those weapons deserves to be in based on 2.5 years playing with those weapons.
Eli Holman: I think that a decision to support Warner for HOF depends on the classic question of whether you believe that the hall is designed to remember on-field performance or "famous" NFL players. I feel that unlike McNair, Green, Pennington, and others who came up through traditional football channels, the unique thing with Warner is the rags-to-riches story: going from Iowa Barnstormers/practicing by throwing rolls of toilet paper at his grocery store job to Super Bowl MVP. From that side of things, he seems Hall-worthy to me as I can't think of any similar story in the modern NFL.
Russell Levine: Excellent point.
Mike Tanier: I agree with Elias, and at some point that "fame" factor has to work into the argument a little.
The closest comp to Warner is Joe Namath, a guy with a few awesome years, a dramatic Super Bowl, and a blah, injury-filled decline. Namath isn't in the HOF for his stats, he's in for being a guy who changed the game. I am cool with that, and if I am doing some kind of stat thing with HOF quarterbacks I tend to lump Namath with the "contributors," like the owners and commissioners.
Warner is a better player than Namath, I think, and went to two Super Bowls instead of one, and is doing more with his decline, though I don't really care about any of these recent seasons in a HoF argument. His storyline, with the grocery store and Arena ball, is worth something. But I think it falls short of HOF standards.
Doug Farrar: I'm not sure how much I buy the "Multiple Super Bowls" argument. I did at first, but Jim Plunkett was 2-0 in Super Bowls and won a Super Bowl MVP. If Bob Griese wasn't a quick healer, Earl Morrall might very well have been 1-1 in Super Bowls. I don't think anyone could make a half-serious HOF argument for either one of them. On the other hand, you have people like Steve Young whose single Super Bowl performance put him over the top.
Mike Tanier: It's part of a resume, not a resume. And for the HOF I think you have to look at what did happen, not what could have happened. Otherwise, you get the "Brian Sipe could have won four Super Bowls and had Terry Bradshaw numbers on that team" type arguments.
Plunkett and Morall were long-career, knockaround guys who wound up with great teams late in their careers. Interesting players. Neither of them had a year like Warner where he became "the talk of the league" and vaulted to stardom.
Phil Simms is the borderline HOFer with a resume a little comparable to Warner's. The numbers are nowhere near the same in the peak, but Simms has more overall accomplishments.
Doug Farrar: Not sure about the Sipe comparison. Morrall started Super Bowl III and took over for Griese in Week 5 of the 1972 season, starting every game until he was replaced halfway through the AFC Championship. Did that for the only undefeated team in NFL history. The guy was 75 minutes away from probably going 1-1 in Super Bowls, and having that gawdawful III performance somewhat erased in the memories of the general public. All I'm saying is that while I don't discount it as a factor, I tend not to place postseason performance on as much of a specific and separate pedestal because there are enough "eh" Super Bowl quarterbacks to make me wonder.
Patrick Laverty: "Then again, the football hall of fame seems to have the lowest standards for entry of any of the four major sports..."
You might get some disagreement from Ray Guy or Fred Smerlas. Or anyone who's been a part of the baseball Veteran's Committee, a.k.a. "Yogi's friends and teammate election committee."
Jason Beattie: Or everyone here in Denver.
Ben Riley: One other thing that shouldn't matter but does: Writers vote players into the HOF, and Kurt Warner is one of the best interviews in the NFL. He's extraordinarily generous with his time with reporters and goes out of his way to provide thoughtful responses to even the most mundane of questions. Actually, he's pretty generous and thoughtful overall -- perhaps you heard the recent story about how, whenever he eats out with his family, he anonymously chooses to pick up the tab of someone else in the restaurant? I'm an atheist and even I find his devotion to his faith admirable.
None of this changes the fact that his wife runs Bartertown, of course.
Patrick Laverty: Doing the only slightly anonymous comparison, I'm not sure anyone's ready to put Player A in Canton:
Player A: 14 seasons, two Super Bowls, 44,611 yards, 251 touchdowns, 206 interceptions, 98-95 career team record, four Pro Bowls.
Warner: 11 seasons, one Super Bowl win, 25,716 yards, 164 touchdowns, 105 interceptions, 48-37 career team record, one NFL MVP, one Super Bowl MVP, three Pro Bowls.
Is Kurt Warner more deserving than Player A, Drew Bledsoe? Or is Warner another Roger Maris?
Aaron Schatz: Well, that's sort of a silly comparison. Warner's whole argument is an absurd peak. Bledsoe's peak didn't even come close, but he had the longer career. Apples and oranges, really. Or, since they are both quarterbacks, Asian pears and Bartlett pears.
Patrick Laverty: "Warner's whole argument is an absurd peak."
Kinda like Roger Maris.
Mike Tanier: Maris is a great comp. He had a high peak on a great team and surely got a boost from his supporting cast. His late career was a long series of duh seasons bouncing around the league.
Warner was beloved, great copy. Maris was completely destroyed by the New York media, even though both were salt-of-earth midwesterners. Maris' character assassination at the hands of the New York media more or less barred him from Cooperstown.
Big difference between the two halls is that Canton voters value peaks more and are more generous for short careers. A Dale Murphy type player typically makes the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Patrick Laverty: And Jim Rice would be wearing a gold jacket today.