The Arizona Cardinals held a press conference yesterday and announced that quarterback Kurt Warner was going to be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor. The induction is scheduled for halftime of the season opener against San Diego. Let’s take a look at the Top 5 moments that defined Warner’s career and led him down the path to where he is today.
5. Arizona drafts Matt Leinart
Warner signed a one-year deal in 2005 with Arizona and then got a three-year deal starting in 2006. Leinart was supposed to be one of the better quarterbacks in the Class of 2006 but didn’t live up to the hype he had at USC. The former Heisman Trophy winner was drafted 10th overall that year and that started a carousel at quarterback between the two men. In 2006, Warner had three sub-par games early in the season before Leinart came in during Week 4. Leinart held the job until Week 16 when he got hurt and Warner replaced him. The roles were reversed the next season with Leinart being ineffective early and Warner replacing him.
The two of the dueled for the starter’s role in 2008 and then-head coach Ken Whisenhunt made the right decision to go with Warner over Leinart in late August. Leinart made life tough for Warner but he found a way to break through and led the team to a Super Bowl berth. If Leinart won out over Warner, would the Super Bowl run have happened? Probably not.
4. Warner breaks his hand in 2002 against Dallas.
This makes the list not because of how it hurt him in 2002 but what happened the next season. In the first game of the 2003 season, Warner had fumbling issues. He fumbled the ball six times in the season opener and was benched in favor of Marc Bulger. Bulger led the team the rest of the season and Warner got cut June 1, 2004. The fumbles happened because Warner’s hand never fully healed following the break and it made gripping the ball much more difficult. The Giants signed Warner two days later.
3. The Iowa Barnstormers roll the dice on Warner.
This was the first big break for Warner. If the Barnstormers don’t give him a shot in 1995, Warner might still be working for the Hy-Vee grocery chain in the upper Midwest. His first year in the AFL was forgettable but his next two seasons vaulted his career forward. He led the Barnstormers to consecutive Arena Bowl appearances in 1996 and 1997. Warner wound up throwing for more than 10,000 yards and 185 touchdowns during his stint in Des Moines and wound up being named one of the 20 Greatest Players in the history of the AFL. Iowa lost both times in the Arena Bowl and hasn’t been back since.
2. Eli Manning wins the starting job in New York
Following the end of his time with the Rams, the Giants signed him to be their quarterback while letting rookie Eli Manning have time to develop. Warner started the season 5-2 but then lost a pair of games and Manning was named the starter for the final seven games of the season. The Giants went 1-6 under Manning for the remainder of that season. Warner voided the final year of his deal and became a free agent after the 2004 season. Arizona signed him in 2005. Eli Manning made his first start for the Giants November 21, 2004. He has been the Giants starting quarterback for each of their 162 games (including 11 in the playoffs) since then and has the longest active streak in the NFL.
1. Trent Green tears his ACL in preseason
Trent Green was going to be the Rams starter for the 1999 season but Rodney Harrison had other ideas. Harrison, then with the San Diego Chargers, hit Green on the knee during a preseason game and Green’s season was over before it began. Green was crumpled on the Rams logo in the middle of the field before being carted off and Warner came on in relief.
Then head coach Dick Vermeil said, “We will rally around Kurt Warner and we will play good football.”
The 1999 Rams would become The Greatest Show on Turf with Warner under center and started a string of three straight years with 500 or more points scored in each of them. St. Louis won the Super Bowl that year over Tennessee with a last-second tackle. The Rams got back to the Super Bowl with Warner under center in 2001 but fell to the New England Patriots on a last-second field goal.