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- Kurt Warner Leading the Cardinals?

Chris Pokorny August 27, 2005
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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Kurt Warner will be the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals this year. The Cardinals will depend on his success to take their team to the next level – the playoffs. After making the upgrade at quarterback, the team feels that they will be able to compete with teams better than they have the past few years. The question is, will Warner be able to satisfy their hopes?

Last year, New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin brought Warner to the team to be a leader for QB Eli Manning. Eli, the younger brother of Peyton Manning, was drafted to be the future of their franchise. Warner understood what his role was, but he definitely wanted to be a starter in the NFL. After a solid performance during his time as the Giants’ starter last year, the Cardinals had their sights set on him. Instead of experimenting with who is better between Josh McCown, Shaun King, or John Navarre, it was time to settle on someone like Kurt Warner, who would at least give a consistent performance almost every week.

When free agency began, Warner was one of the few big-name quarterbacks on the market. Does that mean that Arizona signed Warner because he was the only quarterback available at that time? Warner has thrown for over 4,000 yards twice in his career and has been to the Super Bowl twice. If Cardinals head coach Dennis Green considered the history of Warner compared to someone like McCown, we think it’s safe to say he made the right decision.

Before camp started, Green stated that the starting role at quarterback was still open. It was a good move on Green’s part – you have to make sure that McCown is mentally and physically prepared heading into this season. While you hope that someone like Warner does not get injured during a game, McCown knows that an injury to Warner will be the only chance he gets at legitimate playing time this year.

With that said, it’s time to look at how Warner will benefit the Cardinals this year. After all, Warner was brought in to contend this season; he is not part of some re-building plan like last year.

Why Warner Works
A few years ago, Warner was the talk of the league. It was rare that a non-drafted quarterback could come out of no where and lead his team (St. Louis Rams) to a Super Bowl victory (against the Tennessee Titans, 1999) in just his second season. Now with the Cardinals, Warner can bring that same type of winning back to the franchise.

Warner will give the Cardinals stability at the position. In 2003, journeyman QB Jeff Blake didn’t do anything spectacular as the team’s starter and did not return for the following season. In 2004, McCown became the team’s starting quarterback. Unimpressed with his performance, Green pulled McCown in the midst of a playoff race and started QB Shaun King. Throughout the remainder of the season, King, McCown and rookie QB John Navarre were given shots at the position. None of them were impressive, and these performances prevented the Cardinals from reaching the playoffs in a division where a 9-7 record (Seattle Seahawks) earned the fourth seed and an 8-8 record (Rams) earned the sixth seed in the NFC.

Bringing Warner to the Cardinals will give the team a leader. Having faith in your quarterback is the only way a team can succeed. Warner was brought to the New York Giants last year to guide Eli Manning, but he’s being brought to the Cardinals this year to win. With the Cardinals’ lack of success at quarterback, the team could not rally behind anyone. When good teams get in trouble, they depend on their quarterback as the person that they can count on.

The most important tangible that Warner needs to do is be able to produce. Despite only playing in 10 games last season, Warner threw for 2,054 yards. While that may not sound impressive, he turned a team that was projected to be one of the NFL’s worst teams into an early contender with a 5-2 record after Week 8. His performances seemed to decline after a hot start, but he didn’t lose any games himself. He did not have the best support with the team’s top two receivers – Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard – not recording a touchdown. That will not be a problem with the Cardinals’ receivers. The Cardinals have two excellent, young wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Boldin needs to stay healthy this year for Warner, so hopefully he got his bad omen out of the way already when he received a bloody nose in training camp.

Warner brings a lot of positives to the Cardinals. However as we all know, no one is perfect. Even a guy like Peyton Manning, arguably the best quarterback in the league currently, still can not beat the New England Patriots. Now, it is time to find out where Warner will have his faults as the Cardinals’ leader.

Why Warner Doesn’t Work
Warner brings his veteran skills to the team, but he will not be perfect. He put up unbelievable numbers in 1999 and 2001, the best years in his career. After a hand injury in the 2002 season, QB Marc Bulger took over the position for the Rams and Warner was never able to come through for the team again. While he did fill his role for the Giants last year, he has not started more than nine games in a season since 2001. The Cardinals are hoping that he holds up for the entire season, otherwise they will have to go back to McCown.

The Cardinals do not have a proven running back on their team. How does this relate to Warner? During his best two seasons with the Rams, RB Marshall Faulk was in his prime. Last year with the Giants, RB Tiki Barber was the Giants’ starter. Faulk and Barber are known for being good receivers out of the backfield, something that Warner will not have the luxury of with the Cardinals. Since RB Emmitt Smith is no longer with the team, RB Marcel Shipp and rookie RB J.J. Arrington will compete for the starting position. Neither back is known as an overwhelming receiver out of the backfield, which Warner is not used to.

Although the positives seem to outweigh the negatives, you have to consider the fact that Warner does not have a Marshall Faulk or a Tiki Barber behind him. Great quarterbacks have proven that they can produce with any receiver or running back out on the field. Warner has the type of wide receivers that are comparable to his glory days with the Rams, but no where near the running back at this point.

Fantasy Outlook/Final Analysis
Warner will never be able to match his outstanding performances from 1999 and 2001, but he can put his name on the radar screen again. The Cardinals were on the verge on contending last year despite their quarterback fiasco. Warner has a Super Bowl ring, which is exactly the type of experience a team would love to have when planning to contend.

In fantasy leagues, Warner is an excellent choice for a backup quarterback, especially if he is available in the later rounds. Do not jump at him too early though, because he is not worth more than a starting running back, wide receiver or tight end for your fantasy roster. Fill those positions first before you look for him. The only reason you should consider him as your starting quarterback is if you make sure you draft two of the NFL’s best running backs and at least two of the league’s best wide receivers. If you can manage that but are without a quarterback still, Warner is a suitable pick.

If you are satisfied with your team and there are only a few picks remaining for backup positions, take him anyway. If the Cardinals get off to a good start like they did last year, Warner’s trade value will be quite high. If you are looking for projected statistics, I would expect nothing more than 3,200 yards passing, 18 TDs and 12 INTs. It’s not the best, but it would be a revival of Warner’s career.

In conclusion, Warner will make the Cardinals a better team this year. With the Seahawks and Rams unable to reach 10 wins last season, the chances of the Cardinals making it to the next step are fairly good. Ultimately, that success will rely on one man – Kurt Warner.

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