Monday, January 25, 2010

Kurt Warner Patch Card


After last night's amazing Saints-Vikings game, I had to do another (American) football post. I looked in my stashes and boxes and closets for a Drew Brees card - or any other Saint, for that matter - and just couldn't find one, so I turned to Kurt Warner, the one guy I wanted to make a difference against New Orleans, even though I'm now rooting for them.

But before that, a little history. I could start with his accomplishments, or name the numerous obstacles he's faced on his way to Football Immortality - and I'll mix both. His story is so amazing, he'll probably end up being knwon as Mr. Second, because he always seems to achieve so much more than expected, yet rarely actually break records. Well, that's not true, he has broken a few, but still...

First off, coming out of College (Northern Iowa), Warner went undrafted. Sure, the Green Bay Packers gave him a tryout in 1994, but they had Brett Favre, so they were set - and they didn't think Warner was ready for the NFL.

So he returned to Iowa, where he (now famously) work as a sales clerk, stocking shelves at the local Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Falls, for $5.50 an hour - and went back to his alma mater to serve as assistant coach. With no NFL team willing to give him a shot, he accepted a job as quarterback in the Arena Football League, with the Iowa Barnstormers, starting 1995, which he kept until the end of the 1997 season. He was a First All Star Team member for both 1996 and 1997.

When 1998 came along, the St. Louis Rams offered him a contract and immediately sent him to the Amsterdam Admirals of the NFL Europe league, formerly known as the World League Of American Football, which included the Montréal Machine, of whom I have seen every home game in person. It didn't take long for Warner to make an impact on the league: he ended the season as the league leader in touchdowns and passing yards.

The Rams didn't really have a choice to bring him back to North America, and he was named the team's third-string quarterback. When the first two QBs were released by the team before the start of the 1999, they even went so far as to sign another #1 quarterback, thus 'half-promoting' Warner to second-string, but not showing enough confidence in him to give him the reins. Nevertheless, when Trent Green got injured in a preseason game, despite coach Dick Vermeil's reticence, Warner was given his chance, and he did not disappoint, putting together one of the best seasons in NFL history, with 4353 passing years, a completion rate of 65.1%, and 41 touchdown passes - including three in each of his first three games, a league record. He was named NFL MVP before the year ended, and won the Super Bowl (and, yes, he was the game's MVP).

Warner has a knack for records, so he started the 2000 campaign tying another one (held by Steve Young) - six straight games with at least 300 passing yards in each one. An injury and a poor defensive unit killed any hopes of a repeat championship, but 2001 again led the league in touchdown passes (36) and passing yards (4830, third all-time behind Dan Marino and Brees). Oddly enough, while he completed a terrific (amazing?) 68.7% of his passes, he threw a whopping 22 interceptions - Favre-like numbers. He again was named NFL MVP, got another team record under his belt (first team ever to be 6-0 to start a season three years in a row) and again led his team to the Super Bowl, throwing for 365 yards (second-highest total in history) but losing to the New England Patriots on a time-expired field goal by Adam Vinatieri.

While 2002 and 2003 were riddled with injuries (a broken hand that never healed properly), he signed with the New York Giants in 2004, winning 5 of his first 7 starts. Then he lost two more (for a 5-4 record) and the Giants decided it was time to groom Eli Manning for the starting position, and they remained with the youngster despite being 1-6 with him.

2005 saw him signed to the Arizona Cardinals, but again injuries got the better of him. By 2006, however, Warner reached the 20,000-yard milestone in his 76th career game - one game more than NFL record-holder Dan Marino. He struggled for most of the season, though, and had to share time with Matt Leinart. In 2007, despite again sharing duties with Leinart, Warner threw 27 TD passes, just one shy of the team's record.

He made up for that in 2008 when he threw 30, with 4583 passing yards and a completion rate of 69.9%. Then post-season time came, and he really got into a groove. He led his team to the Super Bowl and, again, fell just short, losing 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite throwing for 377 yards - yep, you guessed it - the second highest total in history.

2009 came along and, once again, it was record-breaking time: a week after my birthday, he broke the NFL’s single-game record for completion percentage in the regular season, completing 24 of 26 passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, you read right - 26 attempted passes, his receivers caught 24 of them; neither the receivers nor the QB made any mistakes. That's a completion rate of 92.3%, kiddos, it's ridiculous. He then started the month of November passing his 14,000th yard for the Cardinals - becoming the only QB in league history to throw for over 14,000 yards for two different teams. In early December, he registered his fourth consecutive game with a passer rating of 120 or better, making him... the second quarterback in NFL history to accomplish the feat. And later that month, he became... the second quarterback in NFL history to throw 100 touchdown passes with two different teams.

Earlier this month, his Cardinals defeated the Packers 51-45, the highest-scoring game in NFL playoff history. He accomplished a rare feat - having more TD passes (5) in a playoff game than incompletions (4), and finished the game with the... second highest quarterback rating in NFL playoff history, at 154.1.

And just last week, his team had a shot at beating the Saints, but he was injured early on and the Saints' lead was unreachable, despite Warner attempting to come back in the final (second, of course) half.

At age 38, he's closer to the end of his career than he was 15 years ago. Unfortunately, his career seems to follow a pattern of long good and bad streaks, and is that's correct, the next couple of seasons could be riddled with injuries, which could lead him to retiring a broken old man rather than a winner . But he'll always be a fighter, a beater of odds, a guy who achieves things on grandiose levels, maybe even in that category the... second one you'll think about, after Tom Brady.

This card, a 2009 Topps Historical Commemorative Patch card (card # PPR43), despite being released while Warner is a Cardinal, actually sports him as a Ram, commemorating his Super Bowl XXXV appearance. The only downside to it is that it's not an actual, official patch, and I quote Topps from the back of the card:
Featured on the front of this card is a patch commemorating Super Bowl XXXV which featured Kurt Warner.

The commemorative patch embedded in this card is a replica of a logo of either a historic NFL Pro Bowl game or a classic NFL Super Bowl. The relic contained in this card is not from any game or season.
I kind of wish I had known that before I bought it on Ebay, but it's also nice to have a special Warner card in my collection.

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