The Hall of Fame is a spot for the best of the best...the players who have stood their ground in their generation and competed consistently on such a high level that their success is undeniable.
Despite being America’s typical “you can do anything you can set your mind to" player, Kurt Warner does not fit the above description, and does not deserve to be a Hall of Famer.
Warner announced Friday morning that he was retiring from the NFL after 12 seasons. In one of the most peculiar roller coaster rides the NFL has ever seen, Warner went from practice squad quarterback, to grocery-bagger, to Arena League star, to NFL Europe star, to Super Bowl quarterback, to no-name aging veteran, to NFC champion.
Somewhere in between his rise to stardom, fall from grace, and climb back to the top, Warner put together fantastic numbers that put him in the conversation for one of the best quarterbacks of his generation.
But that does not make him a Hall of Famer.
To describe a Hall of Famer, especially a quarterback, it makes sense to look at every aspect of that player’s resume.
Sure, a player like Terry Bradshaw got into Canton primarily because of his four Super Bowl victories and Dan Marino received his ugly yellow jacket because he had managed to crush every major passing record by the time he hung his cleats up.
But for the rest of the bunch, we must take everything into account when determining their Hall of Fame credentials.
Check one for Warner: he is a Super Bowl winner. After a dominating performance in Super Bowl XXXIV, Warner joined the club of now 27 quarterbacks that have started and won a Super Bowl. It’s not a necessity for a quarterback to win a Super Bowl to get in the Hall, but it sure helps.
Warner also made it to two other Super Bowls, and has won 13 career playoff games. In his three Super Bowl appearances, Warner recorded the highest mark for passing yards in all three.
Statistically, Warner ranks 26th all-time in passing yards, touchdowns, and pass completions. While those numbers don’t scream Hall of Fame, they aren’t too shabby either.
Considering the circumstances Warner was up against—playing with three different teams and featuring low points in his 12-year career—the numbers are impressive.
But wait just a minute...what was that about the low point Warner went through? Since when do Hall of Famers disappear for five years in the middle of their career?
From the years of 2002-2006, Warner did absolutely nothing to warrant even a starting gig, let alone the highest honor a football player can receive. It began in St. Louis after Warner led the Rams to Super Bowl XXXVI, when he began the 2002 season with seven interceptions and just one touchdown as the Rams began the year 0-3.
Warner then broke his finger in the team’s next game, and would only appear in two more games for the Rams, both of which Warner lost. In 2003, Warner was replaced by Marc Bulger one game into the year after fumbling six times in the opener against the Giants.
He would play just two games that season before being released in the offseason. Sound like a Hall of Famer to you?
Things got worse.
Two days after being released by St. Louis, the Giants signed Warner to a two-year deal to start over No. 1 overall pick Eli Manning. Going 5-4 under Warner, New York switched to Manning, and wound up winning just one more game the rest of the season.
That’s tally number two for quarterbacks Warner has been replaced with.
Hall of Fame-worthy?
The next stop would ultimately be his last, when Arizona signed him to a one-year, $4 million contract. After three games, Warner injured his groin and was replaced by Josh McCown. Head Coach Dennis Green named Warner the starter for the rest of the season, but would then go back on his statement when McCown flopped.
Warner’s season again ended early, when he partially tore his MCL in a Week 15 game. He finished that season with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 11 touchdowns would be the most Warner would throw in this five season downfall.
In 2006, Warner started the year off nicely, but was replaced once again, this time by Matt Leinart in Week Four. Warner would not play again until Week 16, when Leinart went down with an injury.
In that five year span, Warner was replaced by four quarterbacks and threw for a combined 27 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. In no way should those five years define Warner, and ultimately no one will remember those years for Warner.
They will remember “the greatest show on turf” and Warner’s comeback to take the Cardinals back to the top.
In 12 years, Warner put together an outstanding career and was a feel-good story, going from grocery-bagger to NFL Super Bowl MVP. Outside of the five forgettable years, Warner’s other seven years were some of the best in NFL history. But remember, the Hall of Fame looks at the whole resume.
It’s not called the Hall of Great, or even the Hall of Very Great. Warner was Hall of Fame-worthy for seven years of his career, but not the other five.
Because of that, Warner’s bust should not be next to the greats in Canton.