Did Kurt Warner Deserve to Be Benched So Many Times?

Ari HoringSenior Analyst IFebruary 22, 2009

Whenever the topic of whether Kurt Warner belongs in the Hall of fame comes up, the side opposing Warner always brings up the fact that Kurt Warner was benched four times in his career.

In this article, I’m going to address Warner’s benchings and show why not everything is what it seems to be.

In 2002, the year when Kurt Warner's drought began, he started the season 0-3 with seven interceptions before breaking a finger in his throwing hand in the beginning of the fourth game.

He did play poorly, but four of his interceptions did come against the future Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers, who were the No. 1 defense in the league.

Let's also not forget that Warner had just lost the Super Bowl the year before, and most Super Bowl losing teams, generally have "hangovers" the next season.

Eight out of the last 10 Super Bowl losers (not including the Cardinals) have failed to make the playoffs the following season.

Even with how poorly Warner had played, he still averaged 294 yards in those three games. He did return late in the season for a few games, but it was clear that his hand was still bothering him.

His benching was solely because of injury and not because of his play.

In 2003, Kurt Warner infamously fumbled the ball six times in the opening game, prompting Mike Martz to start Marc Bulger the next game and the rest of the season.

Although he did fumble the ball six times, he had a concussion six and half minutes into the game and should have been taken out in the first place. He didn't seem right the entire game and after hearing he had suffered a concussion, we all knew why.

Although Bulger had played well the year before, was it fair to bench Warner, who had a concussion and was less than two seasons removed from being an MVP?

In 2004, Kurt Warner signed with the Giants and led them to a 5-4 record, despite having poor pass protection and a weak receiving corps.

I will admit that Kurt Warner isn’t very mobile, as you should already know, and he needs at least average pass protection to be successful.

However, the Giants pass protection was plain awful. Every time Warner took a snap, it looked like he was going to be sacked.

In nine games, he was sacked 39 times, the most in his career, despite having the 28th least amount of pass attempts per game in the NFL.  

At the time I remember reading an article in the middle of that season saying that Kurt Warner was the MVP for leading the worst team in football to a 5-2 record at the time.

Although Warner led the team to a respectable 5-4 record, the Giants knew they weren’t going to win a Super Bowl with their roster and thus Warner was benched for Eli Manning, who not surprisingly finished the season 1-6.

In 2005, Warner had trouble finding a team to start for and was forced to sign with the Arizona Cardinals.

Despite playing with a horrid offensive line and the last ranked run offense in the league, in 10 games Warner averaged 271.3 yard per game, which was third in the league, and recorded 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. 

In 2006, The Cardinals drafted Matt Leinart to be their quarterback of the future.

Kurt Warner was benched for Matt Leinart after four games, but to his defense the Cardinals offensive pass protection and running game was once again putrid, ranking 30th in the NFL in rushing yards a game.

In 2007, Matt Leinart played poorly early in the season with a 53.6 completion percentage, which led coach Whisenhunt to split the quarterback duties between Leinart and Warner.

During this time, Warner seemed to have regained some of his old form. After Leinart broke his collarbone and was put on IR, Warner would start the remaining games and finish the season with 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Did Warner really regain his old form or was there another reason for his success? The Cardinals added two new tackles and a center before the season and overall their pass protection was clearly improved.

Warner despite having a running game that was still ranked near the bottom of the league, was much better because of the pass protection.

2008 saw the rebirth of the former MVP Kurt Warner. If I had to attribute the main reason for this, it would have to be the Cardinals pass protection.

The Cardinals pass protection continued to improved in 2008, giving Kurt Warner the time to find arguably the best receiving core in football.  

If you want to claim that Warner was playing in a system similar to the show on turf, I’d have to disagree. 

Warner may have amassed 30 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions, but the Cardinals finished the 2008 season dead last in rushing yard per game.

For Warner to have had the season he had with the running game he had supporting him, it was quite remarkable.

I know that it may seem as though I am making excuses for Warner, but in reality, injuries and poor pass protection were the main reasons for his benchings.

The truth is that Warner never truly got the respect he deserved. Many people attributed most of his success to the Ram’s stellar offense. 

Even after winning two MVPs, there were still many doubters out there. When he played poorly, people started wondering if maybe he is who they thought he was.

They didn’t look at why he was playing poorly or why he had got benched because of their self conscious doubt.  It has finally taken until this year for Warner to truly get the respect he deserves.

Warner has come back from the dead twice and has proven his doubters wrong each time. People this season are finally starting to appreciate Warner as more than just an underdog story, as but a Hall of Fame football player.