On January 29, one of the greatest people to ever play the game, Kurt Warner , announced his retirement.
In a companion article for Examiner.com, I outlined why he should be admired as a person. In this one, I will deal only with the case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And unlike some people whose emotions cloud their judgment on and off the field, we can rely on Warner to mean it when he says he is retired. That gives the bronzesmiths five years to get the bust ready.
Warner is a two-time MVP and four-time Pro Bowl selection with more records than I care to list (see his link above). He finished with impressive enough numbers to get in: 2,666 of 4,070 (65.5 percent), 208 TDs, 128 picks, 32,344 yards, and a 93.7 passer rating.
By comparison, first-ballot Hall of Famer Troy Aikman was 2,898 of 4,715 (61.5) for 32,942, 165 TDs, and 141 picks for an 81.5 passer rating. The difference, of course, is the era.
In the 10 years from Aikman's retirement to Warner's, it has become increasingly easier to pass. Rules changes have made it easier on receivers, complexities have made it harder on defenses, and the philosophies of coaches have evolved enough to give quarterbacks more opportunities.
Another difference that may be cited is the two extra rings Aikman has. Here I think the era helped Troy, who got all of his rings because the team around him was so good, built largely before the salary cap prevented the Cowboys from outspending everyone.
Warner still was the MVP of a Super Bowl he won, carried an underdog franchise to another, and has the three best passing yard totals in Super Bowl history in his only three appearances. He has more passing yards than anyone in Super Bowl history, including Tom Brady and Joe Montana, who played in four.
He played his best in the biggest games, even if his team did not always. Is that not more the mark of a great player than Ben Roethlisberger winning a title despite a horrible game in his first Super Bowl? Ben did play great to get them there, and did play great in his second, but if all we are counting is Super Bowls won, we are missing the point that championships are won as a team.
Warner is also a pioneer. He is the oldest quarterback to ever win a conference championship, the first player to ever get 4,000 yards in his first season as a starter, and the only one to throw 100 TDs with two different teams.
The true measure of any great player is how long they are great, how well they play when they are most needed, and if they did something no one before them had: check, check, check.