Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the USA. There are many traditions associated with modern celebrations of Thanksgiving: lots of food, family gatherings, an football. In recent decades, the football tradition has meant a National Football League game on the Thursday that is Thanksgiving, in addition to the normal games on Sunday and Monday night. This year’s Thanksgiving Day game features the Arizona Cardinals against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Although I grew up in the Philadelphia area and was an Eagles fan back then, my allegiance shifted to the Chicago Bears when I moved to Chicago forty years ago, and. although I left Chicago seventeen years ago for northern Arkansas, my heart is still with the Bears. Most people down here are either Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, or St. Louis Rams fans. I have never been able to get enthused about the Cowboys. to me, they have always represented the worst in NFL football. I am totally ambivalent about the Chiefs. I was a Rams fan or sorts about ten years ago for the same reason I will be rooting for Arizona on Thursday. The man playing quarterback for the Cardinals is the same person who was the quarterback of the Cardinals in 1999 when they won the NFL Championship and he was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player, which he was voted again in 2001. His name is Kurt Warner, and to me, he represents the best of what professional athletes should be.
Kurt Warner played quarterback in college at Northern Iowa, a small school not considered a major football power. He was not drafted in 1194 when he graduated, but was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Green Bay Packers.Unfortunately, Green Bay had another small-college quarterback they had acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons in 1992. The Falcons had drafted him in the second round in 1991. That quarterback, Brett Favre, who now plays for the New York Jets, is the only man to ever be voted MVP three times in his career. Although there are still five weeks left in the NFL season, Kurt Warner is considered by many the front-runner for this year’s MVP award, which would tie him with Favre. Both have won an NFL Championship.
Although Kurt Warner has a higher passer rating, for me the most meaningful statistic for a quarterback, he is rarely mentioned in the same exalted breath as Favre. Warner has always been the underdog, from the start of his NFL career till now. Favre was a second-round draft pick and was traded to Green Bay, who really wanted him, for a first round pick. Warner was cut by the Packers at the end of training camp and went on to play two seasons of Arena football, wining the Area league MVP both years. He was then signed by the Rams and sent to play for the Amsterdam Admirals in the NFL’s European branch – kinda like being sent to Siberia.
He came to the Rams training camp in 1999 as their third-string quarterback, which means impersonating the opposing quarterback each week in practice. However, through a series of fateful injuries to both the Rams’s starting and backup quarterbacks, Warner started the 1999 as their number one quarterback. He started all 16 regular season games, finishing the regular season with a record of 13 -3. They beat Tampa bay and Minnesota in the NFC playoffs and then beat the Tennessee Titans in the Super Bowl. Warner, who already had been named the NFL MVP, was also named the Super Bowl MVP. Not too shabby for someone who had to work as a grocery store clerk in the off season prior to that season.
To say the least, Warner, who has how been in the NFL for 11 seasons, makes a very lucrative salary and has done so for most of those eleven years.Yet, from what I have read about him in numerous articles, he is still the same humble person he was in 1994 when he was cut by the Packers.
Brett Favre, who at age 39 is two years older than Warner and has had seven more seasons in the NFL, does not strike me as humble at all. In fact, in my humble opinion he is quite arrogant. Those of you who follow the NFL are, I am sure, quite familiar with his “Now I’m retiring, now I’m not” antics the past few years. He seemed to get some warped sense of pleasure out of keeping the Packers management and fans hanging until the last minute, perhaps wanting to watch them come groveling and kiss his feet ti get him to play another season. Kurt Warner has never done anything even remotely similar, even after he was benched in St. Louis in favor of a younger quarterback.
A younger quarterback is why Favre is no longer in Green Bay. In 2005, the Packers drafter quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the University of California in the first round. Rodgers suffered through Favre’s retirement antics in 2005, 2006 and 2007. He replaced Favre almost exactly a year ago to the day when Favre was injured in a game against the Dallas Cowboys. I think his performance in that game convinced the Packers to make Rodgers the started in 2008 and that is why Favre “retired” in the off season.
From what I have been able to glean in the articles about Favre’s retirement, Favre did not take being replaced as the started very gracefully. In fact, it appears he has been less than gracious to Rodgers for the three years they were together at Green Bay. Favre’s’s short-lived retirement was a temper-tantrum by a spoiled brat. And when he decided to come out of retirement, perhaps hoping the Packers would make him the starter again, but instead offered to trade him, he was quite demanding on where he wanted to go. He ended up with the Jets, a team that was not on his list of possible teams, but one of the few teams that showed any interest in him.
Warner faced a similar situation in Arizona when the cardinals drafted Matt Leinart from USC in the first round of the 2006 draft. Many experts considered Leinart one of the best quarterbacks to come into the NFL in the last five years or more. Although Leinart, whom I really like and think he will become a great pro quarterback if he learns some humility, has had numerous opportunities to outperform Warner and win the Arizona starting job, so far Warner has, with little trumpeting or breast beating, has gone out and showed that he still deserves to be their starter.
But, from what I have read, unlike Favre and his treatment of Rogers, Warner has been extremely gracious and helpful to Leinart. I can only hope that Matt learns his lessons from Warner well. And, I suspect that when the day comes for Warner to step aside for a younger quarterback again, whether it is Leinart in Arizona or someone else with another team, Warner will do it with race and humility. And when Kurt Warner decides to retire, I guarantee he will stay retired. He’ll do it for the right reasons – his health and his family, not because of a hissy-fit.
At this point in the season, the Cardinals are almost guaranteed to win the NFC West and make it to the playoffs. Even if my beloved Bears make the playoffs, I am going to root for the Cardinals to win the NFC and go to the Super Bowl.
The Jests are in first place in the AFC East and should make the playoffs. If they do, I am going to root for them to win the AFC and go to the Super Bowl, not because I particularly like the Jets, and I certainly do not like Favre. I want a Super Bowl match up this season of the Cardinals against the Jets – Favre vs.Warner. And I want Warner to have the game of his life and the Cardinal defense to knock Favre on his butt at least a dozen times. I want to see class and grace win and win big. I want Kurt Warner to become the poster boy for the NFL, not Brett Favre or Randy Moss or Ocho Cinco or any of the other egotistical jerks that dominate the media these days!
To see what kind of human being Kurt Warner is, check out his web site.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” Matthew 6 : 33
Happy thanksgiving from all of us to you and yours!