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News » Warner has numbers to be league MVP Former Rams QB still is a hit as leader of once-lowly Cardinals.

Warner has numbers to be league MVP Former Rams QB still is a hit as leader of once-lowly Cardinals.

Warner has numbers to be league MVP Former Rams QB still is a hit as leader of once-lowly Cardinals.
Two weeks ago, Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner probably was the leading candidate for the NFL's MVP award. Seven years after he earned his second such award with the Rams, Warner, 37, was putting up huge numbers - he was on pace to break Dan Marino's 24-year-old record for passing yards in a season - and the 7-3 Cardinals were closing in on their first division title since moving from St. Louis in 1988.

Since then, Warner has been somewhat less than stellar and the Big Red have dropped back-to-back games. So, does Warner still deserve strong consideration to join Brett Favre as the only three-time MVPs in league history?

"Just from a standpoint statistically, I think he qualifies for that, and from the way he's managed our football team," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "He's played well on a team that's had a fairly good season."

MVP awards typically go to skill players that fit Whisenhunt's basic criteria - they have a standout season for a successful team. Great players from bad teams rarely are recognized, and defensive players almost never win.

With that in mind, let's examine Warner's credentials. First, the numbers:

Despite his recent downturn, he's cobbling together one of his best seasons in a career in which he has been the league's MVP twice (1999 and 2001), Super Bowl MVP ('99), and a three-time Pro Bowl pick. Warner is second in the NFL in passing yardage (3,741 yards) and completion rate (68.4 percent), tied for first in touchdown passes (24, with just 11 interceptions), and No. 3 in passer rating (99.4).

Now, the team:

The Cardinals are 12-11 since Warner took over as the starter last year after Matt Leinart suffered a broken collarbone vs. the Rams. That might not seem like stirring success, but for the Futile Franchise, it marks dramatic improvement.

The Big Red were a combined 25-55 in the previous five seasons and finished last in the NFC West three times. They have posted just one winning record since relocating to the desert; their 9-7 mark in 1998 also qualified them for their lone playoff appearance.

A victory Sunday over the Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium - or a San Francisco loss to the New York Jets - would wrap up the franchise's first championship since the 1975 St . Louis Cardinals won the NFC Eastern Division under coach Don Coryell.

then and now

Several years after "a lot of people wanted to write me off," Warner is reprising his "Greatest Show on Turf" performances - statistically, anyway.

His most productive season with the Rams was in 2001, when he threw for 4,830 yards; he's on pace for 4,988. He has been ahead of his highest completion percentage mark (68.7, also in '01) nearly all season.

And though he won't reach his personal bests for touchdown passes (41, in 1999) and passer rating (109.2, also in '99), he's on pace to throw for 32 TDs and could inch up to triple digits in his rating.

"I think there's a lot of comparisons" to the Warner of then and the Warner of now, Rams coach Jim Haslett said. "He's throwing the ball really well, making good decisions, and you don't see him turning it over much. I think he's even got better in some areas, that he's not holding on to the ball and taking sacks."

In deference to the "great times" he had here, Warner "won't ever say 'better.' But I feel like I'm playing as well," he said. "I feel like I'm playing with as much confidence as I ever have. I feel like I'm making good decisions. I'm seeing the field as well as I ever have. ... And it's fun, because it's been awhile since I've been on the field and playing football this way."

If that turns out to be good enough to earn him another MVP, it would be more a reflection on the overall resurgence in Arizona than it would his individual play, Warner insisted.

"It would mean our team is getting recognized for what we did on the football field," he said. "Very seldom does an individual win it if his team isn't having success and if he doesn't have guys around him that are playing at a high level."

Still, even to be listed among the contenders is satisfying, Warner conceded. "There's definitely gratification in it," he said. "It's fun to know that the hard work and the perseverance has paid off (after) wondering if I ever would get the opportunity to be back in this position, leading a football team."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: December 5, 2008

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