Revered quarterback, clutch postseason performer and devout Christian Kurt Warner retired yesterday, just weeks after submitting one of the greatest postseason performances in history against the Green Bay Packers.
Throughout his career, Warner rose to the occasion again and again. As a number of people have noted, he had the three highest passing yards in Super Bowl history-his teams won one of those games, and lost the other two at the last minute-and took his generally excellent play up at least one notch during the playoffs.
His Hall of Fame credentials are debatable. Some say he has not played long enough to earn admission to Canton, while others see him as a football version of Sandy Koufax or Pedro Martinez, a little lacking in overall statistics, but a dominant champion in his five- or six-year prime.
Warner’s odyssey from Northern Iowa to stocking shelves at a Hy-Vee grocery store to playing Arena League football to Super Bowl MVP has been well chronicled. David Halberstam’s The Education of a Coach, a biography of Bill Belichick, sheds interesting light on how the Patriots coach prepared for the championship game against “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
Warner’s gaudy numbers notwithstanding, Belichick decided that running back Marshall Faulk was the key to the Rams’ offense. As a result, he instructed his players to key on Faulk and make sure that he did not beat them. The coach also through a variety of schemes at Warner, who threw two costly interceptions, one of which Ty Law returned for a touchdown.
Warner rallied the Rams back from their two touchdown deficit before Tom Brady started to burnish his legend by driving the Patriots down the field and leaving it to Adam Vinatieri to nail a 48-yard field goal as time expired.
Regardless of the game’s outcome, Warner always carried himself with class and gratitude based in his knowledge that he could easily still be stocking groceries. The image of his kneeling to pray with opposing members of the Tennessee Titans during the heat of the Super Bowl when one of their players was injured has stayed with me. He and his wife Brenda’s charitable foundation does much good in the community.
So, while his defeat meant the greatest of joy for this formerly long-suffering Patriots fan, I join others who salute this valiant player and dignified man.