One of the fun Super Bowl XLIII storylines has been the Hall of Fame case for quarterback Kurt Warner, the man who once had such a huge chip on his shoulder he initially thought it was just Ricky Proehl.
When thinking of active Hall of Fame quarterbacks, you'd probably mention Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, and perhaps Donovan McNabb. Warner doesn't really factor into one's head until some unknown fantasy football champion pipes up and says, "Hey … what about Kurt Warner?" Well, holy crap, he does have a pretty good case, if not air-tight. He's already played in two Super Bowls, has one ring, and will start his third on Sunday with a chance at his second championship with as many teams. Those years he languished the Giants pretty much knocked him off the radar of people's minds. But he's there now, and the praise is coming in from all directions.
One such pat on the back came from ColdHardFootballFacts.com's Kerry Byrne, who used the numbers to say that not only is Warner great, but he's greater than Peyton Manning. Certainly it's an unorthodox argument, and he lays it out well.
Well, time to destroy it.
They both joined the NFL in 1998.
In 1998, Manning played all 16 games his rookie year and Warner threw all of 11 passes.
They both spent the bulk of their careers playing in domes, giving them plenty of opportunity to cook up fat, juicy stats. And both were often surrounded by great offensive talent.
So we're qualifying that, all ceilings being equal, the stats are comparable. Remember this.
Hell, both of them played with Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James.
Ha. Yes, but … Peyton played with Faulk for one year, his rookie season, while Warner played with James for about one and a half. It's probably another article altogether, but Faulk gets the slight-to-medium edge over, well, Edge, as the better back.
Manning is second in NFL history with a 94.7 career passer rating. Warner is third in NFL history with a 93.8 career passer rating. The two are tight as ticks statistically in the regular season.
Tight as ticks? Well, no. No. Not at all, actually. With Warner getting injured and having to compete with playing time for guys named Matt Leinart in Arizona, Trent Green in St. Louis, and that other Manning in New York, Warner has played in about 60 percent fewer regular season games (109 to 176) and equally as few pass attempts (3557 to 5960).
It's no strike against Warner that he's played less football, but it's a default collection of plusses in Manning's column that he has a better QB rating than Warner in almost two-thirds as many chances.
So they're not tight as ticks at all. They're actually about as loose as some kind of tick escort, provided ticks believe in prostitution.
Byrne jumps right into his difference, which is staunch and favors Warner: the postseason numbers:
Warner in the postseason (10 games): 230 of 360 (63.9 percent), 2,991 yards, 8.31 YPA, 299 yards per game, 23 TD, 12 INT, 97.3 passer rating.
Manning in the postseason (15 games): 348 of 565 (61.6 percent), 4,207 yards, 7.4 YPA, 280 yards per game, 22 TD, 17 INT, 84.9 passer rating.
Well, right away, I would say that getting to the postseason more times is also a plus. But he's comparing the two numbers straight up, and so shall we.
But other than that, it really looks like Warner's just a better playoff quarterback. And he probably is. Manning's always known for not winning "the big one," except for Super Bowl XLI, in which he beat a team with, as Lovie Smith said, "Rex [Grossman] as our quarterback."
Remember how Byrne said their numbers were similar because they both played in domes? Let's look at the ceilings, or lack thereof, in Manning's postseason games:
• 7 home (dome) games
• five outdoor cold games
• three outdoor warm games
In Warner's 10 games, six of them were played in a HomeDome™, one was an away game dome, two of them were Super Bowls (both domes), and only one was outdoors — the great win against the Panthers this year. So while Manning has played 5 more playoff games, Warner actually had more indoor playoff games than the Colts.
Thanks goes to Bleacher Report for compiling Eli's brother's playoff stats into one nice, neat little table. If we separate Manning's eight HomeDome™ games with Warner's eight HomeDome™ games (I'm also sluicing off the away loss at New Orleans for the purpose of lining up two equal sets of eight games) we get:
Manning: 205 of 301 (65.9 percent), 2,617 yards, 8.69 YPA, 327 yards per game, 16 TD, 8 INT, 98.5 passer rating
Warner: 185 of 288 (64.2 percent), 2,406 yards, 8.35 YPA, 301 yards per game, 18 TD, 8 INT, 99.7 passer rating
Attention evil-doers, The Tick is here and he's wearing the blue tights of justice. (Translation: more yards for Manning, more TDs and a better rating for Warner … those are very close to being equally wonderful.)
This is not to throw out Manning's seven outdoor games as meaningless stats. the 68.2 passer rating (6 TDs, 9 INTs) and 2-5 record speaks for itself. What also speaks volumes is the five losses. That means Manning and his team was in the playoffs at least five times, which is more times than Warner even appeared in the playoffs (four).
1) Warner is much more likely to play well in the postseason. Warner produced a passer rating of 90.0 or better in six of 10 postseason games. Manning produced a passer rating of 90.0 or better in six of 15 postseason games.
So, 90 is good. Remember that.
2) Warner is far less likely to lay an egg in the postseason. Manning has played his worst statistical game of the year in the playoffs in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 (as measured by passer rating). Three times in 15 playoff games Manning has posted a passer rating of less than 40 (compared with just twice in 176 regular season games).
Warner has never performed so poorly in the playoffs. In his worst statistical game, his passer rating was 56.2.
While this is true, the AFC and NFC, by property of the arenas in both conferences, require different concepts in the playoffs. Seven NFC teams have a dome or retractable roof stadium (St. Louis, Arizona, Dallas, Minnesota, Atlanta, New Orleans, Detroit), which means there's a 50 percent chance the game will be inside. In the AFC, it's 1 in 7 — either Indianapolis or Houston. In the NFC your offense has to be on. In the AFC it's an outdoor battle of attrition.
And all those bad Manning games were played — yep — outside, where the temperature turns nipples into Ginsu-quality cutlery.
Most importantly, Warner's teams are much more likely to win the playoffs. Warner's teams are 8-2 in postseason play. Manning's Colts are 7-8 in postseason play.
I could cite numbers about Manning having an 11 percent better winning record in the regular season, or having six more 10-win seasons than Warner, or reaching the playoffs in more than twice as many seasons.
Warner is perfect in wherever he calls the dome his home, while Manning is a blech-like 4-3 in the recently-blown-up RCA Dome. It's very fair to say Warner's teams have been better than Manning's teams in the playoffs, but scroll back up. Those numbers were like teenage lovestruck ticks sharing the malt of a human forearm. The difference between three losses was, I'm guessing, more than just the quarterback. One of those games was perhaps Manning's fault, since he had a QB rating of 60, when he was 23 years old. In the other two games his QB rating exceeded that magic 90 number.
More remarkable is that Warner has done it with historically dysfunctional organizations. Before Warner took them to the big game, the Rams had reached just one Super Bowl (XIV) in their history, including their time in Los Angeles. Warner led the franchise to its only Super Bowl victory and to its first NFL title since 1951.
So just because the team has had seasons upon seasons of losing, that suddenly appreciates the value of one's postseason run? If it does, then maybe he can cite the Colts' years in Indianapolis before Manning's entrance: 14 years, five winning seasons, never more than 10 wins in any regular season, three playoff appearances, and two playoff wins.
And not to keep diminishing Warner's accomplishments this year — he really is one of the most overlooked quarterbacks of this generation — but Byrne seems to paint the picture that Warner and Warner alone fixes bad teams.
The Rams have fallen off the face of the earth since he left.
They were starting to dissipate with him, too. In 2002 he played five full games and lost all of them, which means legendary quarterback Jamie Martin won more games with the Rams (one) than Warner that year (zero). The reason the Rams are god-awful in recent years is that their offensive line consists of Orlando Pace's exoskeleton and four Ionic columns, not because Kurt Warner doesn't play football there.
The Cardinals are easily the worst franchise in league history: they had won just two playoff games in their first 88 years of NFL football. Yet they've won three playoff games this month alone, and they head to the Super Bowl with what's easily the worst defense (426 points allowed) of any conference champion in league history.
That was a bad regular season defense, yes. Hence the 9-7 record. Out of nowhere, that defense recovered the ball no less than three times every playoff game (12 total turnovers over three games). Of course Warner and smart offense will use that field position to score 30 points a game.
This is not to say Kurt Warner is bad, but taking the step and declaring fervently that he is clearly better than Manning is probably overdoing it. Is he a better playoff quarterback? Well, maybe. Probably. Is he a better complete quarterback? They're both going to the Hall of Fame, in my book, but if my team is playing the Steelers, Patriots, Giants, or Bears in a snowy January game, and I have Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning on my team, I'd choose either, but if the catch is that I have to have Manning and Mike Vanderjagt on the team, I might reconsider.Powered by Sidelines