By Jason Keidel
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It's time for the team doctor to make one more house call to Kurt Warner, shine that penlight in the QB's eyes, hold up a few fingers, and ask No. 13 what city he's in. Because if Mr. Warner's wanting assessment of Eli Manning is any indication, he may still suffer from post-concussion symptoms, which seem to include headaches and player hating.
Before the confetti was swept off the frostbitten streets, and the final echoes of gratitude, humility, and ecstasy drifted out of MetLife Stadium for a final time, Warner – a sublime signal-caller in his own right – said that Eli Manning isn't a Hall of Famer.
"I fully disagree with that," Warner said in response to the assertion that the younger Manning brother just cemented his place among the immortals by beating the unbeatable Patriots a second time in four years.
"You know, because I know we put a lot of weight on championships, and rightfully so. But championships are won as a team, and I'm fully convinced of that. You never see one guy — a great player, great quarterback — carry a team through the playoffs and into a Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl that way. I've never seen it."
Then Warner inexplicably pointed to Manning's 82 quarterback rating, career completion percentage (58%) and interception totals to fortify his odd argument that a man with double Warner's Super Bowl rings doesn't rate.
Perhaps someone should remind Warner that Eli Manning was more than just a participant in the Super Bowl. Indeed, Manning was the MVP of both games – with a 103.8 passer rating last Sunday – leading the underdog Giants over an allegedly superior coach and quarterback. And while Warner is correct that collaboration is a resounding theme in pro football, that no one player wins a game, Warner also knows that the quarterback isn't just the most important position in the NFL, but in all team sports.
Someone should ask Warner how he feels about Joe Namath, who threw 173 touchdowns, 220 interceptions, completed an appalling 50.1 percent of his passes, and finished with a subterranean 65.5 QB rating. No one is saying that the QB of Big Blue is better than Broadway Joe, but stats can't be the sole criterion.
And we do know that Namath isn't in the Hall of Fame without Super Bowl III, just as Warner won't reach Canton without toppling the Titians in the Super Bowl, reaching the same game the next year and then leading the Cardinals to an improbable run nearly a decade later. Maybe someone should ask Warner why he lost to Brady and Belichick despite being two-touchdown favorites, while Eli beat them as two-touchdown underdogs.
What makes all of this so stunning is that Warner knows the game – particularly quarterbacks – better than the rest of us combined. But we needn't take an NFL snap to see the mounds of evidence supporting Eli Manning. After winning his second Super Bowl MVP, Manning joined Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks with multiple MVP awards. What do they have in common? Their final uniforms included yellow jackets. (And no one doubts Brady will have his bronze bust five years to the day after he retires.)
Parse the particulars all you want, include the caveats Warner inserted as he tried to moonwalk from his myopic declaration. But Warner's assessment wasn't just wrong; it was rude. Someone should tell Warner that Manning is about to pass him in yards and touchdowns, has already passed him in wins and rings, and, most importantly, would never disparage a peer so publicly.
This isn't an indictment of Warner as a man because we know he's a pillar of any community he inhabits, with a family bigger than the Waltons, including a cluster of adopted kids. He's the football iteration of Rocky Balboa, literally bagging groceries and bouncing between Arena League teams before rising to Super Bowl champion. If you thumb through the dictionary and stop at "American Dream" you'll find Warner's visage, the quintessential journey from outhouse to penthouse, a corporeal parable about what can happen when you refuse to abandon your goals.
And despite his dementia, it says here Kurt Warner belongs in Canton. Some of us just don't get why he doesn't want Eli Manning to join him.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.firstname.lastname@example.org
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