Kurt Warner discussed with us some surprises he’s seen in the NFL this season, plus a few other topics from around the league.
To many professional football players, there’s no more coveted honor than being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This past August, former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner experienced what that honor feels like. Warner was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton after a career in which he threw for over 32,000 yards and 208 touchdowns. He appeared in three Super Bowls total — two with the St. Louis Rams and one with the Arizona Cardinals — and led the Rams to victory in Super Bowl 34 while taking home MVP honors in the process.
Nowadays, Warner spends his time analyzing what others are doing on the field, working as an analyst for the NFL Network. He’s very much in tune to what’s happening in the 2017, and when it comes to pointing out some of the surprises this season has given us, two teams from the NFC immediately stand out to him — much like they have to all of us that have been watching the season.
“Well as for positive surprises, I think you obviously have to point to the Philadelphia Eagles. You expected them to be good, but you really didn’t expect them to be this dominant,” Warner admitted. “And then you have the LA Rams, a team that really struggled down the stretch last year with their young quarterback and their young coach, but a lot of things have changed. For them to be sitting where they’re sitting right now, atop the NFC West, I think is a huge surprise.”
But not all surprises are pleasant ones. Maybe one of the biggest disappointments of this NFL season has been the New York Giants. After some characterized them as Super Bowl contenders in the preseason, they’ve stumbled to a 1-8 start, and things don’t look to be getting much better in the near future.
“Not all surprises are great, and then you have a team like the New York Giants,” Warner said. “They were 11-5 last season and in the playoffs, and you thought all they need to do is upgrade their offense to get to the next level. Well, they did seem to upgrade their offense, yet they find themselves with just one win at this point.”
Given the surprising nosedive the Giants have taken this season, a lot of the blame is being placed solely on head coach Ben McAdoo. Once thought of as the offensive guru that would get this team back to the Super Bowl with an explosive offense, his seat as head coach is now bursting into flames.
“I don’t think you can ever pinpoint just one problem, just one person being the problem,” Warner said when asked about McAdoo’s coaching potentially being the sole issue for this team. “You know, it comes down to coaches having to coach and players having to play. They’ve suffered a lot of injuries, they’ve struggled on the offensive line, and if there was one concern coming in, it was the offensive line.
“So, when you couple all those things together, it’s just tough to win in the National Football League, especially when you don’t have your full pieces and you’re not at full strength. The Giants haven’t been that for a lot of the year, and as they’ve gone down, they’ve fallen apart in a lot of areas as well.
“I’m not ready to say it’s all on the coach just yet, but I think everything is dictated by the leaders on your team and how you respond to adversity. And now, they’re facing some adversity, and how they respond going forward will determine who’s with the organization and where they go from here. ”
Another prevalent storyline this NFL season has dealt with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. With his surgically repaired shoulder not healing as properly as it should, the team decided to shut him down for the rest of the season, even though it seemed like they were planning for his return. The Colts’ overall handling of Luck when he’s injured — not just this season but in previous years as well — is something that’s been heavily criticized.
“I think it’s really hard to judge unless you’re really close to the situation to know what’s the proper way to handle this. I think the biggest thing for Andrew moving forward is he’s gotta learn to play the position better where he doesn’t expose himself to so many big hits, and doesn’t feel like he has to make every throw, or hold onto the ball too long, or whatever it is to protect himself moving forward,” Warner admitted.
“As far as the Colts are concerned, I think they’re trying to do the right thing by the organization and by Andrew Luck. When it comes to shoulder injuries, you’re never really sure how they’re gonna bounce back. At this point, it doesn’t look like they’re going to make the playoffs, so they’re trying to be smart so they can make sure he’s 100 percent healthy, so he can play for them another decade.”
When it comes to young quarterbacks in the NFL, one in particular has caught the eye this season. Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson recently passed Warner in the record books for the most touchdowns thrown in the first seven games of a career. Watson, the rookie out of Clemson, was lighting the NFL world on fire until he suffered a torn ACL, ending his dream first season in the league.
Like many, Warner is very excited to see how far Watson can go when he does return to the field next season.
“Obviously, the first thing is you hope that he gets back to 100 percent healthy to get back to doing the things he was doing this year from an athletic standpoint,” Warner said. I think the exciting part is how much great success he had early, yet when I watch him play and watch him on film, he’s got such a long way to go. He’s got so much room to grow at the position, so that’s really the exciting part is that he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do, and do it at the level he’s been able to do it at. It’s crazy to think that he’s been doing what he’s doing without really understanding the big picture of things, but it’s exciting to think about where he could end up.
“As he continues to grow, especially with that athleticism and big-play ability he’s got — man, I can’t wait to see it. I think everyone was tuning in every week to see what he was going to do and whether or not he could top himself because he was playing at such an extraordinary level for a young kid.”
Warner, in his spare time, has also been working with the folks from U.S. Cellular. on their Most Valuable Coach program. This amazing venture aims to recognize coaches from around the country that have made a profound impact on lives on and off the field.