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Can the Arizona Cardinals Really Teach This Old Dog (Kurt Warner) New Tricks

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From the Editor's In-box

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I'm sure we've all know somehow that just couldn't seem to 'keep it together' for very long. No matter how hard they tried or how much help they got, they always seemed to revert back to what they did best, screw things up. While I certainly wouldn't put Kurt Warner in the nearly the same class as an addict or perennial loser, he does have that 'itch' that he seems to love the scratch. For everything he does greatWarner7_medium (accuracy, arm strength, leadership etc), he's also got the 'other' side that has always gotten himself, and his team, into trouble. Warner's always loved to hold the ball too long and try to fit the football into the smallest of windows. Some call it a gunslinger, some call it reckless but for Kurt Warner it's quite simply second nature. During his time in Arizona and even more so this offseason, the coaching staff tried to drill into his head that protecting the football and playing 'safe' was of the utmost importance. For the first nine games of the season Kurt seemed to have bought into that philosophy. While he wasn't exactly over-protective of the football, he didn't look like the same quarterback who turned the ball over 133 times during his 93 career games heading into this season. The past three games haven't been as effective for Warner though and I can't help but wonder if it's an aberration or a sign of things to come.

Disclaimer: In no way am I implying or suggesting that Kurt Warner isn't a very good quarterback or the best guy to lead this team. He's the man in the desert as far as I'm concerned but he's still open to criticism at times, right?

First Nine Games: For the nine games of the season, Kurt Warner was nothing short of spectacular. For a guy who had turned the ball over at a rate of 1.43 times per game over the course of his career, his mark of 1.11 turnovers per game was quite an improvement. In nine games he'd only thrown six picks and lost four fumbles but the even more remarkable thing is that three picks and three fumbles had all come in a single game. It's certainly never a good thing to turn the ball over six times in a single game, it's a testament to the other eight games in which he totaled just three picks and one fumble. With Warner protecting the football and still being the prolific QB that he's known to be, the Cardinals were flying high. The offense was averaging just over 29 points per game and Warner had a QB rating above 99 six out of nine games.

Last Three Games: The past three games Warner has looked more like the QB that the NFL has grown accustomed to seeing. He's turned the ball over seven times (five interceptions and two fumbles) and it's hard to put a finger on what the difference has been. One could argue that the opponents have simply been much better than the Cardinals have seen for most of the season. The Giants and Eagles (five of the aforementioned turnovers) are arguably the two best teams that the Cardinals have faced this season and playing them in span of five days was bound to take it's toll on the entire team. The interesting thing is that Kurt's turnovers don't seem to effect his overall production or the production of the offense as a whole a great deal. They're scoring average has dropped from 29.2 in the first nine games to 25 over the past three but he's still thrown five touchdowns and an average of 327 yards per game. The effects to the defense have been more severe though with his seven turnovers leading to 31 points in the past three games. For any defense 10 points a game is often the difference between a good day at the office and hanging your head for six days until you take the field again.

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One other thing to consider is Warner's production against winning teams this season. In games against teams with a winning record (7 games), he's had 15 turnovers and thrown 15 touchdowns. In games against teams below .500 (5 games), he's thrown nine touchdowns and had just a single turnover. As spectacular as Warner has been this season, he'll have to play even better the rest of the season and in January if he wants to carry this team to new heights. He's been deep into January before though and if anyone can lead this team out of the woods, it'll be #13.