Quote of the Day
“Dan Patrick: What are you playing for now?
Kurt Warner: I’m playing because I still love the game. And I’m really playing for another chance at a championship.
Editor’s Note–This exchange was from an interview on Dan Patrick’s excellent radio show from October of this year.
The clear inference in the question quoted above was that Kurt Warner will never play for a winner again. TB doesn’t fault DP for the inference as I and most everyone agreed with it at the time. I thought Warner’s answer was total BS, considering he was with the Cardinals and was only playing because the highly touted youngster the Cardinals drafted as their future leader was a bust. His run to one of the unlikeliest Super Bowl berths ever concluded tonight. He is quarterback of the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals. Though not a perfect analogy, his victory sent TB’s thoughts scurrying back to the Golden Age of Sports.
In 1980 Jim Plunkett was the backup quarterback of the Oakland Raiders behind Dan Pastorini. In 1978, Plunkett attempted precisely zero passes in the NFL. In 1979 he threw the pill fifteen times. He didn’t get to play in 1980 until week five when Pastorini broke his leg. Once hailed as one of the greatest pro prospects at quarterback to ever come out of the college game, his career never lived up to those expectations. But in 1980, after being written off by the sporting world, he got one last chance. And he found the touch that had eluded him since leaving Stanford.
The Raiders were 2-3 when Plunkett became the starter. They went 9-2 from there out to claim the AFC wild card, then won 3 road playoff games in a row before smashing the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 in Super Bowl XV. What stands out in TB’s ten year old kid memory of that season is Plunkett throwing the bomb. It seemed like he had nothing to lose so he aired it out like we kids wanted to see more than anybody else. And those bombs kept landing in Cliff Branch’s hands. I’ll also never forget Plunkett’s awful facemask, two bars close together and way down by the chin.
Naturally, Plunkett was eventually benched by the Raiders and written off as an old timer playing out the string for a paycheck. But in 1983, they called him back from the bench. And he found the magic again, leading the Raiders to a Super Bowl XVIII victory over the loathsome Washington Redskins.
The analogy to Kurt Warner isn’t perfect, mainly because Warner rose from obscurity to become the prolific quarterback of the St. Louis Rams “greatest show on turf” team that won Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999, whereas Plunkett was the golden boy when he entered the league. But by 2003, Warner was pretty much written off as a has been and to some a flash in the pan, or a system quarterback. He was benched in 2004 by the New York Giants in favor of rookie Eli Manning. His signing by the Cardinals in 2005 was noticed only by observers amazed at the Cardinals’ persistence in making non-sensical personnel decisions. After joining the Cardinals, he was benched for phenom Josh McCown, then later for phenom Matt Leinhart. This year, he beat out presumptive starter Leinhart in the preseason, told Dan Patrick he still wanted to win championships and thought his Cardinals could be dangerous, and eventually won that championship. And I hope he wins another Super Bowl.
I bet Plunkett wouldn’t mind seeing that either. Especially if Warner debuted a tribute to the Plunkett facemask.
Enjoy the video–sorry about the commercial. Nothing from the NFL is free.