On a seasonably warm Sunday, Spetember 24th 2006, my friend and I made our first venture into the recently opened University of Phoenix Stadium to watch the Arizona Cardinals take on the St Louis Rams.
At the 1:46 mark in the 4th quarter, a fumbled snap at the Rams 18 yard line ended the Cardinals comeback drive. The sellout crowd immediately filled the stadium with boos and jeers, followed by loud chants of “we want Matt, we want Matt”. It was the quarterback’s 4th turnover of the game, the fumble capping a 3 interception performance.
The quarterback being booed off the field was none other than Kurt Warner. He would play all of 7 games in a 5-11 season for the Cardinals and eventually the fans would get their wish….or so they thought. On the drive home from the stadium, my friend and I were tuned in to the radio, listening as caller after caller chimed in on the post game show. One after the other stated that Warner was washed up, couldn’t play anymore, hadn’t done anything in almost half a decade and how it was time to begin the Leinart era in Arizona. I’ll be the first to admit, my friend and I were in complete agreement. A mere two seasons later, that same washed up, no good anymore quarterback led his team to within two minutes of a Lombardi Trophy. Four seasons later, that same washed had retired, with every fan who had called for his job knowing full well he could play another couple more years if he had chose too.
Anquan Boldin defended Warner at the time saying, “Kurt’s the leader and he’s going to continue to do that, he’s our guy.”
The rest of the team had also jumped to Warner’s defense….maybe they knew something then that we would eventually learn later, with a little bit of patience.
It would take a new head coach and some fine tuning to turn that Cardinals team into a winner, but most of the pieces were in place. Larry Fitzgerald, Edgarrine James, Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, Adrian Wilson and Anquan Boldin were all part of that Super Bowl 43 run.
Like most Cardinals fans yesterday I sat there after the game wondering to myself where this season has gone wrong after starting with so much potential and enthusiasm. We got our new quarterback, a guy many in the NFL believed to be the right guy to build a franchise around. The move was not without some controversy here, but overall, the team and the fan base seemed to be energized and poised to take their division back.
Alas, this once promising season is all but over. As hard as it is in an instant gratification society however one thing everyone from the fans, to the media and even the team and coaching staff should have learned over the past few years, and that is just because it isn’t working well at the moment, it doesn’t mean it wont work in the future.
In the case of Kurt Warner, he needed a coaching staff willing to build the offense around his particular strengths. Ken Whisenhunt and staff did just that. Having originally come from Pittsburgh with a run first mentality, the Cardinals and their washed up quarterback put together one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL in Warner’s final three years in Arizona.
“But Kevin Kolb isn’t Kurt Warner, Warner was proven.”
Yesterday after a series of spats with fellow frustrated Cardinals fans on twitter I thought about all had to come about to bring that Super Bowl team together. A smart head coach that knew enough to build his offense around his quarterback. A quarterback with the capability and leadership, and team that rallied around and believed that at some point, some time, their quarterback would come through and lead them to accomplish great things.
In the middle of all that, there’s the fact that it takes time for not only the quarterback to learn a new system, but for the coach and architect of that system to learn his quarterback. Kevin Kolb can’t be expected to run Kurt Warner’s offense, he isn’t Kurt Warner (Your wise crack here). Kolb brings with him a different set of skill strengths and abilities than Warner did. What will take time is for Whisenhunt to build Kevin Kolb’s offense, and for Kolb to learn and master that offense.
“Look at what Christian Ponder and Cam Newton are doing, and they’re just rookies.”
Apples and oranges. The playbook that both Ponder and Newton are learning is ¼ of the size of Kolb’s if that. It would be the equivalent of comparing homework for a junior in high school to that of a junior in college.
No, I’m not guaranteeing that Kolb is the long term answer in Arizona. I am saying that Kolb still has the same upside that made two very smart head coaches believe in him as well as a number of others. What we all need to realize is that this is indeed a process. It’s time to label this for what it is. Last season was a throw away, this season is a rebuilding year.
Frustration poured out from all sides yesterday. Players calling out fans for the poor ratio of Cards to Steelers attendees and fans (including myself) feeling as though the players need to show a little more heart and character out there and earn that sea of red in the stands. Both sides have a point I suppose. As I read tweets pertaining to Kolb I realized that you could take half the statements made about Kolb yesterday, change the name to Warner, and it would be 2006 all over again. Same situation, different name.
As I got ready to turn in last night I hung my Cardinals jersey, a red number 13, up in the closet. Behind that number 13 jersey sits two number 7 Matt Leinart jersey’s, both of which were purchased before my red number 13 was purchased.
I reminded me of when, like the rest of you, I once booed Kurt Warner too.