Thursday, January 22, 2009

Daily Super Bowl Hype Meme: Kurt Warner for the Hall of Fame

Now that the media has begun to get over the "shock" of the Arizona Cardinals odds-confirming trip to the Super Bowl, a lot of attention is being paid to Cards QB Kurt Warner. Now, media attention is nothing new for Warner. Nearly all football fans recall the many stories about Warner's inspiring rise from working as a stockboy at an indoor Christian football grocery store (or something like that--we're fuzzy on the details ourselves) to playing QB for the Super Bowl-winning St. Louis Rams. But this year's hype somehow manages to be even more over the top.

Specifically, many pundits have come out and said that if Warner leads Arizona to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, he would become a lock for the Hall Fame. This meme is fundamentally insane. In order to prove its insanity, however, we're going to have to veer into the scary land of numbers again. As we mentioned in our first meme post of the year, we are not great at math. In fact, we have to get naked in order to count to 21. But these numbers are pretty straightforward. In fact, they can be neatly summarized in a short topic sentence--watch:

Kurt Warner's Career Numbers Are Surprisingly Crappy.

There are lots of numbers which you could use to try to encapsulate a QB's performance. For season-to-season numbers, the DYAR stat at Football Outsiders is probably the best. But those numbers aren't available for most historic QBs, and for HoF purposes we need to compare Warner against everybody. So we propose to use three basic numbers, passing yards, TDs, and INTs as the basis, because those are the best conventional stats for measuring a QB's individual performance (all numbers taken from Pro Football Reference). How does Warner fare?

Passing Yards

Kurt Warner has thrown for 28,591 yards in his career. That looks pretty good at first glance. But it's only good for 38th place all-time, behind the likes of Rich Gannon, Jake Plummer, Donovan McNabb, and someone called Norm Snead, who sounds as though he ought to have played for the Pottstown Maroons. Does that sound like a list of HoF guys to you? And keep in mind that Warner's all-time ranking here is actually slightly inflated, given that he has played his entire career in the most passing-friendly age in NFL history. So put Warner in the HoF if you like. Just expect a hurt phone call from Jake Plummer the next day.


Warner has thrown for 182 touchdowns in his career. That number ties him with Mark Brunell and Steve "Neckroll" Grogan for 40th place all-time.

Now, full disclosure: one of your authors here at the GRBG is a long-time Steve Grogan fan, and even had an autographed picture of Grogan on his fridge for a while. But there is no way, NO WAY that Steve Grogan should be in the Hall of Fame. 4oth place just isn't that impressive, especially when that place also manages to be behind Steve DeBerg. So it's hard to see how Warner's numbers in this category warrant anything other than a steady diet of post-career autograph sessions at memorabilia shows in the greater St. Louis area.


This is better for Warner, as he has thrown only 114 interceptions against his 182 touchdowns. The 114 picks put him 79th on the all-time list, which is good considering this is one list you don't want to be near the top of. So this category kicks Warner up a couple of notches. Still, though, it isn't nearly enough to overcome his profound mediocrity in the other two categories. The numbers don't lie. Warner just isn't good enough.

But, Wait, What About The Rings?

Yes, it's true that if Warner's team wins in Tampa, he will become just the 1oth quarterback to win more than one Super Bowl. But how much should that weigh into Warner's HoF case?

Of the nine previous multiple SB winning QBs, seven are in the Hall of Fame, one (Tom Brady) is still active, and one (Jim Plunkett) is, well, Jim Plunkett. Note also that Phil Simms is not in the HoF depite being the main QB on two Super Bowl-winning teams, even though Jeff Hostetler landed the plane for him one year in the Big Game itself.

So, although there is a tendency to put multiple winners in, there's also precedent for keeping them out when their numbers aren't up to snuff. We mean, can you imagine Trent Dilfer going into the HoF if Baltimore had repeated? Brad Johnson? Shoot, Eli Manning? Some pretty mediocre QBs have managed to win rings over the course of Warner's career. It isn't the unasssailable credential it once was. So let's all just relax and put down the gun when it comes to Warner's HoF chances. Kurt Warner should not be in the Hall of Fame.

This meme is a little hard to rate. On the one hand, it doesn't seem too bad, given that multiple rings is a strong indicator of Hall of Fame status. On the other hand, we have not heard a single media person cite any of the easily obtainable numbers we list above. That's a sure sign of a Super Bowl hype story--not letting the facts get in the way of an argument. For that reason, we give this one an 8 on the meme scale. Put down the pipe, fellas.

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