Images of former Cardinals QB Kurt Warner.
Kurt Warner has taken one step closer to being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
The former Cardinals quarterback was announced Thursday night as one of the 15 finalists for this year's Hall class. The final Hall class will be voted upon January 31, the day before the Super Bowl, as the selection committee whittles the list to a maximum of five players and seven people overall.
One-time Cardinals coach Don Coryell is also one of the finalists.
"It something you dream about for years and years, playing in your front yard, that one day you could be considered one of the best to ever do what you do," Warner said after the announcement, on the NFL Network telecast. "As I keep saying this is all gravy for me, because I wasn't supposed to be here. To make this kind of list is very humbling."
It is a loaded potential class, including kicker Morten Andersen, running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Tim Brown, running back
Terrell Davis, coach Tony Dungy, linebacker Kevin Greene, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, coach Jimmy Johnson, safety John Lynch, tackle Orlando Pace, general manager Bill Polian, linebacker Junior Seau, guard Will Shields, center Mick Tingelhoff and general manager Ron Wolf.
"I think I played at a Hall of Fame level, at least for a period of time," Warner said last spring. "Does that constitute me being put in the Hall of Fame? I have no idea. I just know I put in the work, and now it's up to somebody else to wade through and figure out what belongs there.
"Obviously, from the time you are little, you want to make your mark in whatever you do. For me, it was the National Football League. To finally be here, and to have a lot of people think you will finally get there, you can't help but think about it and how special it would be."
Warner has always been less than a sure bet for the Hall of Fame simply for his career path. He rose to prominence as a record-breaking passer for a Super Bowl-winning Rams team in St. Louis, but injuries derailed him after only three full seasons and two as a backup to Marc Bulger.
After half a season as placeholder for rookie Eli Manning in New York, Warner had two more non-descript seasons with the Cardinals before Ken Whisenhunt arrived as coach and Warner embarked on another magnificent three-season stretch – including leading the Cardinals to an improbable Super Bowl appearance – before deciding to retire after the 2009 season.
In his career, Warner finished with 32,334 passing yards, 208 touchdown passes and 128 interceptions in just 125 games, with a career
passing rating of 93.7. He and Peyton Manning are the only players in NFL history to have thrown for at least 14,000 yards for two teams, and he, Fran Tarkenton and Manning are the only players to have thrown for at least 100 touchdowns for two teams.
Warner's name dots the NFL record book. He set the mark for highest completion percentage (92.3) in a game when he hit on 24 of 26 passes in a win in Jacksonville in 2009. He is tied for fourth all-time in career completion percentage (65.5, behind Drew Brees, Chad Pennington and Aaron Rodgers, and tied with Peyton Manning), ninth in passing rating (behind Rodgers, Tony Romo, Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Brees and Ben Roethlisberger) and sixth in all-time 300-yard passing games with 52 (behind Manning, Brees, Brady, Dan Marino and Brett Favre).
He also tied Marino with the fewest games needed to reach 30,000 passing yards, with 114.
The Hall of Fame isn't the only reason Warner has been in the news. With all the injuries the Cardinals suffered at quarterback this season, Warner has admitted he considered in December the idea of perhaps coming back if the Cardinals had asked – they did not – although it was a moot point. As a player on the team's reserved-retired list, Warner could not have been put on the roster following Drew Stanton's injury according to NFL rules.
"Physically, I feel really, really good," Warner said on the "Dan Patrick Show" Thursday. "Now, is that the same as being able to compete at the NFL level, absolutely not. I think the biggest reservation for me would have been, I didn't want to screw it up for them. I didn't want, again, out of my arrogance to think, 'Oh, I can go back and play and help this team.' And, then I go in there and screw the whole thing up. That was my biggest concern.
"Had they truly reached out and we sat down and talked about it, I don't know what I would have done."