Quarterback Kurt Warner acknowledges the fans at University of Phoenix Stadium following Sunday's playoff win over Green Bay.
It's about a legacy.
When you talk to Kurt Warner, it isn't, of course. It's about winning in the playoffs and searching for that elusive second Super Bowl win after the past two disappointments.
But then Warner has games like Sunday's where he throws more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four), further cementing the argument he can be considered – statistically – as the best postseason quarterback ever. It comes in the shadow of retirement talk, discussion that's premature at this point yet still leads to an analysis of a body of work.
Yet with Warner, that legacy is still being written, improved with every victory.
"I am most proud of the opportunity to … be in a position as a quarterback to lead two teams hopefully to that point where there is respect year in and year out for an organization," Warner said. "When I went to St. Louis, nobody had any expectations. (They were) a losing team. To come here, there weren't a lot of expectations. To be a part of two organizations and flip the tables like that will definitely be one of the things that I will be most proud of when my career is over."
More impressive may be what Warner has done once the organizations have finishing flipping.
Warner's all-time postseason passer rating is 104.6, a shade behind the 104.8 posted by Packers' Hall of Famer Bart Starr. In just 12 playoff games in his career, Warner has completed 290-of-436 passes for 3,747 yards, 31 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions.
His completion percentage of 66.5 is highest in NFL playoff history, his 31 touchdowns is fourth all-time behind Joe Montana (45 in 23 games), Brett Favre (39 in 22) and Dan Marino (32 in 18).
He's been even better overall with the Cardinals. In five playoff games, he's completed 72 percent of his passes for 1,526 yards, 16 touchdowns, just three interceptions and a passing rating of 124.3.
Oh, and his postseason record in those 12 games is 9-3.
How to argue there is a better passer for the playoffs?
"He's got my vote," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I hope that trend continues."
Of course, this is what scares the Cardinals when the idea of Warner's retirement is floated. Everyone knows Warner's career is closer to the end than the beginning – "He's 38 years old," noted Larry Fitzgerald. "In NFL terms, that's dinosaur years, right?" – but after watching him shred the Packers, no one wants to lose such a valuable piece of the equation.
"It doesn't excite me too much, that's for sure," Whisenhunt said. "For a guy that's played the way he's played for us this year, it's hard to think about him not continuing to play.
"His ability to see the field, to anticipate, to be accurate with his throws, move around in the pocket, those are things that don't let me think he's ready to stop yet."
Fitzgerald thinks it's even more basic: The chance to win.
"In the locker room, there couldn't have been a guy happier to come out with a win," Fitzgerald said. "Those moments are special. I think those are the ones that will keep him coming back."
No one really knows, of course, and that includes Warner. He's always been a guy who prefers to take some time off before mulling the decision, and he said Sunday he didn't want to decide emotionally.
There were some hedging of bets though, like Warner's post-game victory mini-lap on the field, waving to the fans. It was because the Cards can't play another home game, he said, yet it was easy to see it as a goodbye should he not return.
The storybook is set up either way, should the Cards keep playing well. If the Cardinals were to go on and win a Super Bowl, Warner's career would have the perfect bow. There may be no better time to say goodbye.
If he simply decides to return, he'd still be playing with an offense and a team capable of taking him back to the very spot he cherishes, the place within which he excels: The postseason.
"I'm just playing football this year as long as I can," Warner said. "Right now, it's about one thing. I play for the playoffs."
And his legacy will follow.
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