Jockbeat: The Answer to Favre and Manning? Kurt Warner.
Watching the New York Giants' offense spit and sputter against the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, I had a thought: How much different would this postseason be for New York fans if one of the NFL's two New Jersey-based pro teams had had the sense to get Kurt Warner before the season started?
The answer: Probably headed for the Super Bowl or at least the NFC or AFC championship game. Warner, the most underrated passer in NFL history -- he's third on the all-time passer rating among QBs with at least 1,400 throws - is also one of the league's all-time best postseason passers. His playoff record, counting Saturday's spectacular 33-13 upset of the Carolina Panthers, is 7-2, and his yards per pass average in those nine games is 8.2
Compare this with a 12-10 postseason record for Brett Favre and a YPP of 7.4. Eli Manning, after yesterday's belly flop against the Philadelphia Eagles, is 4-3 and has averaged just a 6.7 postseason YPP.
If the Jets had pulled some strings and made a deal for Warner, they'd now have a quarterback two years younger than Favre at around less than half of Favre's salary, one who ranked third in this year's passer ratings and threw 30 TDs with 14 interceptions against Favre's 21st rank and 22 TDs with 22 ints.
What if the Giants had kept Warner when they had him? In 2004, Warner started the first nine games, posting a 5-4 record with a 7.4 YPP. Then, out of the blue, Tom Coughlin decided that Eli Manning "needed the experience" and tossed away any playoff hopes by benching Warner and starting Eli. The Giants lost 6 of their last 7 games with Manning averaging just 6.3 yards a toss.
Kurt Warner has led the NFL in passer rating twice and yards per pass three times in his career; neither Favre and Manning has ever lead the league in either category.
I don't think the Cardinals, despite their amazing performance against the Panthers, have a good enough defense to beat the Eagles in the upcoming NFC championship game -- I don't recall any team in NFL history allowing 47 or more points three times and still winning the conference title - but I said the same thing last week before the Arizona-Carolina game.
As for the Giants' future, they're going to have to face up to an unpleasant truth: as the NFL.com game account put it, "Eli Manning and the New York Giants get a whole off-season to wonder what went wrong."
Giants fans, I suspect, know exactly what went wrong: Eli, despite that magical four-game streak in last year's postseason - the only four postseason games he's ever won -- is, at best, a mediocre quarterback.
Let's face it. You can't blame this one on the loss of Plaxico Burress. The Giants went into the game with an offensive line that was rated by most observers as the best in the NFL, one that includes two Pro Bowlers, and the league's best running game. That should have been enough to carry Manning to the Super Bowl. But in the Giants' last five games, four of them losses, he was wildly inconsistent and bafflingly off-target on key third down throws. Yesterday's 23-11 loss to the Eagles was no accident: it was very nearly the second straight game in which the Giants failed to score an offensive touchdown.
And Donovan McNabb didn't have Plaxico Burress to throw to, either.