ST. LOUIS -- Kurt Warner had a debut season for the ages in
1999. This year, he topped it.
But the St. Louis Rams quarterback just couldn't talk about it.
Warner edged teammate Marshall Faulk to win The Associated Press
MVP award for the second time in three years Wednesday. He has been
ordered not to talk for a week after taking a hit to the throat in
the regular-season finale, so he responded to questions via e-mail,
and then deferred to his wife, Brenda, in a news conference.
"This season has been more rewarding than 1999," said Warner,
who led the Rams to the NFL's best record at 14-2, and threw for
4,830 yards, the second-highest total in history.
"I think it is because we were the favorites coming in and the
toughness of our schedule," he said. "To be able to accomplish
what we have this season, on both sides of the ball, has been truly
Coach Mike Martz said there's no doubt that Warner is a better
player than his first MVP season. In 1999, he had 41 touchdown
passes and 13 interceptions and threw for a then-team-record 4,353
yards with a 65.1 completion percentage with a rating of 109.2 --
fifth highest in NFL history.
"You've got to look at the defenses that we played this year,"
Martz said. "What he's been able to accomplish this year, some of
the throws and plays he's made have been pretty remarkable. He's
had a great year, just a great year."
Warner said he's more comfortable in the offense, and the
numbers support that. He completed 68.7 percent of his passes, by
far the best in the NFL, and threw 36 touchdown passes, tied for
sixth best ever. Although Warner threw an NFC-high 22
interceptions, he also led the league in yards per completion
(8.85), completions (375) and overall rating (101.4).
"We are truly in a special place and special time that may
never be equaled again," Warner said. "I am truly blessed to have
been placed in the middle of such a tremendous situation."
Martz hoped that Warner and Faulk, last season's MVP, could
somehow tie in the balloting and split the award. It nearly
happened as Warner got 21½ votes and Faulk 17½ in balloting by a
nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters.
Green Bay's Brett Favre was third with five votes, Pittsburgh's
Kordell Stewart had four and Chicago's Brian Urlacher, the only
defensive player to receive votes, two.
"I think the MVPs we have won the past three years have been
awards that reflect the accomplishments of our whole team," Warner
said. "We see these awards as team awards, for we know that we
benefit from all the great talent surrounding us.
"I really think that this year's award should have been split
between Marshall and myself."
Despite missing two games with a knee injury, Faulk became the
first player in the NFL with four consecutive 2,000-yard seasons.
Faulk had 2,147 total yards from scrimmage, second to Priest Holmes
of the Chiefs, rushing for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns and
leading NFL running backs with 83 receptions for 765 yards and nine
Together, Warner and Faulk are the foundation of one of the most
potent offenses in NFL history.
The 30-year-old Warner already has equaled Joe Montana, Steve
Young and John Unitas with his two MVP awards. Only Brett Favre,
with three, has more.
"It is always a tremendous honor to be mentioned with the likes
of those great players," Warner said. "But it is still very early
in my career and my hope is that I can be mentioned in the same
sentence as these guys (and Faulk) when my career is finished."
The Rams are the second team to win three straight MVP awards.
Favre took it in 1995 and `96, and shared it with Detroit's Barry
Sanders in '97. The only other Rams player to be voted MVP was
Roman Gabriel in 1969.
Kurt Warner has had three straight MVP-caliber seasons. He has been the
NFL's most consistent quarterback the last three years and has played at a
level that few quarterbacks have ever played. The Rams have shown how far a
team can take an offense when it has a quarterback who can perform at such a
consistently high level.
Because the Rams have a loaded offense with a ton of weapons, Warner's
accuracy, efficiency and leadership sometimes get overlooked. But even with
lesser talent, I still think Warner would be an MVP candidate every year
and one of the game's elite quarterbacks.
Warner may have thrown 22 interceptions, but it's moronic to single out that
one statistic as a knock against him. Taking his statistics as a whole --
his completion percentage, his passing yards, his TD passes, his big-time
throws on third down, the points he manufactures -- dilutes the impact of
his interception total.
I would have split my MVP vote between Warner and Marshall Faulk, but you
can't lose with either player.