Kurt Warner, deciding to retire, and 201 pounds

Posted by Darren Urban on June 21, 2017 – 11:16 am

Kurt Warner’s final season in the NFL was 2009, much to the chagrin of the Cardinals and their fans. Over the years, there have been some things left vague about Warner’s choice. There are still a segment of fans who are certain that nasty, nasty hit Warner absorbed in the season-ending playoff loss in New Orleans pushed Warner — especially since he said after that game he was going to take a little time to make his decision.

But the seeds were sown in 2008. Warner considered retiring after the Super Bowl, not because his contract was up but because of the toll the life was taking on his body. Not the hits, but the stress. As Warner prepares for his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in early August (and after I got a chance to talk to him for that story to come), Warner noted that he played the Super Bowl at 201 pounds (he was listed that year at 218).

By mid-season in 2009, Warner knew it was likely going to be his last year playing football, long before the end of the year.

“About halfway through ’09, I sat back and had thought about it a lot from the previous year as I was going through the season and just came to the conclusion that it had become such a job,” Warner said. “There had become such a high expectation and such a level of what I had to do for the team … week in and week out, that it was starting to affect me big picture. In the Super Bowl of ’08, I weighed in at 201 pounds, which I hadn’t been since I was a junior in college, and the stress and expectation of that was wearing on me physically. Not from the standpoint of what I could do between the lines, but big-picture-wise.

“Halfway through 2009, I just realized, ‘This is it. I’m just not willing to sacrifice that much anymore.’ Not very many people knew. My wife knew. Larry (Fitzgerald) knew — as he tried to convince me over the next eight weeks or so (to stay.)”

(Said Fitzgerald on the subject of trying to talk Warner into playing in 2010, “Of course. I knew what was to come after that. Selfishly, absolutely. I wasn’t foolish. I know in this business if you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have much chance to win.”)

As for getting blasted by Saints defensive lineman Bobby McCray, “A lot of people look at the hit against New Orleans and said, ‘Yep, that is what caused him to retire.’ It didn’t at all. It might’ve been the perfect exclamation point on it, but I had known.”

So when Warner torched the Packers in the playoffs in what he considers his best game ever — five TD passes, four incompletions — he figured it would be his last game at University of Phoenix Stadium. He waved goodbye with that in mind.

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22 Responses to “Kurt Warner, deciding to retire, and 201 pounds”

  1. By Bartman72 on Jun 21, 2017 | Reply

    I remember being in favor of Warner getting benched for Leinart. I think there was a game against the Rams where the Cards just had to kneel to run out the clock, and there was a fumble.

    It seemed like the turning point came in the season before the Superbowl, when the Cards were 8-8 I believe. In a game against the Ravens, Warner came in because Leinart was ineffective and just started throwing the ball all over the place. The Cards lost that game but it was really exciting and felt like the beginning of something special.

    What I’ve never understood is how Warner regained the elite status he had with the Greatest Show on Turf. I’ve heard either he lost weight, or he came up with a “3 second rule” for throwing so as not to rely on the O-Line.

    Anyway, thanks Kurt for proving me wrong and for all the thrills you brought to Cards fans in those last 3 years.

  2. By D on Jun 21, 2017 | Reply

    Packers/Cards with Warner, greatest game I have ever seen live…even better than the C. Jackie miracle, following the goalpost down 5th st.

    Interesting PPF is predicting AZ with a 10-6 record for 2017 if Palmer and Honeybadger can stay healthy…I would also throw in both DJ’s and PP too.

  3. By Scott H on Jun 21, 2017 | Reply

    Darren –

    Can you clarify, wasn’t Warner supposed to have made in the area of 10 million in 2010 if he’d played? I mean…..if yes, can you imagine what it would take to cause a person to walk away from that kind of money??? That is powerful stuff. Wow….

    So, my question continues with – do you know if he got any of what he was supposed to get in 2010, or did he just leave it on the table?

    I was SO sad and frustrated to see Kurt walk away after 2009, when this team was still so capable of contending with him here. Like Larry, I knew that when he left, he was taking our chances right out the door with him. Good lord, it sucked SOOOO bad, going from the greatness that was Kurt Warner to the hopeless futility that was Derek Anderson. Talk about coming back down to earth with a thud……

  4. By Darren Urban on Jun 21, 2017 | Reply

    Scott H —

    RE: Warner deal

    I believe potential retirement was taken into account when he signed his new deal before 2009. So whatever it was, yes, he just walked away from the money. Which would be the same if anyone retired. The only question mark is signing bonus — there is apparently a rift between the Lions and Calvin Johnson, because the Lions reportedly asked for some SB back when Johnson unexpectedly retired.

  5. By lacardinalsfan on Jun 21, 2017 | Reply

    I still swear he was waving directly at me in that picture. LOL That game was the single most exciting game I have ever been to. Even though the Eagles game was big, that GB game was just so NUTS. What a game, and Warner is and will forever be in the top 3 players of my lifetime that I just wish never retired. He was such a class act and had such precision. Feel blessed to have lived through it and watch it live. Cant wait to see him in the HOF where he belongs.

    KW always worth the price of admission.

  6. By triing4wishes on Jun 21, 2017 | Reply

    Darren, do you know if the Cardinals will have any tickets to the HoF game made available to fans, or do all tickets have to come directly from the HoF?

  7. By Darren Urban on Jun 21, 2017 | Reply

    Triing —

    RE: HoF

    Game tickets are straight from the Hall.

  8. By Scott H on Jun 21, 2017 | Reply

    That game Kurt Warner played in in the playoffs against the Packers….it wasn’t just the best game HE ever played – I believe it is the single greatest game ANY NFL QB EVER PLAYED. I challenge anyone to name a better performance.

    I believe he completed 29 of 33 with FIVE TD passes that night which, yes, gave him more TD passes than incompletions. And I think he was close to the 400-yard mark. Just….WOW. The man was on a mission that night. You could see it. It didn’t matter what Aaron Rodgers or the Packers did, Warner was going to over-come it. Period. If Warner needed to throw 6,7 TD passes that night, he was going to. No doubt in my mind. If they hadn’t scored that defensive TD to seal it and Warner got the ball back, he was going to take them down the field and put them in the endzone. And he would have done what he had done all night against what was one of the best defenses in the NFL that year – he would have made it look easy.

    Darren, confirm one more thing for me regarding Warner – during the 2009 regular season, didn’t he complete 24 of 26 passes against the Jaguars, setting some kind of record for completion percentage in a single / regular season game?

    I also remember, same season, that game against the Bears during which Warner put on another amazing performance and the Cardinals took such a lead, they took Kurt out, put Leinart in. The offense totally stalled under Leinart and the Bears started to show some life, put some points on the board. What to do? No Problem! They put Warner back in, we put up a quick score, and took control of the game again. That was amazing….for both Warner AND Matt Leinart, just for very different reasons. THAT was truly the end for Leinart in Arizona, in my opinion. Kinda sad…..

  9. By Darren Urban on Jun 21, 2017 | Reply

    Scott H —

    RE: Jaguars game


  10. By georgiebird on Jun 21, 2017 | Reply

    For a short period with the Rams and a short period with the Cards, Warner was in a class with Tom Brady.

  11. By faster on Jun 22, 2017 | Reply

    in 1999 in berlin i saw my first NFL game.
    kurt warner and the greatest show on turf.
    i got addicted.

  12. By JTDG on Jun 22, 2017 | Reply

    There are so many plays and things to remember from that packer game. It was an awesome game and Us Fans in the stands were going through an emotional roller coaster.

    Everyone remembers the play Money Mike and Dansby made to win the game. But what about the play right before it.

    I think it was Greg Jennings who turned Antrel Rolle in circles and was all by himself for a long game ending TD, and Aaron Rodgers over threw him. The ball feel harmlessly to the ground just a foot from a TD.

    Now, How often does Rodgers miss wide open game winners? I think if Rodgers throws that pass 100 times, 95 of them are TDs. Got to think it was in the cards for Warner to walk away from U of P with a playoff win.

  13. By jeffcardinalfan on Jun 22, 2017 | Reply

    it STILL boggles my mind that the cards could not come up with a qb after kurt retired and I fear that a) if carson hadn’t fell in our lap the last few years would have been just as painful, and b) we are headed for years of misery if cards don’t get a qb after carson. imho what happens after carson retires will really show how committed bidwill is to winning. they should have already have had talks with every team that has a viable qb on the roster that could possibly be dealt and thay should already have lots of scout hours concerning next years draft class.

  14. By JTDG on Jun 22, 2017 | Reply


    I think the QB question is interesting.

    In 2008, the cards had an option. Take a much needed CB in DRC to help them win now, or grab Joe Flacco. Obviously, taking DRC was smart as he helped them reach the superbowl. Round 2 was Calais Campbell. Those picks made sense.

    In 2009, there were 3 first round QBs. Stafford was #1 overall and the Lions weren’t trading. The cards had the 31st pick and it would have taken a lot to go get Josh Freeman or Mark Sanchez. Instead, the wanted to help Warner by getting him a RB.

    In 2010, Sam Bradford went #1 overall, No chance to get him. And while the 2010 draft had a lot of great players, there were no QBs to get. The cards, losing Warner, signed the best FA QB in Derek Anderson. They tried with the options they had.

    2011, they decided they had to find that QB. Of course, the decision would ultimately cost Graves and Whiz their jobs, but I get why they did the move even though I disagree with the trade of a 2nd rounder and DRC for Kolb. Of course, if Kolb worked out, they were able to grab a QB, and keep the #5 overall pick (Peterson).

    2012, once they were invested in Kolb, it didn’t make sense to them to make a move on a QB although the could have traded up for Tannehill, traded down for Wilson or just grabbed Cousins in round 3. But they were all in for Kolb.
    Kolb failed and Whiz and Graves were shown the door at the end of 2012.

    In 2013, the trade of Palmer gave the cards a QB and again they started to win.

    In 2014, the cards passed on Derek Carr and late pick AJ Maccaren. Keim admitted he would have taken Carr if he fell further in round 2. They took a shot on Logan Thomas, which I still can’t figure out why.

    In 2015, after Palmer was injured in 2014, it made sense to draft a QB. Only issue was, there wasn’t QBs to draft.

    Again in 2016, unless you were going to trade up to get the big 2 or trade up to get Lynch, the cards could not get a QB. I think we are seeing a trend that, Keim is not moving up to get a QB.

    In 2017, he passed on Deshone Kizer in round 2. I think because of the talent in this draft and the QB talent in 2018, he decided to pass.

    So it comes down to 2018.

  15. By Patrick on Jun 22, 2017 | Reply

    I blame part of Warner’s retirement and not landing Peyton Manning on Whisenhunt’s stubbornness not to help the tackles when needed. I know you don’t want to use a tight end or running back to chip the defensive end or stay in to block, but when they are beating the quarterback to his drop back, a reasonable coach would give the tackles some help. But not Whisenhunt’s, put the tackles on an island a let the quarterback chuck and get drilled. Best example was the colts prime time game when freeney and Mathis had a field day, and we made no adjustments. Stubborn Ken.

  16. By Patrick on Jun 23, 2017 | Reply

    In 2010, I thought the cardinals were interested in Marc burger, he was still under contract with the Rams, but was about to be released. Then they signed Derek Anderson, and a month or so later bugler was released, but the cardinals were not interested because they had lienarg and Anderson. I always thought budget would have been a better fit.

  17. By Jeff A on Jun 24, 2017 | Reply

    JTDG – great recap as usual. Only note I’d add is that Whiz and Graves were still touting Leinart as starter material in early offseason 2010 and DA was brought in as competition with the expectation that Leinart had developed enough to win the starter job. Cardinals have been a victim of timing and luck in the QB department to some degree. Some has to fall on scouting, but honestly, how many QBs end up not panning out? The vast majority. I glanced at Kirwin’s top 50 FAs from that year and there were several Cards on the list. Only one QB, the injury prone Chad Pennington.

    Patrick – Peyton would have gotten killed if he came to AZ. That Oline was horrid and he would have been at serious risk. I still think we could have gotten by (not excelled) with one of those QBs if the line was just decent. Definitely right on about helping the tackles.
    I, too, thought they should have gotten Bulger and he’d be a great fit for the Cardinals. I wanted them to drop DA for him or bring him in as well. Maybe if they had cut bait on Leinart earlier and grabbed him it would have worked out. Then again he backed up Flacco one year and retired. I thought he was going to rebound and start again. Never really heard why he retired, just that he felt it was best for him to do so. Arizona showed interest in him before trading for Kolb, too.

  18. By Scott H on Jun 28, 2017 | Reply

    Patrick / Jeff –

    RE: Leinart & Anderson

    I recently commented on this elsewhere, but…, that 2010 season was just a living hell for Cardinals fans. And for Larry Fitzgerald, I’m sure. We had just gone from being a legit contender with Kurt Warner to the summer from hell, watching Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson “battle” it out to be our next starting QB. I mean, does it get ANY worse than that???

    It was the most painful thing I ever watched, the two of them playing SO badly that it actually kept both of them alive in the race. And the bottom line for the fans was that it didn’t even matter who “won” the battle – we were screwed. Just…..screwed. There wasn’t even a remote possibility that either one of these guys offered hope.

    From there, the nightmare just continued on a weekly basis as we continued to hear Whiz insist that Anderson gave the team the best chance to win while we lost one game after another. And all the while, I thought we needed to give John Skelton a chance and they just kept putting Anderson out there.

    A more miserable and frustrating Cardinals season, I really cannot remember. And let’s consider the vast array of miserable and frustrating seasons there are to pick from over the last 40 years or so!

    Anyway….I had actually forgotten that Bulger had been a possibility at one point. But I really don’t think he would have made a difference. Bulger WAS a very good QB for awhile but by the time that you are referring to….2010….I think he was done. I think there is little chance he could have sustained, physically, as a starter at that point.

    Those were some dark years for the Cardinals, that is for sure. One can only hope we are not headed for another span of years of futility after Palmer steps down. Look, I could handle it if we win a SB first. If not….my God, when does our suffering end????

  19. By Brian R. on Jun 28, 2017 | Reply


  20. By truths4all on Jul 3, 2017 | Reply

    Sure being at 201 lbs. and unable to build additional muscle bulk was a major factor, but let’s look at the REAL underlying reason Warner left.

    Warner retired because he saw how Whisenhunt and Graves’ stubborn refusal to upgrade and improve the Offensive line. Sure that monster hit in the Saints game was important as it only sure to solidify in Warner’s mind that the offensive line was not capable of protecting him as well as generate decent blocks to run the ball. At that point, Warner realized that playing another year would place him in danger of some serious long-term injuries and damage.

    Look around, and you can easily see all of the former NFL players who walk with limps, must use walking aids, have permanent shoulder, elbow, back, hip, knee, ankle, fool, and brain injuries.

    When Warner realized that Whisenhunt and Graves were not interested in fixing the offensive line to protect Warner and win games, Warner easily decided to retire.

    And as further proof, you only need to look at the post-Warner years under Whisenhunt and Graves to clearly see that they still did nothing to improve the offensive line as the O-Line was unable to protect any of the QBs nor generate any decent blocking for a decent running attack.

  21. By Darren Urban on Jul 4, 2017 | Reply

    Truths —

    RE: Warner

    Uh, he explains exactly why he left above: “It had become such a job … There had become such a high expectation and such a level of what I had to do for the team … The stress and expectation of that was wearing on me physically.”

    Why would he lie? Especially seven years after the fact?

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