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Jockbeat: The Answer to Favre and Manning? Kurt Warner.

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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.

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