The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN

Kurt, but Gracious


Have you ever seen a QB receive more criticism than Donovan McNabb? The guy only resurrected a major franchise and established it as an NFC powerhouse for much of this decade. Even this season when his Philadelphia Eagles were no longer considered the cream of the crop, he still found a way to get his team to its fifth NFC Championship. He's been incredible, but oft-injured. He's been elite and elusive, but occasionally ordinary and immobile. He's been steady but at times inconsistent. He's been reviled and revered, beloved and benched. Most importantly, he's won games, but never a Super Bowl. Until that happens, there will always be critics.

All that being said, McNabb was the #2 overall pick in 1999. He was supposed to be an upper-echelon franchise QB. And despite all the craziness he's endured in Philadelphia, he's proven to be one. To his credit, he's fought off his opponents -- both on and off the field -- and recovered time and time again from various injuries. But isn't that all part of playing in the NFL when you enter the league as a top QB?

Kurt Warner went undrafted after his college days at Northern Iowa. Did you even know he played his college ball at Northern Iowa? He attended a Green Bay training camp as an undrafted free-agent in 1994 but was released before the season started. So he turned to the Arena Football League and was an Iowa Barnstormer. Then, he spent time in NFL Europe with Amsterdam in 1997. Would it be safe to say for five years after leaving college, the majority of people in the football world didn't think highly enough of Warner to give him a legitimate shot in the NFL? Couldn't that have turned him off of football? Shouldn't that have turned him off of football?

But Warner kept at it and accepted a backup position in St. Louis in 1998. There were no guarantees he would ever start in the league he'd always wanted to play in. After Trent Green got hurt the following pre-season, Warner was finally given his chance. So how did he do in his first real NFL season -- only an MVP award and Super Bowl victory. Who was this guy? Where did he come from? Was he just some one-year wonder?

Warner headed the "greatest show on turf" for years and was a main reason for the Rams' elite status in that period. Then came some personnel changes and injuries. When Warner moved onto New York as a backup to a young Eli Manning, he was considered washed up, lucky to have achieved what he did and lucky to still be in the league. He moved onto Arizona as a backup to Matt Leinart in the twilight of his career.

Then, reminiscent of '99, his backup role became a starting role. Warner ran with it (or technically threw with it) all the way to the first Cardinals division title in decades and now a home NFC Championship game. Fifteen years after going undrafted and overlooked, Warner is two wins away from his second Super Bowl ring. First things first, he's got to beat McNabb's team Sunday.

There's no question, McNabb's endured a great deal of criticism over the years and responded brilliantly to his sudden benching in Baltimore earlier this season. But he entered the league expected to be in positions like these. Warner was the unknown, the undrafted, the one who traveled to Europe and back, to the bench and back, and persevered just to be given a chance. And Kurt Warner has delivered.

By Zach Leibowitz  |  January 15, 2009; 8:37 AM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Philadelphia Eagles , Zach Leibowitz Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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