The attention that is being given to the omission of Kurt Warner from the Pro Football Hall of Fame has me wanting to pick a fight. Before we get started, however, I want to make it clear that my problem is not as much about the Kurt Warner snub as it is with the omission of another player I think is more deserving. We will get to that later.
While extolling the accomplishments of Kurt, the hardships he has had to overcome seem to rise to the top. Kurt came on the scene from nowhere, and the talking heads seem to relish in reporting that he wasn’t too long removed from a job bagging groceries. He did however, lead the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League to two Arena Bowl appearances.
Warner caught a break when the Rams hired him as a backup to Trent Green. All hopes seemed to crash to the ground when Green was injured and lost for the season. Enter Kurt Warner, whom nobody had ever heard of. Kurt stepped in and, along with Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, earned the Rams the name “greatest show on turf.” The Rams went on to win the Super Bowl and Kurt was voted MVP.
The following season, the Rams hired Mike Martz as Head Coach. Martz flexed his muscles and benched Kurt in favor of Marc Bulger. To the disappointment of Rams fans, the “greatest show on turf” lost its luster. Shortly after, Kurt was traded to the Giants. Seeming to be a little long in the tooth and finding himself in a system he wasn’t suited for, Kurt flopped and was traded again, to the Arizona Cardinals.
With the Cardinals, he teamed with all-pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald and took the Cardinals to a Super Bowl, which they lost. Winning and losing wasn’t the subject of conversation; the focus was on taking a mediocre team to the “Big Show.” Kurt has made the final ballot for induction into the Hall of Fame three times, and there is a lot of talk of how he overcame hardships to play in the NFL. For that and other reasons he should rightfully be considered a candidate for that hallowed hall.
All of this makes sense to me, until the whole picture is examined. Have you ever heard of Jim Plunkett? On the subject of hardship, Jim was born to a blind mother and a father who suffered from progressive blindness. As a youngster he worked cleaning up gas stations, delivering newspapers, bagging groceries, and working in orchards during picking season. His family was forced to accept welfare and Jim and his sisters worked to correct this situation. During this time Jim was an outstanding athlete and student. His grades and athletic prowess earned him entry into Stanford University. At Stanford his records were so impressive the NFL came calling in his junior year. Jim opted to stay and went on to win the Heisman Trophy.
He was drafted by the Patriots, and after three seasons he was traded to the 49ers, later moving on to the Oakland Raiders where he warmed the bench. When Quarterback Dan Pastorini broke his leg, Jim was pressed into service. As the Raiders quarterback, he was the first to lead a wild card team to a Super Bowl victory. To show that this was no fluke, when given the opportunity, Jim led the Raiders to a second victory in the Championship game.
Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler has earned enshrinement into the Hall, and although I was a fan of his as well, I don’t think he should have been considered above Jim Plunkett. I often wonder if it could be because, when there is a reference to Plunkett, it is always pointed out that he is part Mexican and part Native American? I rest my case.