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The Rams gave Kurt Warner, the quarterback that took the team to victory in Super Bowl 34, his walking papers Monday, letting him know that he can speak to other teams before he is released June first. Already the rumor mill has him fitting in with San Francisco. Hopefully, Donahue knows what should be obvious: signing Warner would be a mistake for the 49ers.
On face, the move seems like a great fit. San Francisco needs a proven quarterback, he's a two time MVP, one time Super Bowl MVP, Super Bowl Champion, and team leader. He can pick apart defenses, and he can run a high-powered offense.
Or can he?
Over the last two seasons his productivity and ability have deteriorated to the point where Mike Martz, the coach that would trust Warner to throw the ball with reckless abandon, benched him after one game. The only other time Warner saw the field was during garbage time of a 30-20 loss to Detroit in week 17.
While in 1999 and 2001 Warner had a knack for throwing touchdowns, the past two seasons he has had a knack for being knocked while losing track of the ball in the process. In 2002 Warner managed a poor 67.4 rating while throwing an eye-opening three touchdowns. Sure, he only played in 7 games. But in those seven games he managed to throw 11 interceptions and fumbled the ball 8 times.
Physically, Warner is not what he used to be, suffering a concussion in week one last season, an injured thumb on his throwing hand that affected his ability to throw spirals, as well as a broken pinkie on his throwing hand. The fact is that Warner cannot get the ball out with the speed that he could during his superstar rise to the top. The fact that he has been sacked 27 times in his last 9 games doesn't exactly spur confidence in his body's durability.
As if the lack of production and injuries weren't enough, Warner does not make any fiscal sense for the 49ers either. The 49ers have no reason to go after Warner, especially if they want to follow the “Eagles Model” of development. The Eagles sign young players to long contracts at a salary lower than they would get if signed at their peak. Then they release that player at the first sign of decline, a la Hugh Douglas. Why would Donahue, a man hell-bent on salary cap health spend what is sure to be a good chunk of change on a 32 year old, injury prone player that lost the last 8 games he started, has had problems with the same thumb over the course of multiple seasons, and is declining physically? Oh yeah, and not to mention a big mouth wife with more publicity problems than Michael Jackson.
Warner would surely demand a salary in the 2-5 million dollar range. Since the 49ers signed Rattay to a 3 year, 4.8 million dollar extension, the 49ers would be saddled with at least a 1.5 million per year backup. With so many needs, and little salary space, Warner in San Francisco does not make sense.
The only way I could see Warner in Cardinal Red and Metallic Gold is if he came cheap. Spending the kind of money Warner would demand on a position where there is already definite talent does not make sense. Tim Rattay's career quarterback rating is 95.2. Last season he managed a 96.6 quarterback rating. Rattay has been in the 49ers' system for 4 years, has a year under Erickson, and more importantly, is exactly the type of quarterback Erickson needs to implement is one-back spread offense. The only criticism heard over and over about Ratty is that he is “unproven.” Steve Young was unproven at one point, and so was Jeff Garcia. Rattay has all of the tools to succeed as a starter; all he needs is the opportunity. Pittsburgh and St. Louis both received a taste of what Rattay can do. This season, other teams will as well.
Warner was a good quarterback, and he may start for another team. But if Donahue gets it right, Warner won't be starting for this team.