Former Giant Kurt Warner Lends His Super Bowl Experience to Manning
Phoenix, AZ- Kurt Warner has been there, done that. Having played in two Super Bowls, he knows what it takes to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and also how it feels to come up short. After starring for the St. Louis Rams, Warner groomed Eli Manning on the 2004 New York Giants in the current starter's rookie season. Warner has noticed how his former understudy has grown since he was selected first overall in the NFL Draft four years ago.
"You have to remember that I was with him from Day One," Warner said. "It was a little bit of an overwhelming situation for him."
Being the son of Archie and the brother of Peyton, that would be enough pressure for one person. But Eli added to that by not only being picked number one, but forcing a trade from the San Diego Chargers and having to live up to the deal that then-general manager Ernie Accorsi made to acquire the Ole Miss product.
San Diego received the right to quarterback Philip Rivers (the fourth overall pick), a first and fifth rounder in 2005, as well as a 2004 third round pick. The Chargers gained three important players with the picks, either via drafting or trading for linebacker Shawne Merriman, kicker Nate Kaeding and left tackle Roman Oben.
Manning took over for the veteran Warner midway through in his rookie season and threw six touchdowns and nine interceptions. He did not look sharp, but did improve in the final three games of that 6-10 campaign. Manning led the Giants on a last-minute drive in the season's swan song for a 28-24 victory, ending an eight-game losing streak in the process.
The following season, Warner signed with the Arizona Cardinals and Manning led the Giants to the NFC East division title. Although he has had some success in the NFL, Manning only silenced his critics recently.
"You've seen some maturation these last five or six weeks where he seemed to kind of pull away from all the expectations, pull out of the shadow of his brother and just kind of say, 'Hey, I'm Eli Manning. I don't have to be this. I don't have to be [what] these expectations [are],'" said Warner. "Just go out and play football. Do what you need to do to have this football team win."
Most players are lucky to reach one Super Bowl, and Warner knows that the road is difficult to return. After winning the NFL MVP award in 1999, he one-upped it by taking home the same accolades in Super Bowl XXIV versus the Tennessee Titans by a score of 23-16. Two years later, Warner lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots on a field goal by Adam Vinatieri as time expired, 20-17.
The advice that Warner would give Manning is to "just relax and enjoy the game. There's highs and lows in this game and you can't allow the pressure of the situation to effect the way you play."
On his current team, Warner once again was in the position of keeping the quarterback position warm for a high draft pick. Matt Leinart, the southpaw from USC, went down with a season-ending injury early in his sophomore campaign and Warner merely threw for 3,417 yards and 27 touchdowns after taking over. The 36 year-old signal caller proved that he still has a lot left in the tank, and his knowledge of playing in the spotlight is immeasurable.
"Play the game like any other game," Warner said, as if he were speaking directly to Manning. "Don't allow your emotions to run too high or too low because this game can go back and forth quickly."
Sort of like a microcosm of a football career. At least for high profile quarterbacks.