How much of a surprise is Kurt Warner? In his own Fantasy Football League, he wouldn't even draft himself.
I checked my notes from the 1994 NFL scouting combine--that's right, I do some free-lance player personnel work for a number of unidentified, sub-.500 teams--and this is what they said:
"Warner, Kurt, QB; 6-2, 220. No arm strength, no accuracy, no agility. Not sure if he's left-handed or right-handed. Wearing helmet appears to impair ability to read defenses. Polite to defensive linemen after being sacked. Nice kid, but more suited for a desk job, preferably in the field of taxidermy or aerosol sprays."
In 1999, Warner--an Arena Football and NFL Europe graduate--has completed 62 of 90 passes for 894 yards and nine touchdowns for an astonishing 125.0 passer rating.
(NFL Europe, in fact, was once the home of Warner, Brad Johnson and Jon Kitna, the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 passers in the league this season. Next thing you know, EuroDisney will produce next year's cast of "Chicago Hope.")
Warner leads his 3-0 Rams--a franchise without a winning season in the 1990s--in a showdown Sunday against the 3-1 San Francisco 49ers in St. Louis. The Rams have outscored their opponents by 100-27. (That is not a misprint. That is a miracle.) Believe me, The Man would love to see the Rams win--Warner is a fairy tale story, it's hard not to root for teary-eyed Dick Vermeil and I've considered making St. Louis my winter home.
But, as a public service, I think it's important to relay the final scores of the last 17 49ers-Rams games: 26-10, 27-10, 33-10, 27-24, 27-10, 40-17, 35-10, 34-19, 31-27, 44-10, 41-13, 34-0, 28-11, 15-12, 30-10, 28-10, 38-19.
Please note: The 49ers' score is listed first in each of the above results.
As my Uncle Nathan used to say, "If something happens 17 straight times, I gotta think it's gonna happen 18 straight times." Take the 49ers as two-point favorites.
(Random Rant: This should be the NFL's instant replay motto--We Want To Make Sure We Might Get It Right. Instant replay remains the single worst idea since the advent of community property.)
As always, the following point-spread picks should not be used as the basis for any actual cash wager:
Dolphins (-2) at Colts: Indianapolis, 3-13 last season, will be 3-1 if it beats Miami. Who knew? The Man knew! As my dear readers know, the Colts--whose quarterback, Peyton Manning, truly Mr. Clean, has yet to be sacked this season--are en route to galloping ingloriously into Super Bowl XXXIV. Pick: Colts.
Patriots at Chiefs (-3): How laid-back is Pete Carroll? (1) Patriots don't have a curfew, they have a campfire. (2) Do you know of any other NFL team that allows outside beverages in film sessions? (3) On game day, offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese sits in beanbag chair in coaches' box. Pick: Patriots.
Giants at Cardinals (-2 1/2): Jake Plummer's interceptions now classified in three categories: "overthrows," "poor decisions" and "taking eye off receiver to wink at blonde in third row." . . . Giants' two-minute offense vaguely reminiscent of a grease fire. Pick: Cardinals.
Falcons at Saints (-3 1/2): This Ditka, he doesn't go down gently. I've seen Hell's Angels react better to a traffic ticket than Mike Ditka reacts to a tough loss. You've got to love him, though--he's good, cheap dinner theater. Pick: Saints.
Jaguars (-3 1/2) at Jets: A players' coach at heart, Jaguars' Tom Coughlin introduced "Hot Wings Wednesday" to training table. . . . Following Bill Parcells's wishes to an extreme, Jets assistant coaches sometimes mime their lunch order. Pick: Jets.
Broncos at Raiders (-7): Looking to boost ticket sales, Raiders are offering first 40,000 fans guns-for-knives exchange. . . . When Broncos LB Bill Romanowski shadowboxes, he hits himself below the belt. Pick: Broncos.
Buccaneers at Packers (-6): After rallying against teammates to win five-handed Uno Tuesday, Packers QB Brett Favre collapsed onto card table. . . . When Warren Sapp sits out a game, does he trash-talk the trainer? Pick: Buccaneers.
Cowboys (-9) at Eagles: Doug Pederson's passing game is a bit like Priority Mail--the ball may or may not get there in two to three days. . . . Some teams have a "prevent defense." Eagles have a "prevent offense." Pick: Cowboys.
Chargers at Lions (-3 1/2): I figure Tom Berenger lies awake these days, wondering why he did a Quaker State commercial. And, oddly enough, I believe there's a lesson there for Barry Sanders. Pick: Chargers.
Steelers at Bills (-6 1/2): Struggling Steelers may scrap current playbook in favor of L. Ron Hubbard's "Dianetics." Pick: Steelers.
Bengals (-3) at Browns: Frankly, it's time for Bruce Coslet to go. Or, as my ex-wife used to say, "I want you out, and I want you out now." Pick: Browns.
Bears at Vikings (-12 1/2): Bears' Dick Jauron voted "NFL Head Coach to Most Likely Use a Palm Pilot." Pick: Vikings.
Ravens at Titans (-7): I peeked into Brian Billick's home the other day and saw a poster of Sam Wyche over the master bed. Pick: Titans.
Last week: 5-6-3.
Season record: 22-31-5.