In 2002 Warner apparently fell apart. He was intercepted 7 times in the first 3 games (all of which the Rams lost). Some would say “See, Warner was playing horribly!” Now I would agree those stats are ugly and it was tough to watch, however, I don’t think this was Kurt falling back to earth and losing his talent as a QB. Far from it! I place the blame for these stats squarely at the feet of Mike Martz. Why you ask? I’ll let the evidence do the talking.
Warner’s game by game stats for 2002:
Now take a look at Marc Bulger’s 2002 game by game stats:
Now many of you might be thinking “Exactly! Look how much better Bulger did than Warner!” It definitely true, Bulger has better stats. However, I would like to point out one specific stat in this list. During 7 games played (more like 6 really) Warner was sacked a total of 21 times. In 7 games Bulger played, he was sacked 12. It took Bulger 5 games before he was sacked 8 times total. Warner was sacked 8 times in ONE GAME! Now maybe you want to give Bulger the benefit of the doubt and say that he was simply better at avoiding pass rushers than Warner was. While I disagree I will say that it is possible. The sack totals are not enough to prove anything. So, let me introduce to you the stats that I think will really explain the difference in performance between the two QB’s.
These are Marshal Faulk’s 2002 game by game stats:
Now in examining these stats a trend is beginning to emerge. In the first three games, games which Warner started and the Rams lost, Faulk had 30 carries total. In week 6, Bulger’s first start, Faulk carried the ball 26 times for 158 yards. The Rams won. The next week he improved on those numbers, carrying the ball 32 times (in ONE GAME) for 183 yards and 3 TD’s. Week 12 was Warner’s return to the starting lineup. The Rams were without Faulk who was out for the second game in a row with an injury. Martz called for 49 passing plays. The next week Warner attempted 42 passes and was sacked 8 times against a hard as nails Eagles defense. Now in fairness, Bulger did throw 40 passes the next week, however it was against the Arizona Cardinals who had one of the worst defenses in the league. What was the difference? Martz handled the game differently. For perhaps the only time in his tenure here, Martz ran the ball with Bulger starting. That stopped opposition defenses from loading up on the pass and also allowed Bulger better protection in the pocket. Don’t get me wrong, Bulger is a terrific quarterback, but so was Warner. He was a 2 time NFL MVP and had just had three of the most amazing years by any quarterback in the history of the game. Martz just left hung him out to dry and allowed the opposition to use Warner as a tackling dummy. The 2002 season effectively ended Warner’s tenure as a Ram and the beating he took due to Martz’s horrendous play calling put his career in jeopardy.