By Rick Gosselin, The Dallas Morning News
Kurt Warner, miracle worker.
When Warner became the quarterback of the St. Louis Rams in 1999, he inherited the reins of the worst NFL team of the decade with a 45-99 record. The Rams finished in last place six times that decade. Warner took them to a Super Bowl championship in his first season at the helm.
When Warner arrived in Arizona in 2006, he inherited the reins of the worst franchise in NFL history.
The Cardinals won only two playoff games and two NFL titles in the first 87 years of franchise history. No team had a longer championship drought than the Cardinals at 60 years.
And Arizona wasn't exactly building toward a championship this decade - not with four last-place finishes and a 43-85 record heading into the 2008 season. The Cardinals had not won a playoff game since 1998 and had not won a division title since 1975.
In his first two seasons with the Cardinals, Warner shared the snaps with young Matt Leinart. Warner opened the 2006 season as the starting quarterback but lost the job to Leinart. Then Leinart opened the 2007 season as the starter but lost the job back to Warner.
The 37-year-old Warner and the 25-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner Leinart went to training camp last summer competing for the starting spot. At the conclusion of the preseason, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt told Warner the position was his. Don't look over your shoulder - just take this as far as you can.
By putting their complete faith and trust in the two-time league MVP Warner - as the Rams did in 1999 - the Cardinals have been rewarded with their first trip to a Super Bowl.
Give Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman credit for resurrecting dormant franchises and transforming them into championship teams. But Warner is one up on all three of those Hall of Fame quarterbacks. He has resurrected two franchises.
Craig Morton is the only quarterback to start two Super Bowls for two different teams - Dallas in 1971 and Denver in 1978. But he lost both games.
If Warner can steer the Cardinals to their first championship since 1947 with a Super Bowl victory over the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers, he could pave the way for his own bust in Canton. Two championships with two different teams - now that's the mark of a great quarterback.
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