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Green: Worried about Kurt Warner

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m worried about Kurt Warner.

“Old Gray Beard” has had a rough go of it in the preseason, along with the team in general. In three games the 38-year-old Warner has thrown for all of 0 touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s thrown for 272 yards, but he’s also put the ball on the ground a few times.

In short, Warner has looked every bit his age instead of the guy that carried the Cardinals to the Super Bowl.

Now, I know what you’re thinking right about now. It’s just preseason, no reason to worry. The games don’t matter, so the results shouldn’t either. Well, I say there is plenty of reason to worry.

Remember, Warner had hip surgery in the offseason (you know, the operation that he had performed after signing a new two-year deal with the team. An operation, regardless of what for, is never a good thing for someone his age.

And now the offense, which figured to be the team’s strength, has struggled mightily with Warner at the helm. They’ve moved the ball down the field pretty well, but they’ve stalled in the red zone, a place where they used to be automatic.

Following the team’s humbling loss to the Packers last Friday, Warner came out and basically said the team needs to learn how to prepare consistently and play hard even if the games don’t matter.

Well, with a 56.8 QB rating to his name at the moment, maybe # 13 needs to take a look in the mirror.

The thing with Warner, as it has always been, is that he performs his best under pressure. Blitz him and he’ll burn you. Challenge him to work on his ball security and he makes it a priority. Tell him he has to win a training camp battle with a first round draft pick and he plays great, earning the job.

This year is the first time in a long time that Warner entered camp as the unquestioned starter. While some QBs around the league can handle that and play well in the preseason anyway (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers come to mind), Warner’s results thus far show a clear lack of urgency.

Granted, it may happen that once the Cardinals take the field against the 49ers for a game that counts the light bulb will come on and Warner will be back on his game. But if I’m wrong, and it is not a lack of urgency on Warner’s part, then his struggles are due to one of two things: his ailing hip or a declining skill-set.

Let’s say it is what most would hope for between those two options and figure his hip is bothering him. That seems like a logical (and handy) excuse, but Warner himself says his hip has improved and is not bothering him as much, so you can’t look to that as a reason for the QB’s struggles. His throws have been high – which may be a mechanical issue – but Warner has also made bad reads and forced the ball into coverage, especially in the red zone.

So if it’s not the hip and it has nothing to do with the fact that the games don’t matter, then the only other explanation is that Warner, at age 38, is just declining as all athletes do over time. The 2009 version of Kurt Warner has started off looking a lot like the 1999 edition of Randall Cunningham – you know, the same Cunningham who led a then-record breaking Vikings offense with 34 touchdown passes and over 3,700 yards in 1998, only to struggle the following season before being benched. He was never an effective QB again, and was out of the league within three years (at age 38).

Cardinals fans, a little while back I told you to keep your expectations for the team reasonable. I said not to expect another Super Bowl run from the team, but instead to be satisfied with a very good season.

Three preseason games later my expectations have not changed. I still expect them to win at least 11 games. However, I am starting to think that Kurt Warner, the man who brought the Cardinals to respectability, will not be the one leading the team to most of them.