There’s been plenty of talk about NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner this offseason from a media perspective, particularly with him reportedly under consideration for Monday Night Football (in the wake of him calling a couple of games for NBC last fall). That broadcast eventually went with Jason Witten and Booger McFarland, but Warner’s now in the news again, and in very curious fashion.
He appeared in the booth during the Twins-Cardinals game on Fox Sports Midwest Monday night (he was there for a bobblehead night in honor of his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction), and said he’d talked with a NFL coach about returning to the league as a player this coming season, when he will be 47.
Kurt Warner talking about how he entertained the idea of trying to play in 2018 pic.twitter.com/HjfzJjE7EF
— Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat) May 8, 2018
“I was actually ready to, for this coming season, I actually talked to a coach and my wife said, ‘Go for it, I think it would be great,’” Warner said. “So I actually talked to a coach about possibly doing it if they needed someone, but then they went out and signed somebody. I don’t think they thought I was serious. So I think we’re completely done now.”
The conversation started during Warner’s appearance in the booth during the top of the third inning when he was asked if he missed playing.
“Oh my gosh, come on!” Warner said. “Anytime you play at this level and you step away from it, especially when you stay connected to it — I think that’s the hard part, is analyzing it and covering the games and doing that kind of stuff, anytime you’re around it … and especially since I feel really, really good. So I’m like ‘I think I could still play. I think I could still throw it.’”
…“I don’t know if I would ever really do it, because it’s easy to sit up here and go, ‘I feel great, I can throw it in my backyard, I could still play in the NFL,’” Warner said on the broadcast. “I have too much respect for the game and those guys. But there have been moments where I was like, I feel so good and I look at the state of the quarterbacks sometimes in the league and say, I think I could do it better than them if I could get back up to form and spend some time. I’m just hoping that one team, at some point, gives me another 7-on-7. Just give me 20 plays and let me see if I can still do it.”
The list of quarterbacks who have done anything in their late 40s is a pretty short one. The oldest quarterbacks ever to start an NFL game were all 44: Warren Moon, Vinny Testaverde and Steve DeBerg (who holds the record at 44 years, 279 days). George Blanda played in the NFL through age 48, but didn’t start at quarterback after age 41. More recently, Brett Favre turned 41 in the middle of his final season with the Vikings, Tom Brady will be 41 this year, and Peyton Manning played his final season at 39. Even in the CFL, the oldest is Damon Allen, who played through 44 and won the league’s most outstanding player award at 42. So it seems like an incredible longshot that Warner could defy those odds at 47.
However, there are a couple of factors that make this maybe a little less inconceivable than it initially sounds. For one thing, strength, conditioning and diet programs are much improved today compared to what they were for most of the NFL’s history, and players are staying in better shape as they get older (part of why Manning set a record by starting and winning the Super Bowl at 39, a record matched the next year by Brady). Brady in particular said last spring he wants to play six to seven more years, and while it’s debatable if he’ll actually get there, he’d seem to have a better chance than most given his well-known obsessions with diet and fitness. And while we don’t know just how great shape Warner is in, the idea of a quarterback in his 40s in general isn’t unfathomable (although it’s still a long shot).
The other thing that comes into this is what Warner mentions about the state of the quarterbacks in the league. There are a whole lot of uninspiring options out there, especially when it comes to teams’ second and third quarterbacks, but even in the case of some starters. That might make coaches more willing to take a shot on someone coming out of retirement. And, as Warner also mentions, plenty like him who walk away from the game still entertain the idea of coming back. It seems unlikely that’s going to happen for him given his age, but it’s certainly notable that he was considering this, and that there was some apparent interest from at least one coach. And that maybe says a lot about where NFL quarterback play is at these days.