Don’t expect Warner, the two-time NFL MVP, to leave his broadcasting career to shoot free throws off the Suns’ bench. But the Pro Football Hall of Famer certainly feels like he’s seen this before, and he’s having fun reliving the past.
Kurt Warner sees parallels between the 2008 Arizona Cardinals and the 2020-21 Phoenix Suns
In the fall of 2008, Warner was entering his fourth season with the Arizona Cardinals, a team that hadn’t made the postseason since 1998. Despite the team’s 8-8 record a year earlier, the expectations weren’t exactly high out west.
Although the Cardinals’ had the league’s third-highest scoring offense in 2008, a mediocre defense contributed to a 9-7 finish. That was still enough for Warner, who earned Pro Bowl honors that year, and teammates to win the NFC West.
And then came the playoffs. Between Warner’s arm and Larry Fitzgerald’s touchdowns, the Cardinals rattled off three straight victories and nearly defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 43.
In a recent interview on The Rich Eisen Show, Warner reflected on that shocking run and said he’s seen parallels between those Cardinals and this year’s Suns team. That includes, Warner said, how the team’s younger players or non-starters have rallied around Paul and the leadership group.
“I think a lot of championship teams, you have those different pieces, and as you mentioned, this team has the pieces, a lot of great role players playing their part with a couple of great leaders and great players spearheading this thing. And it’s just been fun to watch the way they carry themselves and the humility by which they play.”Kurt Warner
Besides playing in Arizona, Warner has another reason to be invested in the Suns’ success. Fitzgerald, his former No. 1 receiver, owns a minority stake in the Suns.
Warner offered serious praise for Paul’s leadership skills
Warner played the entire 2008 season, including the playoffs at 37 years old. Paul, the Suns’ star point guard, turned 36 on May 6.
When he spoke with Eisen, Warner shared how impressed he is by Paul’s play and leadership abilities. The Hall of Fame quarterback compared the way players rally around Paul, who joined the Suns in a trade after the 2019-20 season, to something Warner experienced himself.
“[Paul] seemed to be the glue and the leader that brought everything together. And it kind of reminded me of our team in ’08 that the old guy came in and [he’s] kind of leading and settling down the charge when we get to the playoffs with that young talent that’s really separating them.”Kurt Warner
Warner also suggested that Paul’s leadership helped Deandre Ayton, the former No. 1 overall pick, “settle in” after an inconsistent start to his career.
“It’s just fun to see,” Warner said, “and it’s reminiscent, a little bit, of our run. … I really hope that they can finish this thing off.”
Paul and the Suns should hope next season goes better than Warner’s final ride in Arizona
Even if they’re grateful for the praise, Paul and the Suns should hope that they’re not perfectly following in Warner’s footsteps.
The Cardinals led with 2:37 remaining in Super Bowl 43, but Santonio Holmes intervened and gave the Steelers a lead in the final minute. Pittsburgh hung on and won, 27-23, for the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl victory.
Although Warner returned in 2009 and won 10 of his 15 starts, he also missed a game with a concussion. The New Orleans Saints’ defense brutalized the veteran quarterback in the NFC Divisional Round en route to a 45-14 victory at the Superdome. Warner promptly retired after the season.
From there, the Cardinals didn’t reach the postseason again until 2015. The Cardinals only have one playoff victory, a 26-20 overtime win over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in January 2015’s NFC Divisional Round, since Warner retired.
If history repeats, Paul and the Suns will lose to the eventual NBA champions in the Western Conference Semifinals next year before everything falls apart in the coming years. We’d like to think that’s far from ideal.