One of the most high-profile Christian professional athletes decided to stay put instead of finishing his career with a brand new team.
In a football sense and a faith sense, this makes sense.
Kurt Warner helped lead the Arizona Cardinals to an improbable Super Bowl XLIII appearance last month. He could have been the game’s MVP if not for a game-winning drive by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the closing seconds that won’t soon be forgotten. With the NFL’s free agent signing period starting last weekend, Warner, even at 38 years old, was poised to cash in.
He entertained an offer from the San Francisco 49ers that would have offered him more guaranteed money than the Cardinals. The way NFL contracts are structured, most of the money is front-loaded in signing bonuses and much of the rest is based on performance incentives. Warner’s $23 million deal has $15 million in a signing bonus and $4 million in guaranteed cash. For a guy at the end of his career, that’s a pretty good deal.
Warner told ESPN that he felt God pulling him in the direction of returning to Arizona while visiting San Francisco. For most players to say this, it would sound hokey at best. Warner’s repeated public affirmations of faith throughout his career give it some credence.
His decision also makes football sense.
The 49ers are, at best, a mediocre team in the worst division in the NFL, the NFC West, the same division the Cardinals won last year, which made their Super Bowl run all the more improbable.
He also avoids the trap that so many players fall into at the end of their careers – go to a new team with a different philosophy instead of A.) retiring or B.) taking less money to stay put, as Warner did. You only need to look back as far as January to see how poorly those decisions can turn out.
Brett Favre turned a great 2007 season in the twilight of his career with Green Bay into a melodrama trying to push the Packers to give him money and guarantees they didn’t wait to. He ultimately went to the New York Jets, had an awful end to the season and this time is presumably retired for good.
But the best thing Warner may have done, even in taking less than the Niners offered, is acknowledge the obvious fact that $23 million is a lot of money when Arizona’s unemployment rate is at 7 percent and climbing.
“You know the numbers are staggering, and to add to that the economy and where people are struggling, it’s tough,” Warner told ESPN. “But all I know is I’ve worked hard to get to the point that I’m at, to be in this position and have opportunities like this and I don’t regret that fact.
“The fact is that’s the market for what I do. I’m fortunate for that and I’m blessed in so many ways.”