Before Damon Huard and Mark Roman start stealing the headlines, a final post about Warner Watch, which reached its merciful end today when Warner signed on the dotted line in Arizona ...
One interpretation of this saga - and the one I'm sure the 49ers favor - is that it showed the team is willing to do anything to improve. They gave it the old college try. They saw an opportunity and decided that in one fell swoop, they could alter the balance of the precarious NFC West. The worst that could happen is that the Cardinals end up paying more than they would have liked for an aging and injury-prone quarterback. Which is how things turned out.
Or you could argue that the 49ers were naïve. From the beginning, this seemed like a transparent attempt to squeeze more money out of the Cardinals, and the 49ers played along. They were the stooge forking over $5 in a game of three-card monte. The 49ers have been linked to everyone from Lance Briggs to Michael Vick in recent seasons. They were docked a fifth-round pick last year. What is the common thread here?
Mere hours after the Warners were in Santa Clara, Warner's agent faxed a contract proposal to the Cardinals that was less than the 49ers were wiling to pay. Usually, the con works like this: Player feels no love from Team A. So he flirts with Team B and Team A ends up increasing its offer. The Warner tale went like this: Player flirts with Team B and then goes running back to Team A. Then he tells everyone that he knew he didn't want to be a 49er a mere 45 into the visit. On the heels of Scott Linehan - and perhaps Dan Reeves and Rob Chudzinski - rejecting the 49ers, this isn't exactly a public relations home run.
The 49ers' front office also is sending mixed messages. Before free agency began, there was a vow from the team that they would not make a big splash in free agency. They were a team that builds through the draft and uses its salary-cap cushion to extend its own players. Telling Warner's agent that they were willing to meet his demands - something around the $30 million mark -- for the 37-year-old is not exactly sticking to that message.
The 49ers essentially showed their cards to everyone sitting at the table. Though they've been hinting at this since the end of the season, the brief, one-sided courtship of Kurt Warner essentially announced that they don't have faith in Shaun Hill and that they need another quarterback. That's not a great message to send to Hill or to season-ticket holders: Come watch the 49ers and Shaun Hill, the guy we have lukewarm feelings about. The 49ers are trying to negotiate with Tom Condon about lowering Alex Smith's contract. The Warner wooing tells Condon the 49ers need Smith. So much for leverage.
And what if the 49ers had somehow landed Warner? He's a great quarterback, someone who warrants hall-of-fame consideration. But some observers (see: me) wonder how much better he would have been than Hill in the 49ers' offense. I keep thinking of that gutsy, helmet-less play Hill made on Monday night. There's no way Warner comes within 30 yards of making that play. At 37, the guy has the agility of the Tin Man. He couldn't buy enough time to throw a hail Mary in the Super Bowl. He takes the bulk of his snaps in Arizona in the shotgun. He would have had real difficulties under center in San Francisco, and you have to wonder how healthy he'd be behind a line that has put up double nickel sack numbers the last two seasons. I knew that. You knew that. Kurt knew that. And he knew it all along.
-- Matt Barrows