You probably know the underdog story of Kurt Warner. The future leader of the Greatest Show on Turf was a former grocery store bagger who played his college ball at the University of Northern Iowa. He finished his college career in 1993.
He went undrafted, and he had to continue his career by slinging the pigskin in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe. He was absolutely dominant in both leagues, leading to him catching the eye of the St. Louis Rams. The Rams signed the ageless rookie, where he spent the 1998 season as the team’s third-string quarterback.
What you might NOT know is that another team from a certain Illinois city liked Warner’s play in Iowa and wanted him to try out for the franchise.
Yes, that’s correct. The gunslinger of the Greatest Show on Turf could have easily been leading the offensive version of the Monsters of the Midway.
According to the legendary Barstool Sports podcast “Pardon My Take,” Warner admits that the Chicago Bears called him up. This was during his Arena Football League prime with the Iowa Barnstormers, so it was going to be a short flight from Cedar Rapids to Chicago.
It was going to be a Friday workout at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. However, the flaky Warner forgot about a very minor detail….His fiancee (and current wife) Brenda reminded Bears management that he had some fairly important weekend plans. They were getting married that weekend!
The Bears of course understood that he couldn’t bail on his wedding plans for just a workout, so Michael McCaskey and Chicago decided to schedule the workout the next week. However, Warner forgot about the Jamaica honeymoon that week, so he had to call the Bears back yet again to reschedule.
To play Devil’s advocate, it was irritating that Warner had to reschedule the workout on two different occasions. That being said, it wasn’t as if he was blowing off the Bears. His excuses were very valid reasons: As fun as it is playing in the NFL, family comes first.
What happened next can probably be attributed to the curse of Chicago Bears quarterbacks.
As if the football gods hate Chicago, an unknown bug took a bite out of Warner’s right elbow. His elbow got swollen to the size of a grapefruit. To this day, Warner STILL doesn’t know if it was a bug or a spider.
“The doctors say it was maybe a centipede or a spider.”
Anyway, the Bears heard enough from the former NFL Europe star. This was Warner’s third excuse to not show up for a mandatory workout, and although his three excuses were all valid, the Bears felt confident in their current quarterback situation to not give Warner a fourth chance.
The old saying goes, “Third time’s the charm,” but for the Bears, the fourth time might’ve been the charm.
According to the future Hall of Fame quarterback, the Bears hung up and never called him back. Two weeks later, the Rams had a need for a third-string quarterback and worked him out. He passed the workout with flying colors.
In 1999, Trent Green tore his ACL during the preseason, and the little-known backup in Kurt Warner ended up leading the 1999 St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory by winning Super Bowl MVP.
Since his infamous bug bite, Warner played in three Super Bowls, winning one of them. He won 2 MVP Awards. Also, according to us at Sports Broadcast Solutions, we consider him the best quarterback in both Rams and Cardinals franchise history. You can watch that video both above and in the comments section below.
How did the 1998 and 1999 seasons go for the Bears? As you would expect, not so great. Moses Moreno was the Bears’ third-string quarterback in place of Warner for the 1998 season. The Bears had so many injuries in 1998 that Moreno actually started a game that season. If not for a villainous bug, Bears fans would’ve theoretically seen the third-string Warner do his thing out on the gridiron.
In 1999, the Bears selected future quarterback bust Cade McNown with the No. 12 overall draft pick. McNown was one of the worst quarterbacks in Bears history. During his rookie season in 1999, he completed just 54% of his passes.
It just makes you wonder….would the Bears have made it to the Super Bowl in 1999 and 2001 if Warner was their starting quarterback? Probably not since the Rams also had Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, and Ricky Proehl (PROHL) at wide receiver. Incredibly, Proehl could’ve been Warner’s teammate with the Bears, but Chicago let Ricky walk in free agency after the 1997 season ended. Proehl was on the Rams during their Super Bowl runs in 1999 and 2001.
What makes this story even more interesting is the Cleveland Browns could’ve acquired Warner during the 1999 Expansion Draft. The Rams made him available to be drafted since they put all of their trust in Trent Green.
However, the new Browns just didn’t see enough in Warner’s game film to try him out as a backup QB. I guess that they really liked Tim Couch?
Since making their very dumb decision in 1998, the Bears have still NEVER had a quarterback throw for at least 4,000 yards in a season. The Browns, who became an expansion franchise in 1999, have only won one playoff game. They’ve only played in three total playoff games since passing on Kurt Warner. By the way, Tim Couch didn’t start in any of those three playoff games.
The best quarterback in Bears history since 1998 is arguably Jay Cutler, although Cutler won just one playoff game. Cutler’s playoff win came against the Seahawks, who had a record of 8-and-9 coming into the Divisional Round. As for the Browns, the jury is still out on Baker Mayfield.
Are the Browns and Bears cursed when it comes to finding a quarterback? Absolutely not, but it is kind of funny how a spider inadvertently led to the Rams becoming the Greatest Show on Turf.
Along came a spider...for Morgan Freeman, it led to another paycheck in his legendary film career. For the Bears, it disallowed them from becoming a dynamic offense.
Make sure to subscribe below and don’t miss another Sports Broadcast Solutions video!