Kurt Warner (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
With the end of the season, the Kurt Warner retirement watch starts in earnest, and the 2010 season hangs on his decision.
If Warner decides to return, the Cardinals appear primed for offensive success.
Their receivers are under contract, although Anquan Boldin is entering the last year of his deal. The two top running backs, Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, should be with the club for several years.
Left tackle Mike Gandy likely will leave through free agency, but with Warner, the Cardinals should be able to survive any loss.
Kurt Warner hinted after the 45-14 playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints that he was leaning one way in the decision. He wouldn't say which way, however, only that he would take a few weeks to final a final determination.
"I have some ideas in my head," he said, "but you want to get away from the season for a minute and make sure what you're feeling stays that way. But I don't think it will be a long process."
Just as he has the past few years, Warner will get away from football and consult with his wife Brenda, who would prefer that he retire. But she has said she will be supportive of whatever decision her husband makes.
Warner's health will be a big factor. He suffered a concussion during the season and took a severe hit against the Saints, bruising his ribs.
"You know, anytime you get hit like that it makes you think twice about playing this game," he said jokingly.
Warner doesn't anticipate taking long to make the call. He doesn't want to leave the organization hanging, nor does he want to spend months anguishing over it.
"It's really going to come down to what I want to do moving forward, what's the best thing for me," he said.
Warner's backup, Matt Leinart, was inconsistent in several appearances this season. He showed flashes of competence but also had some terrible performances. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has expressed confidence in Leinart's abilities, but it's hard to say if Leinart can successfully succeed Warner.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
While the Cardinals had trouble making big plays, the offense remained productive. That's due to quarterback Kurt Warner, a deep corps of receivers and an improved running game. The offense became more nervous and the drafting of running back Beanie Wells at No. 31 appears to be a steal. Wells proved to be a dynamic runner and should be a 1,200-yard back in years to come. The defense showed flashes of ability, especially in a dominating performance against the Minnesota Vikings in early December. The Cardinals won 10 games for the first time since 1975 and won their second consecutive division title.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The defense collapsed in the playoffs, yielding 90 points and 911 yards in two games. It's amazing the Cardinals won in the first round of the playoffs. In the final half against the Packers and the first half of the Saints, opposing quarterbacks completed 34 of 48 passes for 510 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions; the Cardinals gave up 70 points and 664 yards. The team's stars let them down against the Saints. Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett didn't have a tackle, and strong safety Adrian Wilson gave up a touchdown pass. Both made the Pro Bowl this season.
--K Neil Rackers missed two field goals in the playoffs and obviously was still suffering from a torn groin muscle. Looking back, the Cardinals made a mistake by not keeping Mike Nugent to kick in the playoffs.
--WR Anquan Boldin missed both playoff games with a sprained ankle and knee. Boldin won't need surgery.
--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suffered a sprained left knee in the first quarter against the Saints. The severity of the injury has not been determined.
--QB Kurt Warner suffered a bruised chest when he was hit on an interception return against the Saints. Warner, who suffered a concussion earlier this year, said his head was not affected by the hit.
--FS Antrel Rolle suffered a concussion in the first quarter against the Saints. He didn't return to the game but should be fine.
--WR Jerheme Urban committed a crucial fumble in the first half, losing the ball after a 28-yard gain. Urban is a free agent and likely won't return.