Hoping to find an oasis in the desert
The Arizona Cardinals aren’t exactly
the quintessential winning franchise like other National
Football League teams might be. The Cardinals have an all-time
winning percentage of .419. It only seems to have gotten worse
in recent years. Since 1986 the team has finished with a record
above .500 only once, have won no divisional titles and have only
earned one postseason appearance. During the ’98 season
the Cards rode the strong arm of Jake Plummer to a 9-7 record
and their first postseason appearance in 16 years. The first round
matched them up against the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys at
Texas Stadium. The Cardinals went on to handily win the game 20-7
stunning the Cowboys and their hometown fans. In the second round
the Cardinals were clearly overmatched by the Minnesota Vikings
and lost the contest 21-41.
Last season was another typical losing Cardinal
season, short and without much success. The team finished with
a 4-12 record and not even the great Emmitt Smith could help the
team get onto the right track. There were some bright moments
in the season despite the fact that they only won four games.
In the final game of the season Arizona matched up against the
Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings needed to win the game against
the lowly Cardinals to get into the playoffs making the game more
dramatic than most people would think. The Vikings found themselves
trying to hang on to a 13 apint lead with 6:48 left in the game.
The Cardinals scored a touchdown on a desperation throw from Josh
McCown to Steve Bush with 1:54 left in the game. The Cardinals
recovered an onside kick and after a pass interference call they
found themselves within striking distance of the end zone. With
the final seconds ticking off the clock Josh McCown rolled right
and hooked up with wide receiver Nate Poole who caught the ball
in the end zone while falling out of bounds. After the referee’s
reviewed the play they ruled it was in fact a touchdown. Vikings
players were stunned so that some were just lying in the field
not wanting to get up.
In the off-season the Cards knew
they needed to make some big changes and they did make
one huge change. They fired coach Jeff McGinnis and
brought in Dennis Green. Green was one of the central
reasons that the Vikings are still a very good team
despite not having much of a defense. They didn’t
make any big moves as far as personnel goes, a few
back-ups were brought in to help out their depth at
The draft is where the Cardinals off-season
starts to get exciting. The team had a great deal of gaping holes
in its team so it went with the goal of getting the most talented
players and building around them. With the number three pick in
the draft they got Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald who
had a close relationship with Dennis Green while coach Green was
in Minnesota. Fitzgerald’s father is a sports radio personality
in Minneapolis and introduced his son to the then Vikings coach.
Fitzgerald was made a ball boy and would go through the same drills
that Randy Moss and Chris Carter would go through. It wasn’t
surprising to see Green or any of the other players out at Fitzgerald’s
high school football games. With their second round pick the Cards
snatched up Auburn outside linebacker Karlos Dansby who is a freak
of nature. He played safety at Auburn before being moved to linebacker.
He is a 250 lb. outside linebacker that can run a 4.56 40-yard
dash and has a 32.5” vertical.
Next year the Cardinals’ offense
won’t look quite as unpleasant as they did in 2003. The
cards are looking to avoid last seasons pitfalls and to be more
of a hit with the hometown fans, trying to avoid last season's
dismal Cardinals ticket sales. Josh McCown is an up and coming quarterback
with a great deal of talent and shouldn’t have any problems
getting the ball up to his three stud receivers Anquan Boldin,
Bryant Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald.
The Arizona defense hopes to keep teams scoreboards as barren as the desert
that they play in. They finished 24th overall in total defense last year and
should be improving due to the new coaching staff and rookies that will step
in and play this season.
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