Monday, January 4, 2010

The ALMOST All-Time Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals' history is the longest in pro football history, and an intriguing one that has seen the team change their name eight times—either by moving to another city or merging with another team.

They started out as the Morgan Athletic Club in 1898, then became the Racine Normals the next two seasons. They then changed their name to the Cardinals in 1901.

After going out of business after the 1906 season, they reformed in 1913 and moved out of Racine to Chicago after the 1919 season. They joined the American Professional Football Association in 1920, which became the National Football League in 1922.

They are involved in one of the biggest controversies in league history, which took place in 1925. The Pottsville Maroons won the NFL Championship that year after defeating the Cardinals 21-7 in Chicago. The Maroons then decided to play an exhibition game against Notre Dame University on the field of the Frankford Yellow Jackets. The Yellow Jackets would eventually become the Philadelphia Eagles in 1933.

NFL commissioner Joe Carr told the team initially they would face suspension if they played a game that would give players a huge payday. The Maroons then played because they claimed Carr then approved the game, and won. It was the game that put the NFL on the map of respectability, but Carr then took the title and handed it to the Cardinals.

The Cardinals went years without wanting any parts of the title, but the years of futility that have followed the franchise since have the current ownership claiming it as part of their history.

They played in the first night game in pro football versus the Providence Steamroller in 1929.

Charles Bidwell bought the team in 1933, a year after he helped the Chicago Bears from going defunct by loaning them money. He oversaw the team merge with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1944 because both teams' rosters were depleted from World War II. They were called the "Car-Pitts" by many.

He then pulled a major move in 1947 by signing future Hall Of Famer Charley Trippi to an unheard of $100,000 salary. His plan was to have Trippi and Marshall Goldberg bring the team a championship. The move worked, as the Cardinals did end up winning it all. Bidwell passed away not long after signing Trippi, so he was not able to witness the event.

The Bidwell family has owned the team for 47 of the Cardinals 112 years of playing. It is the third longest ownership in NFL history.

The Cardinals returned to the championship the next year but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 7-0 in a driving blizzard. It would be the team's last postseason play until 1974. This long stretch of mediocrity saw the Bears become the most popular team in Chicago, so the Cardinals moved to Saint Louis in 1960.

What makes the Cardinals 1961 season unique is that they had three co-coaches for the last two games of the season. One was defensive coach Chuck Drulis, who invented the safety blitz in the NFL. His wife was an artist who used her husband and two sons as models to create the emblem that is used by the Pro Football Hall Of Fame as their insignia.

The Cardinals stayed in Saint Louis until 1987, putting together some very exciting teams. They were still unable to get over the postseason hump, with only three appearances in their 28 years. They then decided to move to Phoenix.

They lasted six years under the Phoenix banner, and failed to make the postseason yet again. Thy were playing their games in Tempe, so they decided to call themselves the Arizona Cardinals in 1994. They now play in Glendale.

The Arizona version has made the postseason three times thus far, and made it all the way to Super Bowl XLIII before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23 in the last two minutes of the game.

It is a history that has had three players die in the prime of their careers. J.V. Cain, Stan Mauldin, and Pat Tillman have all had their jerseys retired by the team. They also have 13 members of the franchise inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

Remember: This is a team of legends who are not, and maybe never will be, members of the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

Quarterback : Jim Hart

Hart was signed as an undrafted free agent rookie by the Saint Louis Cardinals before the 1966 season. He got into one game that season, completing four of the eleven passes he threw.

The Cardinals named him a starter the next year, and he threw for 3,008 yards and an NFL leading 30 interceptions.He spent four of the next five years occasionally sharing quarterback duties with other players until he was again named the only starter in 1973. His highlight up until that point was throwing a 98 pass to Ahmad Rashad, which is the longest non-scoring play in league history.

In 1974, he led the league with 388 passing attempts. Only eight balls were intercepted, which gave him a league leading 2.1 interception percentage. He was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Year by the UPI.

He was named to the Pro Bowl, an honor he would again attain four straight seasons until 1977.

He was having his greatest successes under head coach Don Coryell, and Hart led the team to a 38-18 record the four years they were paired together. Coryell was fired after 1977, and the team began to lose.

The Cardinals used their first round pick in 1977 on quarterback Steve Pisarkiewicz. Owner Bill Bidwell ordered head coach Bud Wilkerson to start Pisarkiewicz instead of Hart in 1979, which led to tension in the locker room and Wilkerson's early dismissal before the season ended.

Pisarkiewicz was out of the NFL after the 1980 season, and the Cardinals then drafted quarterback Neil Lomax in 1981. Hart became a reserve in 1982, then left the team after the next year. He joined the Washington Redskins in 1984, then retired at the end of the season.

Hart's record as a starter for the Cardinals is 87-88-5. It is easily the best total by any Cardinals quarterback ever. No other quarterback in team history has thrown more passes for more yards and more touchdowns than him either. His four Pro Bowls is also the most be any quarterback in franchise history.

Neil Lomax, Jim Hardy, Charley Johnson, Jake Plummer, and Paul Christman deserve mention.

Fullback : Larry Centers

Centers was drafted in the fifth round of the 1990 draft by the Phoenix Cardinals. He was used strictly as a part time kick returner as a rookie, returning 16 kickoffs. He matched that total again the next year, and also returned the only five punts of his career.

The Cardinals began using him as a third down back in 1992, and he had 50 receptions and the first two touchdowns of his career. He continued increasing his receiving totals each year, culminating with 101 receptions in 1995. It is a NFL record for receptions by a running back, and he was named to his first Pro Bowl.

His 1996 season was probably his best. He had 99 receptions, and set career best marks of 425 rushing yards on 116 attempts while scoring nine times. After catching 123 balls over the next two years, he signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent for the 1999 season.

Washington used him primarily as a receiver in his two years with them, and he had 150 catches over that time. He then joined the Buffalo Bills in 2001 and had 123 receptions in the two seasons he played for them. He also made his last Pro Bowl in 2001.

Centers then joined the New England Patriots in 2003, and was used sparingly. He caught 19 balls and scored his last touchdown, as the Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXVIII. He then retired.

His 827 career receptions are the most by any running back in NFL history, and the second most ever by any non-wide receiver. His 535 receptions with the Cardinals is the second most in franchise history.

Though Larry Centers is known as the greatest receiving fullback in NFL history, he was also an excellent blocker who helped paved the way for 1,000 yard backs like Stephen Davis, Ronald Moore, Travis Henry, and Garrison Hearst.

Jim Otis, Marshall Goldberg, Wayne Morris, Earl Ferrell, Pat Harder, Ron Wolfley, and Johnny Olszewski all deserve mention. Wolfley made four Pro Bowls because of his special teams play, and is the only player ever to have played for both the Cardinals and Rams in Saint Louis.

Halfback : O.J. Anderson

Anderson was drafted drafted in the first round of the 1979 draft by the Saint Louis Cardinals. He exploded onto the NFL scene immediately in his rookie year, garnering the NFL Rookie of the Year Award, First Team All-NFL, and Pro Bowl honors. He set career high marks of 331 carries for 1,605 yards at a 4.8 yards per carry average, and scored 10 touchdowns. He also caught 41 passes.

He continued his torrid pace the next two seasons, gaining 2,728 yards, scoring 18 times, and catching 87 passes. He was to his last Pro Bowl in 1980. His consecutive 1,000 yard seasons was stopped at three in 1982 because of the players strike, but he was still able to gain 587 in eight games.

He missed a game in each of the next two years, but ran for over 1,000 yards in each season. He also caught 124 balls, including a career high 70 in 1984, and scored 14 total times.

He got injured in the 1985 season, and was only able to play nine games. Stump Mitchell emerged as the Cardinals primary running back, so Anderson was cut after the fourth game of the 1986 season. He was picked up a few weeks later by the New York Giants, and appeared in eight games.

He was used as a short yardage back that year, and scored a touchdown in the Giants Super Bowl XXI victory. He then played in just four games the next season., and scored eight touchdowns on limited carries in the 1988 season.

He then earned the starting job for the Giants in 1989, and gained 1,023 yards and scored a career high 14 touchdowns. He was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He scored 11 times the next year, as the Giants went on to win Super Bowl XXV.

He ran for 102 yards on 21 carries, including a touchdown, in the Giants 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills and was named Super Bowl MVP.

He then rarely played over the next two seasons and retired at the conclusion of the 1992 season. Once known as a fumbler, with 53 over the seven years he played with the Cardinals, he fumbled just three times in his eight years with the Giants.

He owns the Cardinals franchise record of 1,858 carries, 7,999 rushing yards, and 46 rushing touchdowns. He carried the ball a whopping 1,521 times over five seasons.

His 1,605 yards in 1979 are the most yards rushing in a season by any Cardinals running back, and he owns five of the top six greatest rushing yard season totals in franchise history.

The Cardinals have had a plethora of great running backs in their history, yet none put up numbers greater than Ottis Anderson.

Terry Metcalf, Stump Mitchell, John David Crow, Johnny Roland, MacArthur Lane, Jimmy Lawrence, Johnny Johnson, and Elmer Angsman deserve mention.

Wide Receiver : Sonny Randle

Randle was drafted in the 19th round of the 1958 draft by the Chicago Cardinals, but did not join the team until 1959. He played just eight games as a rookie, and caught 15 passes while scoring once.

He was put into the starting line up the next year, the Cardinals first in Saint Louis, and quickly became a top receiver in the league. He led the NFL with a career high 15 touchdown catches on 62 receptions. He was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl.

Returning to the Pro Bowl in 1961 after scoring nine times on 44 catches, he set career best marks of 63 receptions for 1,158 yards, to go with seven touchdowns, in his Pro Bowl season of 1962. He took one pass a career long 86 yards for a touchdown.

He somehow did not make the Pro Bowl the next year, despite catching 51 passes for 1,014 yards, a 19.9 yards per reception average, and 12 touchdowns. He was on his way to having a stellar 1964 campaign, averaging a career best 20.7 yards on 25 receptions, when he went down for year from injury in the seventh game.

Randle rebounded nicely the next year, and made his final Pro Bowl squad after catching 51 passes for 845 yards and nine touchdowns. He then scored twice on 17 receptions the next year, and ended up with the San Francisco 49ers for the 1967 season.

He caught 33 balls that year, scoring four times. After scoring a touchdown on three receptions over three games, he was released. The Dallas Cowboys picked him up, and he caught one pass in the six games he played.

He then was set to retire, but Vince Lombardi of the Washington Redskins asked him to join the team in 1969. After a brief appearance in training camp, he ultimately retired.

No player in the NFL caught more touchdown passes in the 1960's than his 65 scores. He ranks 12th in league history in touchdowns per games played, and he still ranks 40th in career touchdown receptions.

He caught 16 passes for 256 yards in a single game during the 1962 season, which is a Cardinals record. His 15 touchdown season is also the best in team history, and ranks seventeenth in NFL history.

His 1,158 receiving yards in 1962 was a team record that is still ranked 12 best. He still ranks ninth best in career receiving yards, and eleventh in receptions.

Though the Cardinals didn't always have steady quarterback play, as well as going through several head coaches, in Randle's career with the Cardinals, he teamed up with fellow wide receiver Bobby Joe Conrad and Hall Of Fame tight end Jackie Smith to make for one of the best trios in the 1960's.

Hall Of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen once said that Randle would be in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame today if he had played in a bigger city like New York or Philadelphia.

Though the Cardinals have a long line of great wide receivers to have worn their uniform, including two more currently playing now, there may be none better in team history than Sonny Randle.

Wide Receiver : Roy Green

Green was drafted in the fourth round of the 1979 draft by the Saint Louis Cardinals. He was initially drafted to be a defensive back and kick returner, the positions he played in college.

He returned 41 kickoffs for 1,005 yards that year, and scored on a league leading 106 yard return. He also caught a 15 yard pass from punter Steve Little. He returned a career high 16 punts the next season, and returned one 57 yards for a score. He also returned 32 kickoffs, something he would do only 16 more times in his career.

The Cardinals started him at free safety for six games that year, and he picked off a pass. Then head coach Jim Hanifan decided that Green would play on both sides of the ball in the 1981 season, making him one of the last two-way players the NFL has seen.

He had his last three interceptions that year on defense, then caught 33 passes at wide receiver. He scored five times, averaged a career best 21.5 yards per reception, and ran the ball three times for 60 yards. He was became a full time wide receiver in 1982, and caught 32 balls in the strike shortened season.

The next two seasons was his best years. He was named First Team All-NFL and made the Pro Bowl each season, where he caught 78 passes both times. He led the NFL with 14 touchdown catches in 1983, and led the league with 1,555 receiving yards and 97.2 receiving yards per game the next year. He also scored 12 times in 1984.

Green began to deal with nagging injuries that would plague him the next three seasons. He missed 12 games over that time, yet still managed 135 receptions and 15 touchdowns. The Cardinals left Saint Louis after the 1987 season, and moved to Phoenix, Arizona.

He rebounded that year and caught 67 passes for 1,097 yards and seven touchdowns. He had seven more touchdowns on 44 receptions in 1989, even though he missed four games because of injuries.

The 1990 season was his last to play a full season, and he had 53 receptions. He was then traded to the Cleveland Browns before 1991, but he was cut in training camp. The Philadelphia Eagles signed him as a reserve, and he had 37 balls over two years before retiring.

His 8,496 receiving yards and 66 touchdown receptions as a Cardinal is still a team record, and his 522 receptions with them still ranks fourth best. His 414 points are the most ever by a non-kicker in team history. His 106 yard kickoff return tied an NFL record at the time, and is still the second longest in league history.

This position was the hardest to sift through. The Cardinals have had so many great receivers, that picking anyone could be the right choice. I really considered Mel Gray in the spot, and well as Bobby Joe Conrad. I chose Roy Green because of his being the Cardinals most reliable weapon when they passed, as well as his ability to play defense.

Mel Gray, Bobby Joe Conrad, J.T. Smith, Pat Tilley, Rob Moore, Ricky Proehl, Frank Sanders, Don Stonesifer, Bill Smith, Ed Rucinski, Billy Dewell, Gaynell Tinsley, Ernie Jones, Fran Polsfoot, Bob Shaw, John Gilliam, David Boston, and Mal Kutner all deserve mention.

Tight End : J.V. Cain

Cain was the Saint Louis Cardinals first round draft pick in 1974, and was the seventh player chosen overall. He was drafted to eventually replace aging Hall Of Fame tight end Jackie Smith, and spent his first two seasons learning from the legendary player.

He still managed to catch 25 balls for two scores over that time, as he was used primarily as a blocker. Smith then became a reserve in 1976, so that Cain could take over and show his abilities.

J.V. responded by averaging 15.4 yards on 26 receptions for 400 yards. All are career best marks, as was his five touchdowns that year. He caught 25 passes the next year and scored twice, despite missing a game because of injury.

He appeared on his ways to great things when he suddenly died from a heart attack on his birthday during training camp. The team then retired his number 88.

The Cardinals have not had many excellent tight ends besides Smith and Guy Chamberlain. Cain appeared on his way to being special when he passed. He still ranks as one of the best ever in franchise history to this day.

Gern Nagler and Pop Ivy also deserve mention.

Tackle : Ernie McMillan

McMillan was drafted in the 13th round of the 1961 by the Saint Louis Cardinals. He was a reserve in his rookie year, appearing in six games. He would be named a starter the next season, and would remain so the rest of his career.

He started 161 straight games at right tackle without missing a contest. He was the constant force on a Cardinals offensive line that was mostly always great and had several different players go to the Pro Bowl over that time.

Making the Pro Bowl himself four times, he ended up playing just seven games in 1973 because of injury. The Cardinals then put future Hall Of Famer Dan Dierdorf in at right tackle and moved McMillan to left tackle in 1974, He started alll 11 games he played before being injured.

He then signed with the Green Bay Packers in 1975, and started in all 12 games he played before retiring at the conclusion of the season.

His four Pro Bowls are the second most by any tackle in Cardinals history, and just two behind Dierdorf. It is also the third most by any blocker in franchise history.

His son is Erik McMillan, the two time Powl Bowler who was the 1988 Defensive Rookie of the Year, and his nephew is former lineman and Dallas Cowboys first round draft pick Howie Richards.

Ernie McMillan is one of the best blockers in Cardinals history, and perhaps one of the most underrated.

Tackle : Luis Sharpe

Sharpe was the Saint Louis Cardinals first round draft pick in 1982, and he was named a starter at left tackle immediately.

He would not miss a game for almost eight years, and started in every game that he did appear in. He missed just seven games in his 13 year career, and named to the Pro Bowl three times from 1987 to 1989.

He holds the distinction of having played for the Saint Louis, Phoenix, and Arizona versions of the Cardinals. His three Pro Bowls are the most be any left tackle in team history.

Though he has had personal troubles since he retired, there may have been no better left tackle on the field in Cardinals history than Luis Sharpe.

Bob Reynolds, Stan Mauldin
, who died after the first game of the 1948 season, Bill Fischer, Lomas Brown, Tony Blazine, Ken Panfil, and Walt Ellis all deserve a mention.

Guard : Ken Gray

Gray was drafted in the sixth round of the 1958 draft by the Green Bay Packers, becoming just the second player, and first in 29 years, to make the NFL out of Howard Payne University.

He didn't make the Packers team, and was getting ready to quit football when the Chicago Cardinals asked him to try out. He made their team, and was put in as a defensive end. He soon became a starter, and played in ten games.

He was switched over to right guard on the offense the next year, and began to excel. He was named to his first Pro Bowl in the 1961 season, then again in 1963.

He was named First Team All-Pro in 1964, as well as making his third Pro Bowl. He would make the Pro Bowl three straight years from 1966 to 1968, then be named First Team All-Pro in 1969.

Though he was getting set to retire, he was coaxed by the Houston Oilers to play for them in the 1970 season. He then retired.

No other guard in Cardinals history has played in more Pro Bowls than Gray, and it matches Hall Of Famer Dan Dierdorf as the most by any offensive lineman in team history. It is also tied as the third most Pro Bowls by any player in team history.

Not only is Ken Gray the greatest guard in Cardinals history, but he may be their greatest blocker ever. His is a career worthy of induction into Canton.

Guard : Conrad Dobler

Dobler was drafted in the fifth round of the 1972 draft by the Saint Louis Cardinals. He earned the starting job after the second game at left guard, but changed to right guard, and his jersey number as well, in his second season.

He quickly garnered a reputation as one of the meanest and nastiest players in the league. He made the Pro Bowl for three straight years from 1975 to 1977, and was given the tag "The Dirtiest Player In The NFL" by the magazine Sports Illustrated.

He was traded to the New Orleans Saints just before the 1978 season, but played just three games because of injury. After rebounding the next year, he joined the Buffalo Bills in 1980. After missing two games in 1981 because of injury, he retired.

His life after the NFL has been difficult. He is 90% disabled from all the injuries he accrued as a player, and his wife is now a quadriplegic after an accident. The NFLPA disregards many past players like him, so he still lives today needing more surgeries to improve his quality of life.

But his career on the field will not be forgotten. He was a character who was beloved by his teammates and reviled by his opponents. He is also one of the finest guards to ever wear the Cardinals uniform.

Bob Young, Irv Goode, Joe Kuharich, Joe Bostic, and Buster Ramsey all deserve mention

Center : Tom Banks

Banks was drafted in the eighth round of the 1970 draft by the Saint Louis Cardinals. He ended up starting nine games that year. Showing excellent versatility, he started every game the next year at center or guard.

He was moved to guard in 1973 the whole season, which also happened to be the first for head coach Don Coryell. He was hurt in the first game of the next year, which ended his season.

The Cardinals moved him back to center in 1975, and he quickly established himself as one of the best in the league by being named to the Pro Bowl for four seasons straight. The 1976 season saw him named First Team All-Pro as well.

He got hurt in the sixth game of the 1980 season, then decided to retire. He decided to come out of retirement at 35 years old in 1983 to play with the Birmingham Stallions of the United States Football League. He then retired for good at the end of the 1984 season.

His four Pro Bowls are the most by any center in Cardinals history, and it is tied as the third most by any offensive lineman in team history.

Bob DeMarco, Jack Simmons, Tim Moynihan, Frank McNally, Phil Dougherty, Ki Aldrich, Ray Apolskis, and Ralph Claypool all deserve mention.

Defensive Tackle : Eric Swann

Swann was drafted in the first round of the 1991 draft by the Phoenix Cardinals, and was the sixth player chosen overall. He was a semi-pro player at the time without any college football experience, though Wake Technical Community College is listed as his Alma mater.

He was brought along slowly as a rookie, starting in three of the 12 games he played. He ended up with four sacks. He started 11 games the next year at both defensive end and tackle, getting two sacks and a safety.

The 1993 season saw him just play nine games because of injury, but he still had 3.5 sacks and another safety. The team then changed their name to the Arizona Cardinals after that season.. He then started in 16 games for the only time in his career the next year. He had seven sacks, an interception, and the last safety of his career.

He made the Pro Bowl in both 1995 and 1996, despite missing five starts and three games over that time. The 1995 saw him getting a career best 8.5 sacks, and the 1996 season saw him get a career high 81 tackles and three fumble recoveries.

He lasted three more years with the team, though they were mostly injury plagued seasons. He missed 18 games, and started in just 18 games over that time. He had 15.5 sacks over that time, and intercepted a ball that he took 42 yards for the only touchdown of his career.

The Cardinals then released him after the 1999 season. He signed with his hometown Carolina Panthers in 2000, getting one sack in three starts. He then retired, but rumors of his attempted comeback surfaced in 2007 when he signed on to play in the North American Football League.

The Cardinals are familiar with that league, having drafted cornerback Greg Toler in the fourth round of the 2009 year. Toler played in the league, and got his first career interception off of the Rams, who currently play in the Cardinals former city of Saint Louis.

No other Cardinal defensive tackle has played in more Pro Bowls than Eric Swann. His three recorded safeties are also the most in team history, and his 45.5 career sacks ranks sixth best in team history.

He is certainly one of the best defensive lineman in team history.

Defensive Tackle : Bob Rowe

Rowe was drafted in the second round of the 1967 draft by the Saint Louis Cardinals. He is the son of Bob Rowe Sr., who played two years in the NFL as a running back from 1934-35.

After playing 11 games as a reserve in his rookie year, he was put in the starting line up the next season and responded by making his only Pro Bowl. The 1969 season saw him pick off the only two passes of his career, and he took one 18 yards for the only touchdown of his career.

Rowe was a model of dependability and consistency. He played until 1975, never missing a game since he missed one in 1969. He played in 122 of a possible 126 games throughout his career.

He would be the last Cardinal defensive tackle to be named to a Pro Bowl until Eric Swann achieved the honor in 1995. The Cardinals may never have had a defensive tackle better than Bob Rowe in their entire history.

Frank Fuller, Sam Silas, Jerry Groom, and David Galloway all deserve mentioning.

Defensive End : Leo Sugar

Sugar was drafted in the 11th round of the 1952 draft by the Chicago Cardinals. He did not join the team until 1954, having to serve in the Armed Forces during the Korean War.

When he joined the team, he was inserted into the lineup immediately by head coach Joe Stydahar. Styfahar is a Hall Of Fame player who was in his last season as the Cardinals coach, and just four years removed from having coached the Los Angeles Rams to a championship.

Sugar recovered two fumbles his rookie year, including one that resulted in a touchdown. He returned a fumble 29 yards the next season, and returned the only interception of career 27 yards.

He continued to be a stalwart for the Cardinals, and scored the last two touchdowns of his career off of fumble recoveries in the 1957 season. His first Pro Bowl was attained the next year, then the Cardinals left Chicago for Saint Louis after the 1959 season.

Sugar played one year in Saint Louis, and made his second and last Pro Bowl squad. He was then traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played just one season. The Michigan native joined the Detroit Lions in 1962, and was hurt after six games.

He then retired. In his seven years with the Cardinals, his team won 26 times. His teams won 21 games in the last two years he was in the league.

No defensive lineman has played in more Pro Bowls than Leo Sugar, and his two Pro Bowls are the most by any defensive end in the franchises history. His three touchdowns off of fumble recoveries is the most in team history, and the third most in NFL history.

He is certainly one of the best defensive lineman to have ever played for the team.

Defensive End : Chuck Walker

Walker was drafted by the Saint Louis Cardinals in the 12th round of the 1963 draft. He appeared in three games in his rookie year, then 14 the next as a reserve.

He earned a starting job in his third year, and would be named to the Pro Bowl. Saint Louis sent nine players to the Pro Bowl that year, even though they finished in fourth place in the NFC East. Walker played along Pro Bowlers Don Brumm, Joe Robb, and Sam Silas on the defensive line.

He was switched to defensive end in 1968 after Robb retired, yet he continued to excel. He was named First Team All-Pro in 1969 after he led the NFL with a career high five fumble recoveries.

After missing three games in each of the next two seasons, he was traded to the Atlanta Falcons three weeks into the 1972 season. He was moved back to defensive tackle to play next to perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Claude Humphrey for eight games.

He helped the Falcons have the second winning season in the franchises history in 1973, and Humphrey and Jon Zook, a future Cardinal, would both be Pro Bowl defensive ends that year. He then spent the next two years as a reserve before retiring.

His 15 fumble recoveries with the team is the most by any Cardinal lineman, and ranks third best by any defensive player in team history.

Chuck Walker is the only defensive lineman in Cardinals history to be named First Team All-Pro. He was versatile and sound on some good Cardinal teams that always fell just short of postseason play.

Bob Dove, Joe Robb, Freddie Joe Nunn, Tom Wham, Don Brumm, John Shirk, Simeon Rice, Al Baker, Curtis Greer, Ron Yankowski, and Eddie Anderson all deserve mention.

Outside Linebacker : E.J. Junior

Junior was the Saint Louis Cardinals first round draft pick in 1981, and started in 13 of the 16 games he played that year. He intercepted his first career pass that year.

The 1982 season was shortened to nine games because of a players strike, and the NFL began recording sacks as an official statistic. Junior recorded 1.5 that season. He was hurt part of the next year, starting in 11 of the 12 games he played. Saint Louis decided to play him at both middle and outside linebacker that year, and he had 7.5 sacks and three interceptions.

He continued playing both linebacker spots the next season, and was named to his first Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro. He had a career best 9.5 sacks and intercepted a ball. He mostly played middle linebacker in 1985, and made his second and last Pro Bowl after getting two sacks and a career best five interceptions for 109 yards.

The Cardinals switched to a 3-4 defense in 1986, and he was put in at left inside linebacker. He did not record a sack or interception for the first time in his career, and missed three games because of injury.

Saint Louis then switched back to the 4-3 defense the next year, and Junior was put in as the strong side outside linebacker. He had two sacks and an interception. The Cardinals then moved to Phoenix after that year.

His first and only season in Phoenix was also the last time he would start all 16 games in his career. He picked off the last ball of his career, and took a fumble 36 yards for the only touchdown of his career. He then signed with the Miami Dolphins as a free agent before the 1989 season.

Starting in 12 of the 16 games he played that year, Junior had six sacks. He then had five the next year as a reserve used as a pass rush specialist. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1992, but was released after two games. The Seattle Seahawks picked him up, and he played five games. After appearing in four games with Seattle in 1993, he retired.

Junior is the only linebacker in Cardinals history to be named First Team All-Pro, and his two Pro Bowls is tied with Leo Sanford and Bill Koman as the most ever by an outside linebacker in team history.

He was versatile, and a tackling machine. Tackling statistics were not kept in his era, but he was seen in most piles when the Cardinals tackled opponents. He still ranks 12th on the teams sacks list, and his 12 interceptions are the second most by any linebacker in Cardinals history.

A team history that has had no linebacker better than E.J. Junior.

Middle Linebacker : Dale Meinert

Meinert was drafted in the eighth round of the 1955 draft by the Baltimore Colts, but had to serve his country during the Korean War instead of play football.

He joined the Chicago Cardinals in 1958, and was put in as an offensive guard. He started there for two straight years, then was moved to middle linebacker just before the 1960 season started.

The move was a good one for both Meinert and the Cardinals. He had a career best three interceptions in his first year at the position, then had two the following year. His 1962 season saw him hurt after five games, causing him to miss the only nine games of his career.

He rebounded strong the next year, and was named to his first Pro Bowl. He then had the only touchdown of his career the next year off of two interceptions. He then returned to the Pro Bowl after the 1965 season.

In 1967, Meinert made the Pro Bowl in his last season. He also picked off his last pass. He decided to retire having played 125 games.He played 113 on defense, which was the second most at the time and still ranks as the 13th most ever in team history.

His three Pro Bowls are the most by any linebacker in franchise history. It is safe to say Dale Meinert is the greatest middle linebacker in Cardinals history.

Vince Banonis, who has the most interceptions by a linebacker in franchise history, Eric Hill, and Ronald McKinnon all deserve mention.

Outside Linebacker : Bill Koman

Koman was drafted in the eighth round of the 1956 draft by the Baltimore Colts. He played 11 games as a reserve in his rookie year, the joined the Philadelphia Eagles the next year and started in all 23 games he played over two years. After intercepting the first pass of his career the next season, he joined the Chicago Cardinals in 1959.

He started every game he played, but missed one due to injury. It would be the last game he missed in his entire career, as he would start the next 120 games.

The Cardinals moved to Saint Louis in 1960, and Koman became known as one of the toughest linebackers in the league. He was named to the Pro Bowl in both the 1962 and 1964 seasons. He also won the Old Pro Award from the St Louis Quarterback Club in 1965.

Koman retired after the 1967 having played a then team record 121 games on defense, which still ranks 11th best. His two Pro Bowls is tied with E.J. Junior and Leo Sanford as the most by any outside linebacker in team history. His 16 fumble recoveries with the Cardinals is the second most by any defensive player in team history.

Leo Sanford, Larry Stallings, Mark Arneson, Seth Joyner, Fred Wallner, and Ken Harvey all deserve mentioning.

Strong Safety : Tim McDonald

McDonald was drafted in the second round of the 1987 draft by the Saint Louis Cardinals. The city of Saint Louis did not get much of a chance to know him, because he played in just three games in his rookie year. The team then moved to Phoenix before 1990.

He earned a starting job the next year and had two interceptions, two sacks, 115 tackles, and a career best four forced fumbles. He quickly established himself as one of the hardest hitting safeties in the NFC.

His best season as a pro was in 1989. He had a whopping 155 tackles, and seven interceptions for 170 yards. All are career best marks, as was his 53 yard return for a touchdown off an interception. He was named to the Pro Bowl, but was snubbed as First Team All-Pro in favor of the Cincinnati Bengals David Fulcher.

His 1990 season was also solid. He had 114 tackles and four interceptions, but was not selected to the Pro Bowl. He then began a string of Pro Bowl appearances the next season that lasted five years.

Two of those years were with the Cardinals. He had 203 tackles, seven interceptions, and half of a sack over that time. He then joined the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent for the 1993 season.

He became an important member of the Niners defense, helping them win Super Bowl XXIX after the 1994 season. That season saw him score a touchdown off both an interception and fumble recovery return.

In the six years he played with the Cardinals, he had 20 interceptions, 594 tackles and a touchdown. His seven years in San Francisco saw him get 20 interceptions, 534 tackles, and four touchdowns. He was a model of special consistency.

He still has the third most tackles, and 11th most interceptions in Cardinals history. His three Pro Bowls is tied with legendary Cardinal Jerry Stovall as the most by any strong safety in team history.

This was one of the harder positions to pick on the team, because the Cardinals are loaded with talent at this position. Adrian Wilson should also be in the mix after he retires. I almost chose Stovall or Marshall Goldberg, another Cardinals legend, but decided on McDonald because of the excellent stretch of years he had before he moved on.

Marshall Goldberg, Bill Svoboda, Lee Nelson, Pat Tillman, and Jerry Stovall all deserve mention.

Free Safety : Ray Ramsey

Ramsey was a drafted in the tenth round of the 1947 draft by the Chicago Cardinals. He was also a basketball and track star in college at Bradley University, in spite of having to serve in the Armed Forces for four years because of World War II. He was an All-American at all three sports, and set records that included beating the world record holder in the 120-yard hurdles.

He decided to join the Chicago Rockets of the All-American Football Conference in 1947, where he was used in several positions. He led the league with an average of 21.9 yards per reception. He had 35 catches for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. All were career high marks, as was his 80 yard reception for a touchdown.

He also carried the ball 70 times for 433 yards and two scores, as well as returning 16 kickoffs for 406 yards and 11 punt returns for 131 yards. His 1,738 combined yards that year was his career best, and he found time to intercept five passes.

Ramsey then decided to play pro basketball after the season with the Tri-Cities Blackhawks in the National Basketball League, who are now known as the Atlanta Hawks.

He tried to play two sports again in 1948, this time with the Baltimore Bullets of the Basketball Association of America and the football Brooklyn Dodgers of the AAFC. The strain of playing two sports began to take its toll, yet Ramsey was able to intercept seven passes, take a punt 70 yards for a score, and catch 13 balls for 315 yards and two touchdowns.

Now just playing football, he joined the Chicago Hornets of the AAFC that was coached by Hall Of Famer Ray Flaherty. He caught 17 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns, picked off two passes, and lead the league with a kickoff return average of 29.1 yards.

He then decided to finally join the Cardinals in 1950, playing just six games. He was still able to recover four fumbles and get an interception in that short time. He was primarily used as a safety with them in his career, but he did catch 23 passes for them in the four years he played.

The next two years saw him miss five games from injuries, but he was able to intercept five passes in each year. His best season for them was his last as a player in 1953. Ramsey intercepted 10 balls, which was tied for third in the league that year and ranks as 28th best in NFL history. Hall Of Famer Dick "Night Train" Lane, who joined the Cardinals the next year, holds the record with 14 in one season.

Ramsey gained 237 yards off his interceptions, and this still stands as a team record for the most single season return yards in franchise history. It was one yard behind league leader Jack Christiansen, a Hall Of Famer, and is the 27th most in NFL history. He also scored the last touchdown of his career off a 46 yard return.

He still ranks ninth in Cardinals history for career interceptions, and eighth in interception return yards. His ten interceptions in 1953 is tied with Lane, Pat Fischer, and Larry Wilson as the third most in a season in team history.

The Cardinals have had quite a few great free safeties in their history, starting with Hall Of Famer Larry Wilson. I picked Ray Ramsey because of the tremendous impact he had over a short time, even though he lost four years of his career because of WWII.

Jerry Norton, Lindon Crow, Jerry Davis, Ken Stone, Red Cochran, Don Paul, and Kwamie Lassiter all certainly deserve praise as well.

Cornerback : Aeneas Williams

Williams was drafted in the third round of the 1991 draft by the Phoenix Cardinals. He started by the second game of his rookie year, and picked off six passes. He scored a touchdown off both an interception and fumble recovery in 1993, and was widely respected as a top flight defender.

He made his first Pro Bowl in 1994 after grabbing a career high 9 interceptions, which led the league. He would make the Pro Bowl in each of the next five seasons as well. He was named First Team All-Pro in both 1995 and 1997.

Though he didn't make the Pro Bowl in 2000, he still had five interceptions for 102 yards. He also returned a fumble 104 yards for a touchdown, which tied an NFL record. The Cardinals then traded him to the Saint Louis Rams for a couple of draft picks.

He was an immediate star for a Rams team. mostly known for its explosive offense, that had won the Super Bowl in 1999. He scored two touchdowns off of four interceptions, which led the NFL. He was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl.

He then intercepted two passes against the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the playoffs, and took them both in for touchdowns in the Rams win. Saint Louis then beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship, where Williams intercepted a pass late in the game to secure the victory. Though the Rams lost in Super Bowl XXXVI, many feel the Rams wouldn't have made it that far without Williams' play.

He was injured after six games the next year, and missed the rest of the season. The Rams then moved him to free safety in the 2003 season. He didn't miss a beat, and ended up being named to his final Pro Bowl after getting four interceptions, a sack, and four fumble recoveries. He took one interception and fumble in for the last touchdowns of his career.

He was able to play 13 games in 2004, but started in just ten. It was the first time since his rookie year he failed to start in every game he played, and the only season he failed to create a turnover. He decided to retire after the season ended.

His 268 yards off of fumble recoveries is an NFL record. His 13 non-offensive touchdowns is the third most in NFL history, and is his nine touchdowns off of interceptions and three scores off of fumble recoveries.

Williams six touchdowns off of interceptions with the cardinals in the most in team history, and his two touchdowns off of fumbles ranks as the second most.

He had 46 of his 55 career interceptions came with the Cardinals, which is the second most in franchise history. His 653 yards off of interceptions with the team also ranks second most, and his 14 of 23 career fumble recoveries with the team ranks as the fourth most.

He is a member of the Cardinals Ring of Honor, and joins Marshall Goldberg and Pat Tillman as the only people in the franchises ring who are not yet inducted into Canton.

He is also a member of the NFL's 1990's All-Decade Team.

Aeneas Williams was not only a lock down defender with ball hawking ability, but he also was an extremely hard hitter. Most fans recall him ending Hall Of Fame quarterback Steve Young's career with a hard, clean hit off of a blitz in the 1999 season.

He is probably the greatest cornerback in Cardinals history, and should find his way into Canton one day soon enshrined into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

Cornerback : Pat Fischer

Fischer was a 17th round draft choice of the Saint Louis Cardinals in 1961. He was used primarily as a kick returner in his rookie year, because the Cardinals had cornerbacks Jimmy Hill and Bill Stacy both made the Pro Bowl that year. Fischer had a career high 17 kickoff returns for a 25.1 yard per return average, returned four punts, and even caught a 22 yard pass.

Fischer remained a backup the next year, but was able to intercept three passes. His played forced the Cardinals to start him and to Stacy. He rewarded Saint Louis for the move by intercepting eight passes for a career best 169 yards in 1963.

Perhaps the best season of his career was in 1964. He had a career high ten interceptions which gained 164 yards. He also led the NFL with a career best two touchdowns off interceptions, and returned a fumble 49 yards for another score. He was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl.

He made the Pro Bowl again the next year after three more interceptions, and would stay with the team until 1967. That year saw him score a touchdown on a career long 69 yard interception return. Besides four interceptions, he tied his career high mark of three fumble recoveries. He became a free agent, then signed with the Washington Redskins.

He made his last Pro Bowl team in 1969, and was named First Team All-Pro. He was the Washington's shut down cornerback on the 1972 Super Bowl team. NFL Films also listed him as the Redskins All-Time Neutralizer. He retired after the 1977 season.

Fischer is still all over the Cardinals record books. He ranks fifth in career interceptions with 29, fifth in interception return yardage with 529, third in interceptions returned for touchdowns with three, third in consecutive games with an interception by accumulating five, and ninth longest for the longest interception return for a touchdown.

The two interceptions he returned for touchdowns in 1964 ranks second in Cardinal history, and he also ranks third for most interceptions in a season.

He also ranks seventh overall in Redskin history with 27 interceptions, and four in interception return yardage with 412. When he retired, Fischer had played in a then-NFL record for games played by a cornerback with 213.

Though he stood at 5'9" 170, there has been few cornerbacks as fearless, tough, or productive as Pat Fischer.

Jimmy Hill, Norm Thompson, Cedric Mack, Robert Massey, Carl Allen, Lionel Washington, and Bill Stacy deserve mention.

Kicker : Jim Bakken

Bakken was drafted in the seventh round of the 1962 draft by the Los Angeles Rams, but the Rams decided to let Danny Villanueva handle both the punting and kicking duties.

The Cardinals picked him up for eight games that year, having him kickoff for veteran placekicker Gerry Perry. Perry retired after that season, thus giving the job to Bakken.

He led the NFL in field goal attempts and conversions in 1964, scoring 115 points, and made his first Pro Bowl in 1965 by leading the NFL in field goal percentage that year. He even punted the ball 26 times at a career best 42.2 yards per attempt average, and also ran the ball the only time in his career for 28 yards.

Bakken punted the ball a career high 29 times the next season, yet would only have to punt ten more times the rest of his career. He also missed his first extra point attempt in 145 career attempts that season.

He returned to the Pro Bowl in 1967, scoring a career best 117 points, and led the NFL in field goal percentage and 27 field goals made. He made seven field goals in one game, which stood as an NFL record until 2007.

Bakken continued on being a steady and reliable force for the Cardinals. He had 100 points in 1973, making it the third and final time in his career that he would eclipse the century mark.

He would be named to the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro in both 1975 and 1976, as the Cardinals won 21 games over that time. He then retired after the 1978 season.

No kicker in Cardinals history has attempted or made more extra points and field goals than Bakken, nor has any played in more games or more seasons. None have been named First Team All-Pro or to the Pro Bowl more than him.

His 1,380 points almost doubles Neil Rackers, who ranks second in points scored in franchise history.

Jim Bakken is a member of both the NFL's 1960's and 1970's All-Decade Team, and he is easily the greatest kicker in Cardinals history.

Pat Harder, Eddie Anderson, and Bobby Joe Conrad deserve mention.

Punter : Rich Camarillo

Camarillo was signed as an undrafted free agent rookie by the New England Patriots for the 1981 season. Though he led the league with a 75 yards punt that year, his first career game saw one of his punts returned for a touchdown.

He played seven years with the Patriots. He once punted the ball eleven times in a game during the 1984 season, which is tied as the most in Patriots history for a single game. His 479 yards yards punted that day is a Patriots record.

He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 1983, and had a league leading three punts blocked in 1985. In the Patriots 46-10 loss to the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX, he punted the ball six times. One went for a then-Super Bowl record 62 yards that pinned the Bears to their own four yard line. Chicago responded with a Super Bowl record 96 yard touchdown drive.

He led the NFL with a 75 yard punt in 1985, as well as leading the NFL with 3,953 yards punted.

His 468 punts for 19,922 yards are easily the most in Patriots history, and he is a member of the franchises 1980's All-Decade Team, 35th Anniversary Team, and 50th Anniversary Team.

He joined the 1988 Los Angeles Rams to replace an injured Dale Hatcher, lasting nine games. He then joined the Phoenix Cardinals in 1989, and enjoyed his greatest years as a player.

He returned to the Pro Bowl in his first year, leading the league with a 43.4 yards per punt average. He would then make the Pro Bowl for three straight years from 1991 to 1993, which included his being named First Team All-Pro for the only time of his career in the 1992 season. He averaged a career high 45.3 yards per attempt in 1991. He also attempted the only extra point of his career in 1992, but missed.

Camarillo joined the Houston Oilers in 1994, and led the NFL with a career best 4,115 yards on a career high 96 punts. He left the Oilers after the 1995 season, and joined the Oakland Raiders for one game in 1996. After accumulating no statistics in that game, he retired.

His career average of 44.5 yards per punt in the playoffs is still an NFL record, and his 279 punts inside the 20 yard line was a record when he retired. His five Pro Bowl games is the second most by any punter in NFL history. His 39.6 net average in 1991 is the best ever.

His four Pro Bowls with the Cardinals is far and away the most by any punter in the franchises history. He ranks second in punting yards and third in punts in Cardinals history.

Jerry Norton, Scott Player, Eddie Anderson, and Carl Birdsong all deserve mention.

Kick Returner : Terry Metcalf

Metcalf was the Saint Louis Cardinals third round draft pick in 1973, and he instantly became a big part of their offense. He gained 133 yards on 16 carries in his first game ever, and ended up with 628 rushing yards and 37 receptions for the year. He was asked to return just four kickoffs that season.

He exploded on the NFL the next year by averaging a league leading and career best 31.2 yards on 20 kickoff returns. One return went for a career long 94 yards, which resulted in a touchdown. He also averaged a career high 13.1 yards on 26 punt returns, thus becoming the first player in NFL history to average over 30 yards per kick return and 10 yards per punt return in a season. It has only been done one other time, by Joshua Cribbs in 2007 for the Cleveland Browns.

Metcalf also ran for 718 yards and scored seven more times. One came off a career long 75 yard jaunt to the end zone, which led the league. His career best 50 receptions that year were the ninth most in the NFL, and he was named to his first Pro Bowl for his efforts.

The 1975 season was arguably his best. He had a career high 2,439 all-purpose yards, which was an NFL record at the time. It stood until 1985, when Lionel James of the San Diego Chargers passed it. It took James 16 games to break the record that Metcalf set in the 14 game season of 1975, and no other player has surpassed either total since.

Metcalf had a career high 816 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns. He also caught 43 balls, and took a punt 69 yards for the only punt return score of his career. He also had career best marks of 960 yards on 35 kickoff returns, a 27.4 average, while taking one 93 yards for a score. He also tossed a 51 yard touchdown pass, and was named to the Pro Bowl again.

His 1976 season was one bereft with injury, and he played in 12 games. He returned 17 punts and 16 kickoffs, while churning out 537 rushing yards, catching 33 passes, and scoring seven times.

The 1977 season was his last as a Cardinal and as a Pro Bowl player. He ran for 739 yards, caught 34 passes, returned 34 kickoffs and 14 punts, while scoring six times. He also had career high totals of five passing attempts and three completions. One went for a touchdown, while another was intercepted. He wanted a pay raise, but Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell is well known for being stingy with salary increases. Metcalf then bolted up north to the Canadian Football League.

While playing for the Toronto Argonauts for three years, he gained 1,900 yards rushing and caught 137 passes total and was named a division All-Star once. He then returned to the NFL in 1981 to play for the Washington Redskins because head coach Joe Gibbs served as his backfields coach with the Saint Louis his entire Cardinals career.

He played just one year in Washington, and caught 48 balls for a career best 12.4 yards per catch. He also returned 14 kickoffs. It was the only season of his career where he failed to score a touchdown. He then retired.

Metcalf ranks fourth in Cardinals history in kickoff return yards, fifth in kickoff returns, third in punt return yards, fourth in punt returns, seventh in rushing yards, ninth in rushing attempts, and twentieth in receptions.

His three Pro Bowl games are the second most by any halfback in Cardinals history.

If he had one flaw, it was the habit of carrying the ball loosely. He led the NFL in fumbles twice and has 62 in the 81 games he played in his career.

There have been few players more exciting or have shown as much excellent versatility in Cardinals history than Terry Metcalf. His son Eric Metcalf carried on the family legacy by being an exciting, versatile running back, wide receiver, and record setting return specialist in the NFL from 1989 to 2002. They are perhaps the greatest father/ son tandem in NFL history.

Stump Mitchell, Marshall Goldberg, Roy Green, Les Goble, and MarTay Jenkins all deserve mention.

Punt Returner : Vai Sikahema

Sikahema was drafted in the tenth round of the 1986 draft by the Saint Louis Cardinals. He was immediately put in as the Cardinals main return specialist, and he excelled.

His rookie year saw him make the Pro Bowl after leading the league with 522 punt return yards and two touchdowns off of his 43 attempts. He also averaged a career best 22.9 yards on 37 kickoff returns, and caught a touchdown on 10 receptions. His 14.4 yards per touch also led the league, and is the 85th best average in NFL history.

The 1987 season is known as the year players went on strike and teams found replacement players for three of the 15 games scheduled. Sikahema, on the other hand, chose to cross the picket lines and play the entire season. He was named First Team All-Pro and made his last Pro Bowl appearance.

He led the NFL with career best totals of 44 punt returns for 550 yards, and took one punt 76 yards for a touchdown. It was also the last time he was heavily used on offense. He set career high marks with 38 carries for 148 yards, and caught 23 passes for 247 yards.

He spent his next three years as a member of the Phoenix version of the Cardinals after the team left Saint Louis. His 1989 season saw him accumulate a career high 1,697 all-purpose yards and attempt a pass. He left the team as a free agent after 1990 to join the Green Bay Packers.

After playing one season in Green Bay, he joined the Philadelphia Eagles. Lasting two years there, he averaged a career best 12.6 yards on 40 punt returns. He also scored the last touchdown of his career off a career long 87 yards. He is remembered by Eagles fans for punching the goalpost repeatedly after scoring. He retired after the 1993 season.

Sikahema has the most punt returns and punt return yards in the history of the Cardinals. His three punt return touchdowns is tied with Hall Of Famer Ollie Matson as the most ever in team history. He also has the second most kickoff returns and third most kickoff return yards in team history.

The Cardinals have had a long line of spectacular punt return specialists in their history, and Vai Sikahema is probably the best they ever had.

Johnny Bailey, Bill Stacy, Red Cochran, Jerry Davis, Bobby Joe Conrad, and Johnny Roland all deserve mention.


LEV said...

great list, very well done

Anonymous said...

Great work Stone ... plus a monumental effort. Sadly, I can recall a lot of them.

I had to jump down to make sure you selected Bakken. Even thought the Cards has a long history, wow ... lotsa bad teams too.

Amazing that the Bidwells have owned the team that long!