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Revisionist History: The end for Lomax

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2011 – 9:48 am

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

There is a fair argument to be made that the course of Cardinals’ history was changed on Nov. 13, 1988. That was the day the Cards beat the New York Giants, 24-17, at Sun Devil Stadium to run their record to 7-4 and reside in first place in the NFC East. It was also the day quarterback Neil Lomax’s career began to spiral to its ugly conclusion.

Some of the details about that season, and Lomax’s end, seem to have gotten cloudy over the years. The big picture was the most painful. Lomax never won another game as a quarterback. The Cards ended up losing their final five games of the season that year and didn’t make the playoffs. And Lomax’s bad left hip ultimately forced his premature retirement.

But it wasn’t as simple as Lomax getting hurt against the Giants and never playing again.

Lomax got hurt in that game against the Giants, but it was a twisted left knee that sent him to the sideline and not his hip. Lomax even threw a touchdown pass – 44 yards to Roy Green – after the play on which he thought he got hurt. At that point, Lomax had 19 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions and the Cards were cruising during their first season in Arizona.

Lomax did come back that season, however. He sat out losses at Houston and at Philadelphia while Cliff Stoudt struggled. He was brought back against a good Giants’ team in New York and was pummeled, completing just 9-of-25 passes for 103 yards and two interceptions in a crushing 44-7 loss. With playoff hopes slipping away, Lomax did OK against the Eagles (29-for-50, 384 yards, one TD, one INT) but the Cards lost at home, 23-17. Then he had a bumpy day against the lowly Packers (15-for-33, 172 yards) in a final loss.

Lomax never played in the regular-season again. He gave preseason work a try in 1989 and went through training camp (pictured below, with Gary Hogeboom to Lomax’s right). But he couldn’t move, and went on injured reserve at the end of training camp. By that point, Lomax was trying to hold out hope he could still play, but it was becoming clear he probably wouldn’t because of the hip. That was crystallized the following January, when Lomax finally retired at age 30. He made two Pro Bowls and could’ve made a third in 1988 had he not hurt his knee. He held most of the Cards’ passing records before Kurt Warner came along.

Hindsight shows Lomax’s hip problem was bad enough that his end was coming regardless, although the way it played out – and the way the Cards’ 1988 season finished up – made for more of a sad narrative.


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Posted in Blog | 18 Comments »


18 Responses to “Revisionist History: The end for Lomax”

  1. By jocards on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    I always liked Neil Lomax…The Gateway Gunner provided a lot of fireworks. There were a lot of lean years for this franchise between Lomax and Warner as far as QB play goes….I really hope we have not entered another stretch like that at present.

  2. By Greg on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    The Grand Cannon

  3. By darthcard on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    I wish I could’ve watched Lomax back then. Through giant fans and various nfl friends of mine I’ve heard great things about him. Thank you Darren I am one who was told differently about Neil lomax. I was told he was hit by LT and never played again due to a hip injury. Now I know.

  4. By Jim in Missouri on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    Great look back, Darren, and thanks for including the clips. And thanks for the clarification on how the injury went down. I coud have sworn he hurt the hip against the Giants and never played again. I guess that’s what 20+ years of fuzzy memories does to you.

    In the last clip, Lomax and the team officials were quoted as saying there was interest on both sides of him remaining involved with the organization. Do you know if he has stayed close to the team in any capacity, official or unofficial, since retirement?

    The one thing I was surprised about during the Super Bowl run was that there wasn’t a lot of looking back to Lomax and seeing what he had to think about Warner and the Cardinals finally making it that far. It always seemed to me that Lomax and Warner had a lot in common about the way they played the game.

  5. By cheesebeef on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    that was the first team that made me love sports… having been to World Series winning games with the D-Backs, huge Suns playoff wins and NFC Title games and a Super Bowl with the Cards, still to this day, I can recall the exact moment that I got completely and obsessively hooked on sports… the 23-0 comeback against the 49ers in 1988. That pass to Roy Green in the back of the end zone with just seconds left followed up the spontaneous MASS tossing of plastic Cardinals Cups from the entire upper deck at SDS had me, hook, line and sinker. So much joy and such a weird way to show it… I knew then, I was home.

  6. By MikeG on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    Hey Darren–Nice article on Lomax. I believe that Lomax was one of the most unsung QB’S in the 1980′s. He was the best to play that position before Warner arrived and it was a shame because of his hip he was cut down early. He and Roy Green had some good moments and I even have his jersey(one of my favorite Card’s players)–I remember 1984— he really had a great year—I think he threw for something like 4600 yards–which is something back then because they ran the ball more. Hey Darren–Where is he now?? I believe he was coaching high school ball!! Is that right??

  7. By drummer-1 on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    I’ve always been a big Lomax fan… the Lomax to Green connection.. Gotta love it..

  8. By Darren Urban on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    Jim in Missouri –

    RE: Keeping Lomax

    As far as I know, that never materialized.

  9. By Darren Urban on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    MikeG –

    RE: Lomax today

    The Republic caught up with him in January, coaching like you said.

    http://www.azcentral.com/sports/cardinals/articles/2011/01/25/20110125whats-up-niel-lomax.html

  10. By joek on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    Lomax was hired as an offensive coach at Roosevelt high in north Portland. he said he was in church and God told him to do something besides mow his lawn. A chance meeting with a fellow churchgoer offered him the job. Since that time he had to give up a lot of golf which he loves.

  11. By Ottis Anderson Fan on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    Another good revisionist article might be on former Card’s QB Timm Rosenbach from Washington State. He seemed to have all the physical skills and played well, but was sacked by injuries as well.

    I used to have a Neil Lomax jersey back in the 1980′s and wore it with pride, especially on Monday’s in high school after the Cards won the day before. Needless to say, the jersey didn’t see much daylight on Mondays.

  12. By Scott H on May 17, 2011 | Reply

    I remember that 1988 season well. Such a slow, painful death…and the beginning of 10 long years of NOTHING until the playoff appearance in 1998. Then, 10 more years of nothing….until 2008! Hmmm…anyone seeing a nasty trend here???

  13. By Jeff Gollin on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    Maybe I’m remembering differently, but didn’t Neil suffer a concussion the year prior to his knee injury?

    Concussions often have lingering effects which may last a year or longer – one symptom being a slowing of reflexes. It seemed to me (if my memory isn’t total fantasy) that Neil was always a half-second late from then on.

  14. By smack28 on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    Darren:

    I grew up just outside of St. Louis and Neil Lomax to Roy Green was one of my fondest childhood memories. My brothers and friends spent many hours glued to the tv and sometimes radio watching and listening to those games (home games were almost always radio broadcast only due to the blackout rules). It was a real treat to actually watch them play away games while the team resided in St. Louis. So many things were different then. Cable and satellite were not really viewing options, so many people in other TV markets did not get to see how amazing Lomax was as a QB. I sure wish there was a way to see some old footage of those bombs from Lomax to Green again.

    By the way, us fans that stayed with the Cardinals after their move, enjoyed that first year. It was nice to finally watch every game on TV! As you may know, St. Louis continued to air the Cardinals even after they moved to Phoenix. Those were strange NFL football times in St. Louis the first few years after the Cardinals left.

    Thank you for the walk down memory lane.

  15. By Cards59 on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    I was at the game at Giants Stadium with my 8 year old son in the top row. Lomax and the Cards were pummeled much to my dismay. LT had a monster game. My son and I left highly disappointed just like after we left the Stadium after SB 43! The 1964 team with Charley Johnson @ QB was the best Cardinal team I’ve ever seen.

  16. By Eric on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    If Neil Lomax stayed healthy and kept progressing, the Cards would have been the class of the NFC by 1990. The offense was one of the best in the NFL and the defense was only a couple of players away from being dominant. When you look at the Cards’ teams from the early 1990′s, the only missing piece was a top-notch starting QB; Lomax was the missing piece. Maybe the Cowboys would have played second fiddle to the Cards during the Aikman years. Unfortunately, Neil’s hip blew out and the rest is history.

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