The timing made all kinds of sense for the Cardinals to put Kurt Warner in the Ring of Honor this season. There is a high-profile “Monday Night Football” game in which to do the ceremony (if you have forgotten, Aeneas Williams also went in at halftime of an MNF game) and this is the first year Warner is eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame — which would happen in downtown Phoenix the day before the Super Bowl here in Arizona, if it were to happen. In a lot of ways Warner was a supernova in Arizona considering he played just five seasons (and barely played in one of those, 2006, when Matt Leinart was trying to make his way in the league.) It was an incredible run though (as this timeline and this top 10 list of his best games says more tangibly.)
So who is next?
We already know Adrian Wilson will get there. Michael Bidwill has already said as much. First, though, Wilson has to retire, and he’s not ready to do that quite yet as he hopes to find a job somewhere in 2014. At some point, you figure Larry Fitzgerald is a lock, regardless of what happens in the future. Obviously the hope is that Fitzgerald plays out his career in Arizona, but the NFL is a business and Fitz staying is anything but a guarantee. Certainly, he’s done enough on and even off the field that he’ll be Ring-bound some day.
Beyond that, though, I don’t see any sure bets. It’s way too early to think about Patrick Peterson. Does Darnell Dockett warrant a discussion? Could Calais Campbell some day be worth it? I think Anquan Boldin was headed in that direction, but the way his tenure (and his last two seasons) ended in Arizona I’d call that a very long shot, which is too bad. He was a part of the renaissance of this franchise. I don’t know if some of the other guys from the 1998 team — a Larry Centers, a Jake Plummer — would fit.
Again, with Bidwill noting that 11 of the 13 previous Ring members before Warner are in the Hall of Fame, that means something. They are, Bidwill said, “the best of the best” and that’s a lofty ideal. The franchise has been around since 1898, and only 14 guys have gone in. It’s not an easy honor to obtain. It is a fun subject to debate.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Aeneas Williams, Darnell Dockett, Jake Plummer, Kurt Warner, Larry Centers, Matt Leinart, Michael Bidwill, Ring of Honor
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Memorial Day will forever be linked with the Cardinals because of Pat Tillman. There are fewer higher-profile losses of life in the military than Tillman. Today is about all the thousands that have lost their life serving this country, regardless of how it happened. (I did not know, admittedly, that Memorial Day began originally to honor those who were killed during the Civil War.) Those who choose to join the military in any realm deserve our praise, and to make the ultimate sacrifice deserves our attention and everlasting thanks.
Still, this being a Cardinals site, Tillman is at the forefront. Former Cardinals wide receiver Rob Moore — now the receivers coach for the Buffalo Bills — tells of his relationship with Tillman to the Bills website. It’s a good read.
I also got a chance to catch up with Jake Plummer recently — there will be a story posted on the homepage later today — and asked him about Tillman, his longtime teammate with both the Cardinals and at Arizona State.
“It was awesome to be a teammate with Pat, from ASU through the Cardinal days,” Plummer said. “He brought a lot of passion to everything. Not just playing but the locker room, the training room, and to your friendship. He was all about passion and living life and challenging yourself. He was a lot like myself. I never went half-assed out there because I wasn’t good enough to be lackadaisical. I had to go 100 percent, whether it was practice, conditioning, whatever. Pat was like that too and it was fun to be with a guy the same kind of make and mold, effort-wise, with tenacity and courage.
“I’m sad he’s gone, just because I wanted to see what he had planned next. The guy was constantly moving forward.”
Tags: Jake Plummer, Memorial Day, Pat Tillman, Rob Moore
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Jake Plummer, NFL
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The struggles to get Larry Fitzgerald the ball and for Patrick Peterson to break loose — not to mention the Cards’ struggle to win a game — seem to be reflected in the latest Pro Bowl balloting. Both Fitz and Peterson were among the top five in their positions the last time voting was noted. This time around, both have dropped out of the top five in the NFC at their respective positions. Only linebacker Daryl Washington remains on the list, at third for inside linebackers behind the 49ers’ Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Voting continues right here, and is ongoing through Dec. 17.
– For those wondering about former Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer now, here’s an interesting story from the New York Times. Jake wanted to escape the NFL limelight when he left the game. Now, apparently, he wants back in.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Daryl Washington, Jake Plummer, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowl voting
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Now that the NFL deadline has passed for teams to use the franchise tag, the list was a lengthy one, which was what everyone was predicting.
A total of 21 players got the tag this year, although that number has already been reduced by one because Colts defensive end Robert Mathis got the tag today and then soon after, agreed to a new contract. That of course is supposed to be the point of the franchise tag in the first place, buying teams time to work out a long-term contract. That’s what the Cards are trying to do with defensive end Calais Campbell. What teams are not supposed to do is tag a guy just so they can trade him. That’s not a rule, but it’s the spirit of the rule. It’s one of the reasons the Packers really didn’t want to tag backup QB Matt Flynn; it’s one of the reasons the Cards didn’t tag either Jake Plummer or David Boston back in 2002 (although part of the reason with Boston too was they didn’t want him getting his guaranteed tender when he was, for lack of a better phrase, unable to be counted upon. That turned out to be pretty smart on their part.)
Although the specific franchise dollar amounts aren’t known yet, they are lower than years past because of the CBA’s new way of figuring them, which helps in the increased use. There are also more free agents, after so many guys either signed one-year deals or didn’t get extensions last offseason because of the labor problems.
Other than Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, for whom Philly would reportedly would listen to trade offers, the rest of the guys on the list are expected to work toward long-term deals with current clubs, like Campbell. There are actually six kickers/punters that were tagged, amazingly. Certainly those aren’t trade candidates. The question will be how many of these tagged men can get a new deal done before Tuesday, when free agency starts and when the tag contract number begins taking a chunk out of salary cap space (Teams have to be compliant with the salary cap when free agency starts, 2 p.m. Arizona time.)
Tags: Calais Campbell, David Boston, DeSean Jackson, franchise tag, Jake Plummer, Robert Mathis
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Let’s start with this disclaimer: The Cardinals need to play better defense. Everyone knows that, acknowledged that. “We let them get some first downs, move the ball on us,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Cam Newton played a great game. He’s a lot better quarterback than a lot of people thought, I’m sure. But we found a way to get it done at the end.”
But — and there is always a but, right? — a bit of perspective on Cam Newton’s 422 yards passing, best pointed out by Campbell again. “We still got the ‘W’ and that’s what it is about,” he said.
On my drive home last night I started mulling the 400-yard passing games I have seen over the years. It’s a fantastic number. And frankly, it usually means a loss. Ask Drew Brees, who was great last Thursday night and piled up 419 yards passing with no interceptions and still lost to Green Bay. The rookie record for passing yards in a game, prior to Matthew Stafford’s 422 in 2009 (tied yesterday by Newton) was the Cardinals’ own Matt Leinart, who threw for 405 in Minnesota in 2006. The Cards lost that game, 31-26 (Stafford did win his game, however, 38-37 over Cleveland, with five TD passes).
Kurt Warner had a pair of monster passing yardage days as a Card. He threw for 484 yards at home against the 49ers in 2007, and for 472 in New York against the Jets in 2007. The Cards lost the former in overtime, 37-31, and the latter was also a loss, 56-35. In fact, while Boomer Esiason’s team record 522-yard passing day in Washington in 1996 was an overtime win, the next five top passing games in franchise history (Warner’s two games, Neil Lomax at 468 yards, Jake Plummer at 465 yards and Lomax again at 457) were all losses.
Steve Beuerlein, who threw for 431 yards in Seattle in 1993, did win in overtime.
Newton’s certainly didn’t pile up numbers chasing a big deficit, which is impressive. But the Cards didn’t allow the Panthers to run well — 74 yards, a 2.7-yard average — which is the flip side of the big passing day. The point, again, is that gaudy numbers are always nice. But they are hollow without the right outcome. And in the Cards’ case, they don’t sting nearly as much with the right outcome.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Jake Plummer, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Neil Lomax, Panthers, Steve Beuerlein
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
When all that noise cropped up around the Cardinals in January of 2009 – the stuff about that team being the worst in playoff history, etc., etc., — I remember thinking, “This team is better than the last Cardinal playoff team.”
Turned out both squads ended up shocking the world. Back in 1998, it might have been an even bigger deal.
The Cards barely squeezed into the playoffs as a wild card (remember, the 2008 Cards clinched the division relatively early). Their first playoff game in years would come in Dallas, against the NFC East rival Cowboys – a team that had beaten the Cards 16 of the previous 17 meetings and who had crushed the Cards, 38-10, in Dallas to open the 1998 season. Forget Cris Collinsworth. The general feeling of the Cards was as a team lucky to be in the playoffs, and probable to fall to the Cowboys – a once-great team that was very ordinary by this time.
The numbers added fuel to the critics’ fire, especially the weakness of the Cards’ schedule (Arizona’s opponents had a .395 winning percentage). On the other side, there was a young team with so much future potential, like rookie defensive end Andre Wadsworth, who at that point was improving after his crazy debut in Dallas earlier in the year (Oh, what could have been). Jake Plummer was the quarterback who was definitely a winner. Cornerback Aeneas Williams was a Pro Bowler who was one of the few in the NFL who had proven he could handle star Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin.
The Cards, at that point, hadn’t won a playoff game since 1947 – the year they won the NFL championship. “My Dad wasn’t even born yet,” guard Chris Dishman said. They had history against them, and a still-potent Emmitt Smith (if you would have suggested then that Smith would eventually be a Cardinal …), but the Cards had played the Cowboys close at Sun Devil Stadium late in the year.
Foreshadowing? Not really. Not after the Cowboys scored 38 and 35 on the Cards in the two regular-season games, only to be shut down for seven points in the playoff game. The Cardinals stunned the Cowboys in a 20-7 win, and that Dallas touchdown came late, with the game all but decided. The cornerback tandem of Corey Chavous and Williams had three interceptions, and safety Tommy Bennett added one in the final seconds for emphasis. Wide receiver Frank Sanders hauled in a 59-yard Plummer pass to set up a score and running back Adrian Murrell broke off a 74-yard run to set up another.
That was all the Cards really needed, the way the defense performed. Slaying the Cowboys was about the present but it was also about unloading on the pre-game disrespect. It was about a fan base starving for success.
It was also short-lived.
The Cards turned their attention to the powerful Vikings for the following week, but that didn’t end well. In the offseason, the Cards lost key players like Larry Centers, Lomas Brown and Jamir Miller and never did battle again for a playoff spot until the magical season a decade later –with the 2008 team that supposedly had too many warts itself. That ride lasted a lot longer.
But for those moments in 1998, when it seemed like the Cards were never going to have any success, the Dallas domination was something to savor.
Tags: Adrian Murrell, Aeneas Williams, Andre Wadsworth, Chris Dishman, Corey Chavous, Cowboys, Cris Collinsworth, Emmitt Smith, Frank Sanders, Jake Plummer, Jamir Miller, Larry Centers, Lomas Brown, Michael Irvin, playoffs, Revisionist history, Tommy Bennett, Vikings
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Our own Jim Omohundro will be putting together a series of web videos starting today that highlight the Cards’ 2011 schedule by looking back at a few of the highlights from games against that team in recent years past. For instance, Jim’s first piece is about the Cards and Panthers, who will visit University of Phoenix Stadium Sept. 11 to open the 2011 season (and yes, I am staying optimistic it happens). On the video are looking at three Panthers’ games of the past — wins in Carolina in 2001 and 2002 (Jake Plummer! Pat Tillman! Freddie Jones!) along with the game no one will forget, the playoff road trip against Carolina after the 2008 season. That game, of course, brings up one of the best quotes ever — Panthers coach John Fox about QB Jake Delhomme, after the Cards forced Delhomme into six turnovers. “He picked a bad day to have a bad day.”
Tags: Freddie Jones, Jake Delhomme, Jake Plummer, John Fox, Panthers, Pat Tillman, schedule
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
“And so it ends, not with a bang, but without a kicker.”
Whenever I think back to the infamous Bill Gramatica-blows-out-his-knee game, that’s the line I remember – the lead to the column of my co-worker at the time, Scott Bordow. The play itself – which came after Gramatica booted a 42-yard field goal and then celebrated in the first quarter in New York against the Giants – has become a punchline. It’s funny though, because I remember that game for so many reasons, and Gramatica was just one.
It was 2001, after all, and a Saturday game. The night before, just about three months after the 9/11 attacks, four of us – myself and Scott, and the Republic’s Pedro Gomez and Kent Somers – went to Ground Zero after a late dinner. It was jacket weather but remarkably warm for December, and I just remember the eerie glow of the artificial lights as workers (still going around the clock) cleared debris while a small part of one of the towers remained sticking in the air. Some windows on the surrounding buildings that stayed erect were still broken.
Then came the game the next day, when the 5-7 Cards were still breathing for a playoff spot and dominated the game – only to find themselves unable to score enough to win. That wasn’t helped by the early injury to Gramatica.
He wasn’t out for the game. That’s a false memory many have. He even somehow booted a 23-yard field goal after the injury. But he tried to kick off (pictured) and couldn’t, leading to another memory – Pat Tillman as emergency kickoff man (I tried to find video. Promise. Couldn’t.) and Tillman admitted he was “stoked” to get a chance to kick. (He wasn’t very good at it though. I’ll take Tim Hightower every time.)
The Cards got a miracle fourth-and-forever touchdown pass from Jake Plummer to tight end Tywan Mitchell to take the lead (After Mitchell made his improbable catch, TV reporter Lesley Visser, who was to do postgame, leaned over the very high row above us writers in the press box and yelled, “Who was that?” She had no idea who Mitchell was. Few did). But the Giants drove down and scored with 25 seconds left for a heartbreaking loss.
Afterward, the specter of the Gramatica injury hovered over everything.
Bill was not happy with the way the whole thing was covered. He and brother Martin had always taken grief about the way they jumped for joy over every single kick, so it was natural they got jabbed for it when it turned into an injury. A couple days later, Gramatica came to talk to a couple of beat writers, but I always sensed he was pretty ticked at the media.
He seemed to get past it the following training camp, when he was remarkably back to kick. He had booted game-winners against Oakland and San Diego the year before prior to the injury, and the next year, he did the same against Dallas and Carolina when the Cards got out to a 3-2 start. Everybody got injured on the Cards that season, however, including Gramatica (his back this time) and his time in Arizona faded quickly – early in the 2003 season, he was gone. It ended, not with a bang, but without a kicker (who is most famously known for a celebration gone wrong).
Tags: Bill Gramatica, Giants, Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman, Revisionist history, Tywan Mitchell
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
Back in 1996, the Cards – again – were searching for a quarterback.
Vince Tobin had taken over for Buddy Ryan as coach, and the Cards cleaned house at the most important position. They signed Kent Graham, who had limited experience in his first three seasons with the New York Giants. And for their other option, they also plucked a New York QB – Jets castoff Boomer Esiason, who seemed to be on his last legs after a stellar career with the Bengals and Jets.
Indeed, Esiason didn’t show enough to stay on the field, losing the first three starts and his job to Graham. Graham played decently as a starter but then hurt his knee. Esiason was back in the lineup, and for a brief time, he recaptured some of his previous magic. None more than an early November game in Washington, when the Cards pulled off a 37-34 overtime win and Esiason threw for a stunning 522 yards – one of the most prolific efforts in NFL history. (It was and still is the third-most in NFL annals, behind the 554 the Rams’ Norm Van Brocklin piled up in a 1951 game and the 527 Warren Moon had for the Oilers in a 1990 game.)
Esiason talked about how his time on the bench was important to the Cards and how brutally his Cards’ career had started. Given that Graham was still going to be out for the time being with his injury, Esiason could ride the wave of good feelings. Beating the Giants and then the Eagles the next two weeks didn’t hurt, especially since those performances (in which Boomer passed for another 627 yards, 5 TDs, one interception and a passer rating of 107) got the Cards to a 6-6 record and into the playoff hunt.
Then, the Boomer era collapsed as quickly as it had re-started.
The Cards were blown out in Minnesota by a mediocre Vikings team and lost a close home game to Dallas and Esiason not playing great, but not horrible either. With the playoffs out of the picture and two games left, Tobin decided to let Graham get some more experience going into 1997, not altogether shocking on the surface – except Esiason took it personally, walking out on the team and saying he thought it was because he would have made extra money in incentives had he continued to play. That didn’t sit well with Tobin, who insisted he was making choices based on football only.
Esiason returned and played in the season finale against Philadelphia in relief of Graham, but his time in Arizona was over (his biggest incentive was $100,000 for 2,300 passing yards; Esiason fell seven yards short although he had a chance, completing just 12 of 26 passes versus the Eagles). By the next season, the Cards drafted Jake Plummer, and Esiason was gone.
Still, the 522-yard game remains atop the Cards’ record book, a number Kurt Warner couldn’t even really threaten.
Tags: Boomer Esiason, Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Jake Plummer, Kent Graham, Norm Van Brocklin, Redskins, Revisionist history, Vikings, Vince Tobin, Warren Moon
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