Who will be the first Arizona Cardinal to make it into the Hall of Fame? That could be an interesting race.
Former cornerback Aeneas Williams is among the 17 finalists for induction this year, just as he was last year. Williams, drafted by the Cardinals in 1991, is the first homegrown Arizona Cardinal to have a chance at the Hall. He deserves to get there at some point. He made eight Pro Bowls in his career (a decade with the Cards, and then four seasons with the St. Louis Rams), seven as a cornerback. He made one after moving to safety with the Rams. He had 55 interceptions, nine that he returned for touchdowns. Cowboys Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin has often talked about how hard Williams made his life. He was one of the game’s all-time best, although his career was underplayed because the Cardinals were often bad during his playing days.
Williams may be in a waiting game. If he doesn’t get in this year — and it will be tough with the names there — when would it happen?
In the meantime, quarterback Kurt Warner waits for his chance for eligibility. Warner isn’t homegrown, not after successfully breaking in with the Rams. But there is little question that the only reason Warner’s career elevated to possible Hall of Fame status was because he had a rebirth with the Cardinals. Without those years from 2005-2009 — particularly his renaissance with Ken Whisenhunt from 2007-2009 — this wouldn’t even be a topic. Warner’s first year of eligibility comes after the 2014 season, when, in a nice twist of coincidence, the Hall vote will take place at the Super Bowl in Arizona. (Team president Michael Bidwill also said on Radio Row the other day the team’s plans to eventually honor Warner themselves — perhaps the Ring of Honor? — would likely wait until Warner’s Hall status is possible.)
Many believe Warner is a surefire get-in-right-away Hall of Famer, but we will see. There are some significant players that have come up for the Hall of late and will be reaching eligibility over the next few years. There will be a logjam of worthy candidates. If Williams doesn’t get in this year, it’s because of the guys who he is up against. Finalists include Cris Carter, Warren Sapp, Tim Brown, Will Shields, Michael Strahan and Jonathan Ogden, among others. Hopefully, Williams gets in sooner rather than later. Who knows? Maybe they could both get in the same year, in Arizona.
This year’s class is announced at 3:30 p.m. Arizona time Saturday.
UPDATE: Williams did not make it, although he did get to the final 10.
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner
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The Cardinals have asked for and have been granted permission to talk to Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley for the vacant head coaching job. That’s not a surprise. Michael Bidwill has always liked Haley, and was intrigued last year when Haley was interested — after being let go by the Chiefs as head coach — in coming back to be part of Whisenhunt’s staff. And Haley, even when he was Chiefs’ head coach, had expressed his fondness for Arizona and the Cards. He still has a home here.
His stint as K.C. head coach after leaving the Cards as OC after the Super Bowl season started well and devolved quickly until he was fired during the 2011 season. His time in Pittsburgh this past year was filled with some drama as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made some critical comments of Haley’s choices.
Of course, Haley was part of a dynamic offense while in Arizona, developing a close relationship with Kurt Warner and coaxing the next level out of Larry Fitzgerald. He can be confrontational. But you always know where you stand with Haley.
So to recap, here’s where things stand with the Cards’ known candidates as of Thursday morning a little before 10 a.m. Arizona time:
– DC Ray Horton had a good interview, but also felt like he had good interviews with the Browns and Bills.
– Andy Reid is, as of now, still supposed to interview with the Cards at some point, but had an extended interview with the Chiefs Wednesday and many reports have Reid closing in on a deal with the Chiefs. Howard Eskin says Reid won’t make it to Arizona. Then again, many reports had him closing in on a deal with the Cards a couple days ago, and that turned out to be a fallacy.
– The Cards are still scheduled to meet with Broncos OC Mike McCoy this weekend.
– Now Haley figures to be in the mix whenever they can line up an interview.
– For the general manager spot, in-house candidate Steve Keim was having his interview this week, and the Cards will also interview Redskins director of pro personnel Morocco Brown. Keim feels like the favorite there to me, but who knows. Keim is still reportedly going to interview with the Chargers and Jaguars for their GM posts.
Got all that?
– Also, Ken Whisenhunt interviewed not only with the Bills but also the Browns for their vacant jobs.
Tags: Andy Reid, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Mike McCoy, Morocco Brown, Ray Horton, Steve Keim, Todd Haley
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The 49ers were trying hard to get quarterback Alex Smith the NFL record for completion percentage in a game after his performance against the Cardinals — and coincidentally, the record holder is none other than former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. To officially own the record in the NFL’s eyes, a QB has to have 20 attempts in a game. Smith went 18-for-19, so the 49ers were trying to find a way to get one more completion. The hope was that a throw at the line of scrimmage to receiver Michael Crabtree — immediately ruled a lateral/run on the field — would be reversed, but it was not and replays showed such. There was another close play to Mario Manningham that was called a pass interference on the field, so the play didn’t matter.
Regardless, Smith remains 18-for-19. A great day, but not great enough to usurp Warner.
Warner’s great day was odd in itself. Warner went 24-for-26 (92.3 percent) in a game the Cards needed to have early in the season and a week after Warner and the offense struggled against the 49ers at home in a loss. More strange was that, during the performance with which Warner eventually set NFL history, Larry Fitzgerald’s brother Marcus infamously went on Twitter criticizing Warner and complaining Larry wasn’t getting the ball enough. Steve Breaston had eight catches that day, almost as many as Fitz and Anquan Boldin had combined (9). It’s one of those record that will be tough to top — even if Smith got close.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
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A fan pointed out to me today a stat ESPN ran during the “Monday Night Football” telecast, saying at that point during the game the Cards had gone 46 games without 300 yards passing. That raised my eyebrow, because the Cards have had games where they have thrown the ball a lot and been successful. It didn’t sound right. But the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says “300 yards passing” is what the quarterback did, not what the team’s net passing yards were. And there’s the rub.
Last year alone, Kevin Kolb opened the season with a 309-yard game against the Panthers, and John Skelton got the Eagles (315) and the Browns (313) for 300-plus. But in the NFL, yards lost on sacks is part of the net yards equation. And that’s when it changes things. I started looking back, climbing back into the Kurt Warner era even, before the 300 yards net passing popped up, against the Seahawks on Nov. 15, 2009 — halfway through Warner’s final season. The Cards had 340 net yards passing that day, but Warner went through the rest of the schedule, seven more games, without guiding the Cards to that mark (although he did pass for 313 yards in the next-to-last game against the Rams).
The one caveat to this streak: Warner’s epic performance against the Packers in the Wild Card playoff game technically does not count, since such streaks, like all records, are measured in the regular-season only. But Warner’s awesome 29-for-33 day, for 379 yards and five touchdowns (it’s still crazy to think he had more TDs than incompletions) provided 375 net yards passing.
Tags: John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner
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Ken Whisenhunt has been through this before, back in 2008, when Matt Leinart was coming off a broken collarbone and Kurt Warner was coming off 27 surprising touchdown passes and training camp was about figuring out which guy was going to be the starter that season. (It was Kurt, and while hindsight made it look kind of obvious, it wasn’t as much at the time.)
Some of that experience will translate to this year’s Kevin Kolb/John Skelton competition, although Whisenhunt noted it isn’t the same thing, because Kolb is not Warner is not Skelton is not Leinart.
“I think we have at least knowledge as far as breaking the reps up,” Whisenhunt said. “Handling players, it’s always different because every player has to be handled differently.”
“As for having a blueprint, I hope it works out the same way it did the last time because we had a guy who distinguished himself and he played well and that’s ultimately what you want. But there is no blueprint for success with this. We are just trying to find the guy who give us the best chance to win. We’re doing this because both guys have the opportunity to compete for that spot. That’s it.”
These are different situations, so drawing a straight parallel isn’t fair and it doesn’t make sense. This is only the first of what I am sure will be many, many, many times I write on this subject. But you know that this, barring injury, isn’t going to be decided after two weeks of Flagstaff. This is going to be about at least the first four preseason games if not all five. Back in 2008, one of the turning points was Leinart’s three-interception disaster in Oakland in the third of four preseason games. Often these things work themselves out. (This time doesn’t correlate with 2010 either, really, since Leinart was the clear No. 1 going into camp before things got so sideways in camp and Derek Anderson eventually surpassed him on the depth chart.)
This won’t happen in a vacuum. It’s impossible to ignore what happened last year — Kolb has admitted it’s not as if he’s trying to pretend his struggles didn’t happen — but at the same time, there does need to be a fresh-start aspect to this. In the end, neither player played well enough to say they have already earned the job. So we go from here.
Tags: Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart
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With everything going on today with the death of former NFL star Junior Seau, talking about football-related matters seems trivial (especially when I saw the story about a shooting tragedy locally here near where I used to live.) Indeed, before the Seau news broke, even the Saints bounty player suspension news wasn’t exactly uplifting. Interesting in that case that the league said part of the evidence against linebacker Jonathan Vilma was that he offered a $10,000 bounty to knock Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of their playoff game in January of 2010. Not that we have to rehash all of that again.
– Great and heartfelt anecdote from Saints offensive lineman Eric Olsen about going up against Seau at a football camp when Olsen was a kid. A must-read.
– It was painful to see Seau’s mother trying to deal with this. If you ever think it might be time to give up, always remember there are people close to you that don’t want you to give up.
– I thought Chargers.com did a great job handling the situation.
– Congrats to Steve Keim for his front-office promotion. I’d guess this would help in the future when teams sniff around him for GM work (although it won’t stop it). And it’s a big deal getting Jason Licht back. They liked his work during his first tenure. It never hurts to have someone coming in who already knows how everything operates.
– For those wondering, the Cards had about $2.5 million of salary cap space as of Monday. With the news they have about $4.5 million to use in the rookie pool, they
will still need to find more room they should be OK for now. (As Adamjt13 points out in the comments, the Cards actually should already have enough room with the offseason top 51 rule. My bad. He explains it well here, even if I may have been the media guy getting it wrong he was forced to update the article.)
– Finally, this is a great story written by former NFL defensive lineman Trevor Pryce. The next time you wonder why a player wants to “hang on” — or even why they’d subject themselves to an often brutal lifestyle, this is the answer.
Tags: Jason Licht, Junior Seau, Kurt Warner, Saints, Steve Keim
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The punishments for the New Orleans Saints — at least most of them, since the player punishments are still TBD — came down Wednesday and they provided the expected doozy: A year-long suspension without pay for Saints coach Sean Payton, an indefinite suspension for former DC Gregg Williams of at least a year, and an eight-game ban for general manager Mickey Loomis.
Obviously this isn’t about the Cardinals, although there are parts of this that do impact the Cards:
– To begin with, the Cardinals will be the first team to play the Saints, since the teams will match up Aug. 5 in the Hall of Fame game to kick off the preseason. Wonder what the talking points will be during that broadcast? You wonder if the Cards are just going to be in the background, because it’s hard to see the Saints’ storylines not dominating.
– The Saints lose second-round picks this year and next. That’ll move up the Cards’ third-round pick a slot sooner. We’ll see what it means in 2013.
– Once the regular season begins, the Cards know that Williams, who had since been hired as the Rams’ defensive coordinator, won’t be around. Williams may never be around in St. Louis; commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t assuring anyone that Williams will be reinstated. Not that new head coach Jeff Fisher can’t work around it — former Cards head coach Dave McGinnis, on staff with the Rams now as an assistant head coach, could drop into the DC role like he once did for the Cards. UPDATE: Fisher said the duties won’t go to a permanent DC. He, McGinnis and Chuck Cecil will split the work.
– Then there is the Kurt Warner tie-in. The original investigation sprouted from the way the Saints treated Warner, then the Cards’ QB, and Brett Favre, then with the Vikings, during the playoffs after the 2009 season. The Cards’ playoff game, in fact, was mentioned a couple of times in the NFL’s official release about the punishments, including Warner himself. “The investigation showed bounties being placed on four quarterbacks of opposing teams – Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, and Kurt Warner.”
Warner, appearing on NFL Network Wednesday, had this to say about the punishment: “I’m shocked, like a lot of people, but not fully surprised. … But this is what Commissioner Goodell has done from Day One. And I love he is trying to make statements trying to protect our game for the long-term.”
Added Warner, “To a degree, this has gone on through the history of our game, where guys have gone out to hit guys really hard to knock them out of the game or at least knock them off their game so it affects (the hitting team) in a positive manner. Of course, not to the extent to where you are paying guys to hurt other guys, and I think that’s where this takes a different turn.”
– The NFL also made clear that they won’t let this happen again, sending a memo to all teams directing the owner of every team to meet with the head coach to confirm bounty systems aren’t in place in any other organization. Said the NFL release, “Each principal owner and head coach must certify this in writing to the commissioner by March 30.”
Tags: Dave McGinnis, Gregg Williams, Hall of Fame game, Jeff Fisher, Kurt Warner, Rams, Roger Goodell, Saints, Sean Payton
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The NFL dropped a bombshell Friday, releasing the results of an investigation that players and at least one coach on the New Orleans Saints were funding and using a “bounty” program for many defensive players, including extra money for anyone who knocked a player from a game.
One of the reasons the investigation started was the complaints that the Saints had targeted Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner in the teams’ playoff game in New Orleans in January, 2010. That was a game that the Cards lost, 45-14, and ended up being Warner’s final game of his career. He was beaten up during the game and then was crushed by Saints lineman Bobby McCray trying to make a tackle after an interception. Warner retired a few weeks later.
Warner said it at the time, but reiterated it again Friday on the Burns and Gambo show on Arizona Sports 620: That hit — and that game — did not make up his mind on retirement. Warner had pretty much decided by midseason his career would be over once the 2009 season was.
“(The McCray hit) put a nice exclamation point on it, but I had known well into that season there was a strong likelihood of me retiring,” Warner said. “It had nothing to do with one hit or one incident. Having made 99 percent of the decision anyway and then you take that hit and are sore for two-and-a-half weeks, it makes you go, ‘Uh, yeah, that’s the right decision.’ But by no means did it come down to one play whether I retired.”
There were other times in that game though when it did look like the Saints were going after Warner and specifically, his head (Warner had suffered through a concussion earlier that season.) Warner got hit a few times up high (like the picture to the right, where he is being clocked by linebacker Jonathan Vilma) but the Saints were only flagged for one personal foul, a roughing-the-passer by linebacker Scott Shanle. Warner at the time wasn’t thrilled about the hits either (the photo below is him complaining to referee Ron Winter.) Warner said the McCray hit was clean, even if it didn’t feel that good.
Warner said he’s heard of plenty of “bounty” speculation in the past, not necessarily with the Saints. There is no question bounties have been around for awhile. The Cards’ own senior director of community relations Luis Zendejas was a infamous target himself from Buddy Ryan and the Eagles back in the 1980s. But Warner also thinks the league, bounties or not, had been morphing into a more violent version anyway, which is why it is good the NFL has put some better rules in place.
“I believe players were going out trying to knock people out,” Warner said. “They were trying to get the big hit. That’s where the league had gone. Whether it was because of a quote-unquote “bounty” or teammates were paying those kinds of incentives, I still believe there are a number of players who were going to hit somebody and try to knock them out. That was the culture.”
The penalties the Saints will receive will be determined later, but they are expected to be severe. This went well beyond the Cards’ game or even the Vikings’ NFC Championship game the following week. Saints were getting $1,500 for knocking a player out of a game and $1,000 if a player was carted off and those payments went up double or triple in the playoffs. Warner said he really doesn’t remember the Saints coming after him or hitting him that day much differently than any team would each week.
But, “I don’t think there is a place in our game for trying to hurt someone,” Warner said.
Tags: Kurt Warner, Saints
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I remember one time talking to a player about relationships with coaches, and — being a younger guy, only in the league a couple of years — he was disappointed he couldn’t/didn’t have the same kind of relationship with his NFL coaches that he had in college. The trust level wasn’t the same, and that was realized with a lack of playing time and the reality of guys getting cut.
But that’s how it is. That’s pro sports, and that’s the NFL. The problem, of course, is that — regardless of both that reality and the fantasy football world many fans seem to view their teams — the sport is still inhabited by humans with human emotion.
That’s what I think of when watching how the whole Colts-Peyton Manning thing has developed, coming to a kind of head yesterday, a few days after Manning talked about how it was tough to get healthy in Indy because of the vibe of change and then owner Jim Irsay responded and then Manning responded again. They are now trying to say the right things and desperately not have this be another Packers-Favre melodrama, but is that even possible?
Clearly, Manning wants to play again. He probably wants nothing to do with a star-in-the-making replacement like Andrew Luck (I remember talking to Kurt Warner a couple weeks before the Leinart-Young-Cutler draft, when the Cards seemed sure to take a QB if one was there, and he calmly but firmly kept insisting the Cards didn’t need to take a quarterback.) Certainly it didn’t work well with Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Warner and Leinart was better, but then again, Warner is a different kind of guy.
All this reinforces the human element in this game. Feelings get hurt. Guys get angry, feel things are unfair. Winning always lessens the issues, but make no mistake, someone is always disgruntled. Nature of the beast. And the business.
Tags: Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning
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Coach Ken Whisenhunt said quarterback Kevin Kolb did a little more in practice today following his concussion and the expectation is that he will do more again Friday. But there are reasons to think, barring a big jump in Kolb’s recovery, that John Skelton will start against Cleveland Sunday, and one of them is the path Whisenhunt went down with former quarterback Kurt Warner before a game at Tennessee in 2009.
Warner suffered a concussion in St. Louis the week before, but he passed his tests and came back to practice Wednesday that week. A couple of days later, Warner was “probably going to play.” That sounded good — until Sunday morning, when Warner has some blurry vision, and ultimately the decision came late he wouldn’t play.
Part of the problem wasn’t Warner’s absence Sunday, but that he took almost all of the practice reps during the week because he was supposed to start, leaving Matt Leinart hanging when his number was called. That happens — Skelton was stuck in basically the same situation last weekend against the Niners because Kolb was knocked out early — but Whisenhunt said he was prepared.
“John did OK last week with no reps,” Whisenhunt said, laughing. “Maybe that’s the key. Maybe if we give him no reps and tell him it’s the third quarter, we’re in good shape.”
Seriously, though, “the situation with Kurt was different because we thought he was going to play and the procedures are a lot different now,” Whisenhunt added. “You do want to make sure, if you have those concerns, you get the other guy reps. And we have gotten John more reps this week because of that.”
– Sunday’s game against the Browns has officially been declared a sellout — 62 in a row — and will be televised locally on CBS (Ch. 5). There has been no decision made yet on opening the roof and that will likely be a game-day choice because of the chance of rain.
– S Kerry Rhodes has returned to practice fully and should play Sunday, but he will be slowly worked back into the lineup given so much time away. Rhodes hasn’t played since Oct. 9 because of a broken foot and subsequent surgery.
Tags: concussions, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, sellout
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