Revisionist History: Boomer’s 522-yard day

Posted by Darren Urban on June 7, 2011 – 4:13 pm

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.

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Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “Revisionist History: Boomer’s 522-yard day”

  1. By Safford Todd on Jun 7, 2011 | Reply

    Thank you Darren.

  2. By joe67 on Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

    Thanks Darren. There was a period of time, before satelite (as we know it today) that I really didn’t get to see much of the Cards at all. Actually I had totally forgotten about Esiason. I really appreciate these articles you have been doing. Thanks so much and please keep up the good work.

  3. By D on Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

    Boomer’s ego was and still is out of control. I remember that game, it was exciting because of the movement of the offense that day, but it was close also because Boomer threw 4 picks in that game too. I wonder if it made him mad a few years later that some skinny kid from ASU basically took the same team into the second round of the playoffs and beat Dallas in TX

  4. By vsancards on Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

    I defeinitely remember that game. Whoah, the Redskins were up by two or three touchdowns if I recall. Boomer completed an 85 yarder that game right before halftime. In the second half he was unstoppable! What a game!

  5. By brad oneill on Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

    kent graham went on to star as sam malone on the hit show Cheers.

    lockouts are a time for reflection on just how important distraction from reality really is.

  6. By Steve Nealy on Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

    I remember that game well (thanks, DirecTV). I also remember the Cards nearly choking away a huge lead…

  7. By B on Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

    Reminds me when Leinart set the NFL ROOKIE RECORD with 405 yards passing…..

    Dude had no skill…..


  8. By Darren Urban on Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

    B —

    RE: Leinart rookie record

    I thought at that point, Leinart showed some things that would be a good jumping-off point to a solid career.

    That said, let’s not get it twisted. The day Matt threw for 405 yards, the Cardinals had a grand total of six rushing attempts, and one of those (for no yards) was a Leinart scramble. The Cards also lost.

  9. By Scott H on Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

    Darren –

    If my memory serves, wasn’t this game really crazy in OT with the kickers? Didn’t the Redskins kicker miss at least one kick? And weren’t penalties involved in this? Didn’t the Cards kicker miss an attempt at one point but got another shot when the Skins were called for holding or off-sides? I remember that it was wild, I just forget the details.

  10. By sport245245 on Jun 9, 2011 | Reply

    Whomever said the Cardinals were up huge in the game was correct. I seem to recall that it was nearly 30 point after a t.d. pass to Centers early in the 3rd period. Then they had to hang on to win. Don’t recall the 4 interceptions and don’t believe that happened. Knowing the “clipboard hugger” (Vince Tobin) the Cards probably sat on the ball. I remember the Cardinals being in the playoff contention and all the Cowboy fans in the stands at Sun Devil Stadium. No crowd support. Never at S.D. Stadium. The only difference is when the new place opened up and we finally had a home field advantage. All the bitching about the cheap Bidwills but what about all the bitchers that never showed up even when they were playing decent. No excuse. I thought most people on here were long time fans like me, but now I don’t think so. the

  11. By Scott H on Jun 10, 2011 | Reply


    You are correct but you are correct about a different game against the Redskins. In the game featured here ( Boomer’s big day ), the Redskins WERE up big on the Cardinals and the Cards made quite a comeback to tie, then win. The game you are referring to was during the 1998 season with Pllummer at QB. The Cardinals jumped all over the Redskins early and it looked llike a HUGE blowout victory for sure. I think it might have been 38-10 at one point or something ridiculous like that. But the Redskins came back big and a late interception by the Cardinals finally sealed the win. You can check the season highlights video for that season for proof. They were both crazy games. Both great wins for the Cardinals…total nightmares for the Redskins!

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