One perspective on Cards’ all-time QBs

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2011 – 1:26 pm

Football Outsiders has put together a list of the top five quarterbacks all-time for each of the four NFC West teams. Here is their list for the Cardinals:

  1. 1. Jim Hart
  2. 2. Kurt Warner
  3. 3. Neil Lomax
  4. 4. Charley Johnson
  5. 5. Jake Plummer

Interesting that Hart would be above Warner, but their reasoning is a longer resume for Hart, and that’s not unfair. Kurt was great in 2008 and 2009. In 2007, he had good stats, but I would tend to agree with FO, it didn’t always seem to totally translate that season, at least not as well as the next two years. And pre-Whiz, Warner’s years under Denny Green were like everything else under Green — all over the map (plus, in 2006, Warner played poorly and was benched most of the season).

Hart was the leader of that mid-70s team that was the only real bar set for the Cardinals in terms of success. His stats were solid given the era. Lomax would have been higher on the list had he not had the hip problem that doomed long-term success before he even reached the NFL. Johnson was the guy in the team record book who kept getting pushed aside by Warner. And Plummer, well, he led the amazing 1998 playoff run but in the end, sputtered before he left.

In all, rankings that seem accurate. Of course, it’s always up for debate. It’d be tough to battle anyone who wanted to swap Warner and Hart.

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Revisionist History: Charging into the ’98 playoffs

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2011 – 1:02 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

These were heady times for the Cardinals.

The team was far from dominant and weekly, the Cards were barely scraping by with wins to stay in the playoff hunt. But there they were in 1998, going into the season finale at home knowing a win over the Chargers would put them in the playoffs for the first time since the team moved to Arizona a decade earlier.

It was two days after Christmas. Quarterback Jake Plummer, all of 23 and in his second season, got his Christmas present early – a giant contract extension with a record-setting bonus of $15 million, setting up the former Arizona State star as the team’s long-term franchise QB. (In hindsight, Plummer wasn’t quite that guy and left as a free agent after the extension expired after the 2002 season.) Having Plummer around was the reason the Cardinals were able to make a one-sided trade with the Chargers for the rights to take the infamous Ryan Leaf – at the time, the trade got the Cards Andre Wadsworth in the 1998 draft and David Boston with the extra pick in the 1999 draft, and both looked like good ideas for a while.

But that was just back story for the real story: a chance to make the playoffs. And once again, it was harder than it probably should have been. Safety Kwamie Lassiter came up with a career game, making four interceptions of immortal San Diego quarterback Craig Whelihan.  And in the end, kicker Chris Jacke (pictured above) booted a 52-yard field goal on the final play to win the game.

Getting there was heart-pounding. Somehow, the Cards let Whelihan – in the middle of a horrific day, thanks to Lassiter – throw a 30-yard TD pass with 16 second left to tie the game. But Eric Metcalf picked up a squib kick on the Arizona 10-yard line and ran it all the way to the San Diego 46 with seven seconds left. A quick Plummer-to-Frank Sanders 11-yard pass gave Jacke his shot with two second on the clock.

Jacke didn’t miss. The crowd – a rare Sun Devil Stadium sellout of 71,000-plus – went crazy, going after the goalposts. The Cards were in the playoffs, a crazy ride that continued when they won in Dallas (a “Revisionist History” for another day).

The fun didn’t last as long as it should have, after the Cards lost key players in the offseason and fell to 6-10 the next season (after starting 6-6). It took until 2008 and the Super Bowl run to get back to the postseason. But in 1998, it was fun while it lasted.

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Revisionist History: The stadium game

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2011 – 1:30 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

It was probably just coincidence, because to think otherwise might be stretching things a bit.

Still, the Cardinals beating the Redskins, 16-15, on Nov. 5, 2000, just two days before the public vote that would eventually get the Cardinals a new stadium, couldn’t have been timed any better. And, in many ways, couldn’t have been more improbable. Head coach Vince Tobin had been fired just two weeks before. Interim coach Dave McGinnis was at the helm for a team that, when it was over, finished 3-13. The season ended with a seven-game losing streak, and had the breaks not broken as they did that day against the Redskins, the losing streak would have been 11 all told.

With many people wondering if the public would indeed approve a stadium for a team struggling so bad, the Cards came up with a win. A crazy win. The Redskins, who were 6-3 coming into the game, outgained the Cards, 431 yards to 178. A bad snap cost the Redskins an extra point, and Washington kicker Kris Heppner missed 51- and 33-yard field goals (yes, Heppner was out of a job the next day). “The kicker choked and that helped us a lot,” Cardinals linebacker Sekou Sanyika said in one of the more blunt post-game quotes I’ve ever gotten.

But the lasting memory was cornerback Aeneas Williams. After Washington drove down (easily) to the Arizona 1-yard line, linebacker Mark Maddox stripped running back Stephen Davis of the ball. Williams (pictured below) scooped up the ball in the end zone, got to the sideline and raced a record-tying 104 yards for a touchdown (originally Williams was credited with a 103-yard return but the Elias Sports Bureau gave him the extra yard the next day upon further review). Williams did cartwheels on the field after the Redskins’ final pass fell incomplete, and all that was left was to wonder if it could/would impact the stadium vote.

It’s impossible to know if it did for sure, as it was impossible to know if the door-to-door campaigning McGinnis and quarterback Jake Plummer, among others, did too. It was an incredibly close vote. The result for Proposition 302 was impossible to call at first, and the days dragged by with more uncertainty. Finally, though, the Cardinals and the 302 crowd were able to claim victory (with about 52 percent of the vote) and what was to become University of Phoenix Stadium took its first — albeit biggest — step forward on Nov. 15, 2000, 10 days after beating the Redskins.

Of course, there were some roller-coaster moments while trying to find a site to put the stadium, but that’s a blog post for another day. In this moment in time, Aeneas Williams and the Cardinals pulled out what may have been their most important win, at least in terms of the Arizona Cardinals. It was the vehicle the team needed to reach a competitive level, the centerpiece of a organizational metamorphosis (It’s tough to imagine, without a new building, the Cards reaching a Super Bowl). Plus it kept the team in town. I wasn’t planning on trying to go to California to cover the Los Angeles Cardinals.

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Starting a rookie QB in Arizona

Posted by Darren Urban on October 7, 2010 – 9:35 am

The Cardinals have been in Arizona since 1988. Max Hall becomes just the fourth rookie quarterback to get a start for the team in that span. The trio before him included Jake Plummer, John Navarre and Matt Leinart.

Year Name Att Comp Yds TD Int Sacks Oppt Result
2006 Matt Leinart 35 22 253 2 1 4 K.C. Loss
2004 John Navarre 40 18 168 1 4 1 @Det Loss
1997 Jake Plummer 40 21 195 2 4 6 Tenn Loss


As you can see, a rookie starter isn’t a guarantee of success (and, in all honesty, a rookie doesn’t get a start in the first place unless the team is struggling, so the rest of the team has to be taken into account). It can be argued that, of the four rookie QB situations for the Cards, Hall walks into the best team situation (although Leinart had a decent supporting cast, he had less of a running game and less of a coaching staff).

Expectations, however, should always be tempered in this situation.

“I’m going to make mistakes,” Hall said, “but I am going to give it everything I have.”

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Warner climbs to 4th as Cards’ passer

Posted by Darren Urban on December 6, 2009 – 7:36 pm

That 39-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to Anquan Boldin pushes Warner to fourth (past Charley Johnson) on the list for most passing yards in franchise history. Jim Hart is No. 1, followed by Neil Lomax and Jake Plummer. Warner, in his fifth season as a Card, has 14,936 yards as of right this moment, six minutes left in the second quarter.

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Jaguars aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 20, 2009 – 10:51 pm

The plane ride home is so much different after a win. Why wouldn’t it be, after a big win like the Cards had Sunday? Get into the Way-Back machine for a moment, and try to remember Jake Plummer’s middle screen to tight end Freddie Jones for a touchdown, and Bill Gramatica’s late field goal. That 16-13 win on Oct. 6, 2002 was the last time the Cardinals won a game with a 10 a.m. Arizona time start. Since then they had played nine eight such games, all of them losses:

  • 9/7/03  @Detroit  42-24
  • 9/26/04  @Atlanta  6-3
  • 9/11/05  @NY Giants  42-19 (Oops. Realized in the shower Monday morning this game was a late start)
  • 10/1/06  @Atlanta  32-10
  • 9/23/07  @Baltimore  26-23
  • 10/21/07  @Washington  21-19
  • 9/21/08  @Washington  24-17
  • 9/28/08  @NY Jets  56-35
  • 10/26/08  @Carolina  27-23

So now you can understand the significance of Sunday (and FYI, the Cards don’t have another 10 a.m. game this season).

On to other thoughts:

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt on Beanie Wells’ fumbles: “Trust me, he may be carrying the ball around all day now.” So why wasn’t it surprising to see Wells at the end of the game when the defense was on the field, helmet on his head and ball tucked firmly in the crook of his arm – despite sitting on the bench?

— The punt returns were (very very) ugly. But the whole reason Antrel Rolle is back there was on display during that field-goal return of 83 yards. Six touchdowns on 11 “quick change” plays is insane. His teammates know what’s what. This is Darnell Dockett: “When he gets the ball in his hands, there’s an 80 percent chance he’s gonna score. When he took off I was like, ‘Don’t nobody block in the back, just let him do his thing.’ We learned the lesson when we played Seattle a couple years back, when he gets the ball, everybody just move out of the way. He’ll create his own plays and we don’t want nothing called back.”

I’m not sure if Dockett meant the infamous Cincinnati game where Rolle lost a third touchdown return in the game, but he made his point.

— It was weird hearing this from Whisenhunt: “It is funny, people say practice isn’t important, but it is for us.” I don’t know if anyone doesn’t think practice is important for this team, because the players and coaches often talk about how it matters. I get fans and cohorts asking me all the time how they look at practice, when a) one of the big rules about being able to watch is that you can’t talk about it and b) I can’t really tell who’s having a good practice or not, not when I don’t know exactly what’s being worked on. I think Whiz’s message has to be more for the players, to remind them what practice means.

— Larry Fitzgerald tried to pretend he wasn’t getting upset at not getting many passes, including one point after he looked to be open down the field but didn’t get the ball. “I was just tired,” Fitz said, trying to suppress a smile. “It was humid out there today I was just trying to save my energy so that’s why I walked off so slowly. That’s all that was.” Nevertheless, Fitz got a TD catch in his eighth straight game, including that playoff run.

— Think NBC, which has Colts at Cardinals next Sunday night, is breathing a sigh of relief that the Cards’ offense got out of its funk, and that they aren’t 0-2? Me too.

— The defensive front continues to impress. Calais Campbell is going to be a player (Nice field-goal block, by the way). Clark Haggans had a good game. And Bertrand Berry has two sacks in two games. That’ll be important against a guy like Peyton Manning.


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Warner ties completion record

Posted by Darren Urban on September 20, 2009 – 11:29 am

QB Kurt Warner just tied a Cardinals’ record for most consecutive passes completed to start a game by going 15 for 15, tying a Jake Plummer record from Nov. 8, 1998 against Washington.  It’s all working today for Warner, who is 18-for-19 and just threw a pass to Larry Fitzgerald that bounced off Fitz … and landed in Anquan Boldin’s hands for a 19-yard gain.

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