Waiting for Palmer, ranking the Cardinals’ QBs

Posted by Darren Urban on February 7, 2017 – 2:15 pm

Fitz said he’s coming back and it seems like only a matter of time before Carson Palmer does the same. I get why some have trepidation that Palmer has yet to officially say anything, but knowing Palmer, he really didn’t want to even make coming back a “thing” if he could’ve helped it; if Bruce Arians hadn’t mentioned that Palmer was on the fence, I’m not sure anyone would even be thinking about it.

(As a side note, on Friday Palmer’s 2017 salary of $15.5 million becomes fully guaranteed. Fitz’s $11M salary also becomes guaranteed that day.)

It’s important to have Palmer, of course. I’ve heard from fans who think otherwise, who want to move on, but that makes no sense to me. Not that it matters — Palmer, if he wants to play, is the quarterback. But anytime that subject comes up, it makes me think of the lengthy list of QBs this franchise has had since moving to Arizona. So, as the 2016 season fades and we wait for the 2017 season to gain steam, I thought I’d do a power ranking of the QBs this team has had since 1988, the year they came to the desert. My one requirement: A QB had to have at least 10 starts (eliminating some half-season greats like Boomer Esiason, Derek Anderson and Jay Schroeder. Feel free to insert them into your own list if you choose.) There have been a few.

  1. 1. Kurt Warner: He’s a Hall of Famer and the lone guy to get the Cards to a Super Bowl. So, yeah. He’s the best.
  2. 2. Palmer: He has plenty of critics. But he’s been pretty good. He’s won a lot of games. And, save for 2014, he’s been durable.
  3. 3. Neil Lomax: Oh, that hip.
  4. 4. Jake Plummer: Beloved local hero finally got the Cardinals to the playoffs. So fun to watch. Sometimes, frustrating to watch.
  5. 5. Kevin Kolb: He was usually solid — he could just never stay healthy. Beat the Patriots in New England.
  6. 6. Steve Beuerlein: Maybe things would’ve been a little different if Buddy Ryan hadn’t shown up.
  7. 7. Josh McCown: The man Denny Green believed in enough to justify drafting Fitz.
  8. 8. Timm Rosenbach: Another guy you wonder about had he had health.
  9. 9. Matt Leinart: He did just fine his first two starts. But post-Monday Night Meltdown, and after Kurt, everything changed.
  10. 10. Dave Krieg: To be a QB on a Buddy Ryan team couldn’t have been easy.
  11. 11. Kent Graham: Had the misfortune of trying to be the placeholder for Jake the Snake.
  12. 12. Chris Chandler: One year as full-time starter got 15 TDs, 15 picks and 12 losses.
  13. 13. Jeff Blake: Once, I asked him about his career. “It’s not like I’ve played bad ball,” he said. “I’ve just been on bad teams.”
  14. 14. Gary Hogeboom: Those years after Lomax were tough.
  15. 15. John Skelton: Cards managed to go .500 with him taking over for Kolb in 2011. Fitz helped.
  16. 16. Tom Tupa: He was a punter first for a reason.



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Here come the points

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2013 – 12:42 pm

It only makes sense, as the offense rounds to form, that the points are starting to come for the Cardinals. At this point, the Cards have 254 points scored this season after 11 games. All of last season, the Cardinals scored 250. (And a h/t to Kent Somers for pointing it out.) But the points are coming in many ways that are new. The mere fact that the Cardinals have scored at least 20 points in seven straight games is nice, since last year, the Cardinals reached 20 points exactly once in their final 12 games of the season.

As was mentioned Sunday, the 40 points against the Colts was the most the Cards had scored since beating Denver, 43-13 — I like to refer to it as Jay Feely’s Fantastic Show — in December of 2010. It was also the fourth straight game the Cardinals scored at least 25 points. The last time that happened? Back in Weeks 3 through 6 of 1988, the Cards’ inaugural season in Arizona, when Neil Lomax and company scored at least 30 in beating the Bucs, Redskins, Rams and Steelers.

It isn’t as if the Cards are scorching the scoreboard. They are on pace for a respectable 369 points, although that falls short of the 400-plus points the Cardinals scored in 2007 and 2008. They are still only 18th in the league in points. But after last year, when they were next-to-last in points (to the Chiefs), the trend is encouraging. And pointed up.

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Hitting 400

Posted by Darren Urban on September 12, 2011 – 9:26 am

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.

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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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The Grand Cannon, and Warner rehab

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2011 – 3:09 pm

Talking ex-quarterbacks on a Tuesday afternoon, since it doesn’t seem like were close to the time when the Cards can acquire their 2011 version:

Writing about Neil Lomax – and more importantly, seeing “Greg” on the comments refer to The Grand Cannon – reminded me of my brush with Lomax before Lomax ever played a down in Arizona. It was the summer of 1988, the Cardinals had just moved to the Valley, and my best friend Todd had gotten me some part-time work for an outfit called “Events With Tents.” Basically, the company erected giant open tents and then put on whatever event might be held. We’d help with whatever was going on under the tent.

In this case, Lomax was signing autographs for a home builder. So in the heat of June or July – at least, I’m pretty sure it was then, and it was hot – Todd and I drove out to the middle of the desert in Todd’s car that had no air conditioning to hang out with Lomax under a tent. We had lemonade to serve, but I remember very few people showing up over the two-hour deal. So mostly, we had random conversation with Lomax as he asked us about going to college and we talked to him about football. Plus he signed a giant poster of himself for each of us – Lomax standing in uniform on the edge of the state’s greatest natural monument, with three words at the bottom: “The Grand Cannon.”

(A quick aside for those who live locally: Todd and I both lived in Scottsdale and in those days, freeway travel was infrequent because the Valley didn’t have many. Plus there was little reason to go south for us. I remember getting on I-10 toward the development, going south and as we got off the exit where there seemed to be nothing but dirt everywhere, I said to Todd, “Ray Road? Who the heck would ever want to live out here?” I remember that every time I am stuck in traffic at Ray and the freeway.)

— This morning, Kurt Warner tweeted out his big day, noting part of it was rehab – which gave me pause. Rehab? The man hasn’t played NFL football since that day in New Orleans in January, 2010. I know he took a beating all those years, but …

Turns out Kurt said he still has tendinitis from his “Dancing With The Stars” stint. At least he was honest. It’s becoming clear that show can be health-hazardous, for football players and their partners.

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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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Wilson decides to Rage

Posted by Darren Urban on July 22, 2010 – 10:12 am

I know there have been a bunch of people wondering about The Big Red Rage after Bertrand Berry’s retirement. It’s official now; Adrian Wilson has agreed to take over the co-hosting spot with Ron Wolfley and Paul Calvisi. That should be a good thing (although my Wilson story being posted tomorrow is purely coincidental; it’s not like this is a big PR push).

Speaking of Wolf, how about this shot from the wayback machine, featuring (from left to right) Neil Lomax, Wolf, Vai Sikahema and Luis Sharpe once upon a time (Yes, I’ve been waiting for some reason to post this. This seems as good a time as any):

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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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