Blogs

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.


Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 21 Comments »

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 18 Comments »

Revisionist History: Warner’s arrival

Posted by Darren Urban on May 12, 2011 – 3:30 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

We all know what Kurt Warner did for the Arizona Cardinals. We all know the power of his decision to retire.

At the time he arrived, though?

In this first installment of “Revisionist History” (which isn’t so much revising how people should think about a moment for the Cardinals since coming to Arizona as much as reminding them the mindset at the time), a glance back at when the Cards first signed Warner in March of 2005. Denny Green was in his second year as coach. Warner was coming off a benching for the Giants. The Cardinals were coming off a season in which Josh McCown, Shaun King and John Navarre were the quarterback-merry-go-round for Denny.

So Warner was signed. Both local papers compared the decision to the Cards signing Emmitt Smith a couple of years before (“Desperate teams – and desperate players – do desperate things” wrote the Tribune’s Scott Bordow). Remember, Warner only signed a one-year contract in 2005. He re-signed a three-year deal before 2006, and then the Cards took Matt Leinart in the draft, much to his chagrin.

I remember doing a big story on Warner (part one and part two) right before minicamp (that’s a Warner shot from that camp below). There was still much to prove. His halcyon days as a Ram were far behind him, his rebirth with the Cards under Ken Whisenhunt far ahead, relatively speaking. (I mean, I remember how he was showered with boos after the early-season Rams’ loss in 2006. Leinart was the starter soon after, and before the infamous Monday Night Meltdown against the Bears, Kurt was already considering retirement after the season. Can you imagine had he done that, and not had his run in ’07, ’08 and ’09?)

One thing was for certain, Warner still very much believed in himself, and always did, regardless of the circumstances of the team or even Leinart’s showing as a rookie.

A couple of quotes from my Warner opus stand out, especially in retrospect. The first: “It’s kind of my story, the underdog story, no chance to have success. It’s kind of like what I stepped into in St. Louis. I get a chance to rewrite my story and I get a chance to rewrite the story of the Arizona Cardinals.”

There is no question he did.

The second quote? “I am moving my family, I am buying a home and I am believing things are going to work out great. The great thing about it is so much of it depends on me.”


Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 34 Comments »

Revisionist history

Posted by Darren Urban on May 12, 2011 – 11:04 am

As we maneuver through the offseason with little new to report, I’ve decided to look at what is old. More specifically, I plan to write a series of intermittent posts on moments/situations in Arizona Cardinals history that wouldn’t be bad to revisit. The idea is that I dig up newspaper articles at the time to show what was being said in the moment and link to them, with a little of my own analysis (and, assuming the moment happened in 2000 or more recent, that gives me a chance to link to my own articles).

What I’d like to know from you out there as readers is, what moments/situations would you like to revisit? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a game itself. I have some ideas — I’m trying to think outside the box a little bit — but I know I’m going to be looking for material for the time being. Let me know what you want. I’ve got an idea for the first one. Hopefully that’ll be posted later today or first thing tomorrow.

P.S. The latest “All In” webisode is posted, looking in depth at the pick of first-rounder Patrick Peterson. Check it out.


Tags: ,
Posted in Blog | 53 Comments »
%d bloggers like this: