Arizona Cardinals: Are This Year's Cards Last Year's 49ers?

Carter WatsonContributor ISeptember 24, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 11:  Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 21-19.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After defeating his old team, Kevin Kolb helped the Arizona Cardinals advance to 3-0 on the season—something that hasn’t happened since 1974, before the team was even in Arizona.  With thousands of fans celebrating after the game, Glendale was buzzing; the energy was palpable.

Despite all of this, during the postgame conference, head coach Ken Whisenhunt said, “We're not a good team yet.”

Yes, that is quoted correctly.  The Arizona Cardinals, undefeated and quickly becoming one of the most praised teams in the league, are not a good team according to their own head coach.

Whisenhunt went on to specify that he will only consider the Cardinals a good team if they continue to play the way they have been playing.  Does the Cards’ own head coach think they’re getting lucky? Absolutely not.

Ray Horton made similar hype-killing statements when asked how he shut down Tom Brady and the Patriots in Week 2.  The Cardinals coaches are playing down the hype, much like Jim Harbaugh did last season with his defense-led team, the 49ers.

Many similarities can be made between last season’s 49ers and this season’s Cardinals.  Both teams are based around a tough, gritty philosophy of the olden days: Defeat the man in front of you as brutally as possible and take pride in doing so, whether you’re on offense or defense. 

This philosophy is very evident when watching either teams' defense play, but the most interesting parallel that can be drawn is between the two teams' quarterbacks.

Kevin Kolb and Alex Smith are very much the same player.

Smith, a No. 1 draft pick for the 49ers, was considered a horrible underachiever, but the team stuck with him, continued to pay him well and gave him support through his rough early career.  Kolb, traded to the Cardinals for draft picks and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and given a very sizable contract, also underachieved in a very major way in his first season as a Cardinal.

After pursuing Peyton Manning and failing, the Cards payed Kolb even more money. He then failed to start Week 1, only getting into the game when John Skelton was injured.  Kolb has been a solid producer since then, limiting turnovers but not doing anything too impressive.

That is exactly how Alex Smith played last season.  He was an average quarterback that piggybacked off of good defense and special-teams play to help his team to victory.

With killer defense and special teams, the 49ers were able to win, just like this year’s Cards.

This style of play fit Alex Smith and the 49ers well last year, as they went to the NFC Championship Game and lost by a field goal to the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants.

Last year’s 49ers began the season very underrated and largely unknown then proceeded to shock teams and take the league by storm with their vicious style of football. 

Clearly, a direct parallel can be made between them and the 2012 Cardinals, and now that the Cardinals are on the radar, expect them to be a serious playoff contender.

Currently, the Cardinals are atop the NFC West, after the 49ers lost to the Minnesota Vikings, but the Cardinals and 49ers will get to battle it out for the top spot in the conference twice this season.

The rest of the season is unwritten, but it's not unrealistic to think that the Cardinals’ season could parallel the 49ers' near-victorious campaign of 2011 and last deep into the playoffs.  


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