Could the Arizona Cardinals Make Another Road Run To the Super Bowl?
It's so easy to dismiss the Arizona Cardinals because they play on the West Coast most Sundays.
They have been playing in the worst and least popular division in the NFC since the realignment took them out of the NFC East. Last year they were an afterthought with Philadelphia, New York, Carolina, Atlanta, and Minnesota all being favored ahead of them even though they won their division.
Kurt Warner has looked like an MVP at times this season, but he also looked like he should have hung up his cleats a long time ago. Leading into the playoffs, the football critics argued over the same thing they do every year before the Wild Card Weekend and Divisional Playoffs, should teams rest their players if they have their playoff seed set in stone. Two of three teams who decided to rest a portion of their players lost on Wild Card Weekend, but the Arizona Cardinals were not one of them.
Quarterback Kurt Warner has battled concussions and some other injuries throughout his career. Before the game, the news broke that this will likely be his last season in the NFL. Considering the situation, it seemed like an awful time to make it public that you were going to retire. In my pregame thoughts and analysis after I heard this news, I couldn't help but think his health must be in serious question.
Warner has proven time and time again that he will fight and claw his way to be the starting quarterback because he believes he still has it. For him to make that statement, it must really be taking a toll on him inside. I couldn't help but feel for the veteran who had the media on his back as soon as the Rams began to struggle.
He won them a Super Bowl and brought them to a second. He had some injury troubles on his throwing hand and struggled a little bit to start the season in 2002-03. Marc Bulger was inserted into the lineup and then head coach Mike Martz stuck with Bulger and Warner was the odd man out.
Warner was a backup for the New York Giants in 2004, he did not get to play that much and when he did, he looked terrible. Immediately following that season, the Arizona Cardinals offered him a job and a one-year contract. He made the most of it by earning the starting job for a bad football team. The Cardinals re-signed him and then drafted Matt Leinart of USC with their first pick in the next draft.
Kurt Warner was optimistic he would be the starter and Leinart would learn underneath him. Coach Dennis Green played Warner to start the season, but yanked him after three so-so performances. Matt Leinart came in and performed far worse than Warner, and there was officially a quarterback controversy.
Leinart remained the starter until he was injured toward the end of the year. Warner played well in his absence and before the '07 season started, the quarterback in Arizona was anything but a sure thing. Leinart was named the starter to begin the season. Again he struggled and was replaced by Warner in multiple games. Warner was improving with time in the Arizona offense and he was officially the starting quarterback for the last 12 games of the season. He threw 27 touchdowns and had a passer-rating very close to 90.0.
The next season would turn out to be the confirmation Warner still had that 'it' factor every team wants from their quarterback. He threw 30 touchdowns, he led the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl in franchise history, and he was rewarded with another contract at the young age of 37.
As the Super Bowl loser to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Santonio Holmes miracle catch in the corner of the end zone, the Cardinals were supposed to take that big slide most runner-ups take the next season.
With the NFC West still terrible and with Kurt Warner having weapons like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin on his side, there was no set back in the Southwest.
They started the season 9-4 and only had to deal with the San Francisco 49ers within their division. They comfortably won the division with a record of 10-6. If you dismiss the last week of the season when they rested everyone against Green Bay, they played the final 12 weeks of the season with a record of 9-3.
Although they are the defending NFC Champions, they played the final 12 weeks with a very similar record to that of the New Orleans Saints.
The odds of the Arizona Cardinal to win the Super Bowl were 22 to 1.
Seem people may have told you the number is not high enough considering how inconsistent the red birds have been all season, but if you would have asked them the day after the Super Bowl, if the Cardinals are in the second round of the playoffs next year with the remaining three teams New Orleans, Dallas, and Minnesota would you bet them at 9-1 to come out of the NFC?
Just about every logical person would have taken those odds.
It's sad to see how ESPN and other national media outlets exclude teams like Arizona who play out West and don't get nearly the coverage that the New York Giants do in a down season.
Even the San Diego Chargers who earned a bye and won 11 straight games heading into the playoffs have not received the respect that they should.
The Pro-Bowl selection process is a joke if you look at the players who made it in both leagues. If you just consider the two best teams from the NFC and AFC West divisions, they received a total of four of 44 starting positions on offense and defense. They had a combined record of 23-9 and accounted for less than 10 percent of the starters on the field.
I hope Kurt Warner can take the red birds from the desert into the Superdome next week and pull the upset. Not because I like Arizona or dislike New Orleans. I want to see the Arizona Cardinals do the exact same thing they did last year, prove to everybody that their football team deserves the same attention that every other winning team deserves.
Kurt Warner deserves the accolades that Tony Romo, Brett Favre, and Drew Brees get on a weekly basis. Arizona definitely has the tools to on offense to give the Saints fits, but how many points will that offense put up on the Cardinals defense if they play that way next week? We could be talking about one team putting up 60 or more points. If Arizona can figure out things on the defensive side of the football, they will have a good chance to beat the struggling Saints.
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