We all need something to keep us busy during a bye week, right?
So, what better to do than to fondly think back to the best season in Arizona Cardinals history…and then painfully try to pick apart the differences between then and now.
During my research, something stood out to me, and that was the fact that of the 22 Cardinal’s starters in Super Bowl XLIII, 16 of them are no longer on their roster.
It can’t be argued that we have lost some pretty important players since that time, yet I endeavoured to find out which of these lost players have had the most negative impact on our team to this day.
So after hours of research and debate, I completed my list. Without further ado, here are the top five most costly player losses since Super Bowl XLIII.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about the loss of Antrel Rolle. The Cardinals’ hand was forced when they let him walk to the New York Giants, and they lost one of the brightest young safeties in the league.
Drafted as a cornerback out of The University of Miami, his prowess in the air frightened quarterback’s across the league. He defended 33 passes in his last four seasons with the club, and recorded 11 interceptions in the same time-span.
Yet the free safety was never afraid to make tackles as well, both between the blockers, and in the open field, and this was evident by the 161 tackles he recorded through his last two seasons with the Cardinals. Combine that with the 1.5 sacks he recorded in 2009, and we were losing a player who seemed like he was evolving into one of the league’s best safeties.
So why is he simply a honourable mention? The reason is quite simply that the effect of his loss was softened by the arrival of Kerry Rhodes. Hence, his loss was not quite as costly as it could have been.
Hear me out on this one.
Berry had this special ability to get to the quarterback. If you need proof of this, look no further than his 14.5-sack season in 2004.
Yet what happened to Arizona’s prized 2004 free agent acquisition after that first season?
Berry fell victim to countless injuries and Clancy Pendergast’s hybrid 4-3 defense, yet despite all these hurdles, he still managed to accrue 25.5 sacks over the following five seasons.
Now, can you imagine Berry flying off the edge behind Campbell or Dockett in the Cardinals "Steeler-esque'"3-4 defense? He may be 36 now, and he may not even be close to an every-down player, but were Berry still around, he could well provide the spark that the Cardinals anaemic pass-rush so sorely desires.
For that, he is the fifth most costly player loss since the Super Bowl.
I have always been critical of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie; he was a liability when making tackles in the open field, and as a result, he would opt out of involving himself in defending the run.
Not to mention that for every big play he would make, he would give up two or three big plays in return.
In fact, I was so critical of him that I saw the Kolb deal as an absolute bargain.
Yet it took a 400-yard passing game from Cam Newton for me to truly appreciate just what he offered in coverage. In his three-year career in the desert, he defended 63 passes, and came up with 13 interceptions. Throw in three forced fumbles and four touchdowns, and you have a true playmaker in the secondary.
Sure he may have had his flaws, but he could have certainly spared some of the secondary’s blushes this season.
Of the seven seasons that Boldin was with the Cardinals, he ended five of them with 1,000-plus yards receiving.
In itself it is impressive, yet the fact that Boldin managed to do so despite an array of injuries and an inconsistency at the quarterback spot (Blake, McCown, Leinart, Warner) makes it all the more impressive.
Boldin was the perfect complement to Larry Fitzgerald, and he was the perfect mentor for the young group of receivers that were quickly becoming recognised as the best receiving core in the league.
He could make the impossible catch deep, could beat defenders with the ball in his hands and could even run block. He did it all, which made him a stellar receiver.
Whilst Roberts and Doucet have both displayed their potential, it cannot be doubted that the consistent presence of Boldin opposite Fitzgerald would make Arizona’s offence one of the most potent in the league today.
In his last two seasons as a Cardinal, Dansby recorded 228 tackles, five sacks, nine passes defended, three intercepts and three forced fumbles.
Dansby produced, and it’s as simple as that.
Dansby was always there for the big play (i.e. 2009 Wildcard Game), and he was one of the true leaders on his defense. It’s players like this that you cannot afford to lose, no matter what position they play.
Sure, Paris Lenon surprised us all, and Daryl Washington looks like he could be a special player, yet the Cardinals defence has well and truly felt the effects of Dansby’s departure to this day, with their linebacking core struggling to assert itself against both the run, and the pass.
Miami jumped from 22nd to sixth in total defense after Dansby’s arrival. Coincidence? I think not.
That is exactly why Dansby is No. 2 on our list.
Do I really need to say anything?
I will not bore you with stats or figures. Rather I will tell you this.
If Kurt Warner had played last season, I have no doubt that we would have won the NFC West for the third consecutive season.
Had Warner played this season, I could almost guarantee that we would have won those games against Washington, Seattle and the Giants, and been at least 4-1 going into the bye week.
Oh, how I miss him.
If there's one thing that I learnt whilst compiling this list, it's that you just don't know what you've got, until it's well and truly gone.
Instead of pondering what could have been, we are better celebrating what has been, and embracing the journey that these great players have taken us on.
Here's to the future.