Ranking the Greatest Arizona Cardinals of All Time

Dennis Tresca@dtrescaCorrespondent IJuly 13, 2013

Ranking the Greatest Arizona Cardinals of All Time

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    Relatively speaking, the Arizona Cardinals have a short history. They played their first season in Arizona in 1988. Although they were cellar dwellers for a good portion of their time in the desert, it wasn't for a lack of great players.

    With that in mind, let's take a look at the greatest players to wear Cardinal red in the Valley of the Sun. These rankings only take into account players on the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinal teams from 1988-present.

Honorable Mention: Jake Plummer, Quarterback

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    Jake Plummer graduated from the local Arizona State University, where he came within seconds of winning the 1996 National Championship for the Sun Devils. The Cardinals drafted him 42nd overall in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft.

    Plummer played seven seasons for the Cardinals, throwing for over 15,000 yards. His biggest moment came in 1998 when led the team to the franchise's first playoff win in 51 years over the Dallas Cowboys, 20-7.

10. Roy Green, Wide Receiver

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    By the time the Cardinals moved to Phoenix, two-time All-Pro receiver Roy Green was already towards the end of his career. That didn't stop him from becoming the face of Arizona's newest sports franchise.

    During his three years in Phoenix, Green tallied 2,597 receiving yards along with 18 touchdowns.  

9. Darnell Dockett, Defensive End

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    Darnell Dockett was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round of the 2004 draft. He played defensive tackle for his first five seasons with the Cardinals, before moving to defensive end after the team moved to a 3-4 defensive scheme. His place along the defensive line has no effect on the amount of chaos he creates.

    Since coming to Arizona Darnell Dockett has been named to three Pro Bowls and has racked up 36 sacks, four interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

8. Simeon Rice, Defensive End

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    Simeon Rice was drafted third overall in the 1996 NFL draft. In his five seasons with the Cardinals, Rice dominated opposing offensive lines, garnering him AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, one Pro Bowl appearance and two All-Pro selections. He tallied 51 sacks while in Arizona, including 16.5 in 1999.

    Unfortunately, Arizona could not afford to keep him and Rice would move on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he would eventually win a Super Bowl and join the 100 Sack Club.

7. Adrian Wilson, Safety

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    A second-round pick in 2001 by Arizona, Adrian Wilson is arguably one of the best defensive players ever to play for the franchise. During his time in Arizona, he recorded 894 tackles, 25.5 sacks, 27 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and 101 passes defended.

    His forced fumbles and and fumble recoveries are both franchise records. Wilson also holds the NFL record for most sacks by a defensive back with eight in 2005.

    Wilson was released by Arizona on Mar. 8, 2013—definitely a sad day for Cardinals fans.

6. Larry Centers, Fullback

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    Drafted in 1990 by Arizona, Larry Centers will go down as one of the greatest offensive threats to ever wear a Cardinals uniform. However, it wasn't his rushing ability that made him dangerous, it was his receiving skills. In eight seasons with the Cards, Centers caught 535 passes, including 101 catches in 1995.

    Centers very well may go down as the greatest pass receiving fullback in NFL history.

5. Pat Tillman, Safety

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    Every Arizona Cardinals fan knows the heroic story of Pat Tillman. A local star from Arizona State University, Tillman was selected by the Cardinals in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL draft.  

    Tillman worked his way into the starting lineup and immediately became a favorite with Cardinals fans due to his all-out style of play. 

    Tillman's best season came in 2000 when he finished with 155 tackles (120 solo), 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, nine pass deflections and one interception, earning him All-Pro honors. 

    Eight months after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Tillman turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to enlist in the United States Army. On a deployment to Afghanistan with his Ranger unit on Apr. 22, 2004, Pat Tillman paid the ultimate sacrifice in a firefight with insurgents.

    Number 40 was retired by the Arizona Cardinals and Pat Tillman will always have a place in our hearts.

4. Anquan Boldin, Wide Receiver

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    Anquan Boldin came to the Cardinals in 2003, after being draft in the second round. His presence was felt immediately, setting the NFL record for most receiving yards by a rookie (217) in his first game.

    Additionally, Q holds the record for most receptions in the first 26 games of a career (157) and is the fastest player in NFL history to get to 300, 400 and 500 receptions, respectively.

    Boldin also showed extraordinary toughness. In 2008, Boldin suffered an extremely violent helmet-to-helmet collision while attempting to catch a Kurt Warner pass in the end zone. After being carted off the field, it was determined he suffered fractured paranasal sinuses. Boldin would return three weeks later to catch nine passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns against the Carolina Panthers.

    During his time in Arizona, Boldin racked up 7,523 receiving yards along with 44 touchdowns. He was named to three Pro Bowls and was the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2003.

    Boldin was traded to the Baltimore Ravens in 2010 and now plays for every Cardinals fan's least favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers. We'll try not to hold it against him.

3. Aeneas Williams, Cornerback

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    A third round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 1991, Aeneas Williams was a bright spot on the defensive side during a decade of below average teams in the desert.

    Williams started as rookie and never looked back, becoming an elite NFL shutdown corner. He tied for the league lead in interceptions during his rookie campaign and would finish with 46 total interceptions before being traded to the St. Louis Rams in 2001. Williams was named to six Pro Bowls and was selected as an All-Pro three times.

    Cardinals and 49ers fans alike will always remember Williams as the player who ended quarterback Steve Young's career. In week three of the 1999 season in front of a Monday Night Football audience, Williams cleanly hit Young's blindside off a cornerback blitz by Williams. The hit left Young unconscious for several minutes. The resulting concussion would ultimately cause Young to walk away from the game.

    Williams is easily the greatest defensive players the Cardinals have ever had and is forever enshrined in the Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor. 

2. Kurt Warner, Quarterback

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    It is not always the length of time a player spends with a team that describes his greatness. This aptly describes Kurt Warner's tenure as the Arizona Cardinals signal caller.

    Warner came to Arizona as a free agent in 2005. Things didn't start off great for Warner, as he battled injuries through his first season with the Cards. His second season wasn't much better as he lost the starting job to the lowly Matt Leinart.

    However, Warner would get the job back at the end of the 2006 season and this was really the start of something special.

    The 2007 season saw a vast improvement for the team. Although the team missed the playoffs, Arizona improved its record to 8-8. Warner finished with 3,417 passing yards along with 27 touchdowns.

    In 2008, Warner and the Cardinals' offense exploded.

    Warner finished with 4,583 yards passing and 30 touchdowns and would lead the Cardinals to a 9-7 record, a miracle playoff run and ultimately their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Although they lost to the Steelers 27-23 in the Super Bowl, Warner still put up 377 yards passing, the second-highest total in Super Bowl history.

    Warner would play one more season in Arizona, leading the team to a 10-6 record and a second consecutive playoff berth. However, the run would end with a second-round loss to the New Orleans Saints. The game would ultimately end Warner's career when he was injured on a cheap hit in the first half. It was determined in 2012 that the New Orleans Saints had put a bounty on Warner.

    During his short time in Arizona, Warner led the team to new heights and finished with 15,899 passing yards and 100 touchdowns. Up to this point in Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals history, Kurt Warner is the greatest quarterback to ever put on the uniform.

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver

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    Real big surprise here. The face of the Arizona Cardinals franchise, Larry Fitzgerald was the third overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft and has been a superstar ever since.

    The uber-athletic Fitz has done nothing but catch passes and score touchdowns in Arizona. To date, he has 10,413 receiving yards and has scored 77 touchdowns. He currently ranks fifth all-time in NFL history for receiving yards per game (76.0). He also holds NFL records for most touchdowns in a postseason (7), most receptions in a postseason (30), most receiving yards in a postseason (546) and youngest player to record 700 passes.

    Additionally, he hold the Cardinals franchise records for career receiving yards, career receiving touchdowns, career receptions (744), most seasons with 1,000 receiving yards (6), most season with 10+ receiving touchdowns (4) and is tied with Anquan Boldin for most seasons with 100+ receptions (2). 

    Fitzgerald has been named to seven Pro Bowls and has been selected as an All-Pro four times.

    The best part for fans is Larry Fitzgerald isn't done. He's entering his 11th season with no signs of slowing down. With the addition of offensively minded head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer, we should continue to see huge numbers from Fitz.

    He's under contract with the Cardinals through the 2019 season, assuring the greatest player ever to wear an Cardinals uniform will finish his career in Arizona.