The Arizona Cardinals' expectations entering the 2009 season are similar to picking out a second car after the first one was an Aston Martin.
It’s going to be nearly impossible to match, but that doesn’t the test drives can’t be the ride of lifetime.
The Cardinals were written off nationally entering the 2008 postseason before laying waste to the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Philadelphia Eagles in advancing to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
Arizona was two minutes and 37 seconds away from being one of the most unlikely Super Bowl Champions ever, but it wasn’t to be as Pittsburgh scored in the final seconds for a 27-23 loss for the Cardinals.
It brings a new type of focus, one that has crumbled steadier franchises in recent years.
The Super Bowl losers have made the playoffs only one time since 2000.
The Cardinals staff, led by the heady Ken Whisenhunt, and players, led by Kurt Warner’s faithful belief system, know the history and some have been through it already with other organizations.
The Cardinals have already had a long list of departures as both coordinators are gone to Kansas City—key players like defensive end Antonio Smith and running back Edgerrin James. Moreover, contract squabbles are plentiful.
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett have a combined five years remaining on their current contracts, yet both recently missed mini-camp because of hamstrings strains, which might be too much like Rosenhaus to renegotiate.
It’s these types of riffs that lead to bumpy training camps that can sometime bleed into the season.
But that doesn’t mean that Cardinals can’t surpass last season’s 9-7, the second winning season since moving to Arizona from St. Louis before the 1988 season, because they didn’t play their best football until the postseason.
They still have the Warner and Larry Fitzgerald connection—possibly the best in the NFL—plus countless of other offensive combinations. They drafted Ohio State running back Beanie Wells, a defense that is filled with play makers, and a newfound confidence.
All of it adds up to expectations for the Cardinals teetering between the unrealistic and the attainable.
It’s just a matter of whether or not Cardinals can shake off their ugly past.