John’s Arizona Cardinals 2003-2004 Recap:
It was another painful football season for Arizona Cardinals fans (Marty, Pejman, Richard, Brian/Josh, and myself, in case anyone is keeping track). Things got off to a bad start against Detroit, got only slightly better against Cincinnati, and then it was all down hill after that. This year was pretty much par for the course.
My own personal season highlights include the Cardinals vs. Packers game and the season finale against the Vikings. One might wonder how a 4-12 season could have any highlights, and they wouldn’t be totally out of line, especially since the Cardinals have averaged 5 wins per season since they moved to Arizona. What non-Cardinal fans (see, everyone but Marty, Pejman, Richard, Brian/Josh, and myself) don’t understand is that our love of the Cardinals is really just an extension of our relationships with each other. For example, my dad and I went to nearly every Cardinals home game together from 1988 until 1999 (when I moved to Santa Barbara). Every Sunday, we parked in the “free” ASU parking garage right next to the Howard Johnson’s and walked through the ASU campus talking strategy. My dad would tell me stories about how much he loved playing pool in the Student Union or which buildings he used to have classes in. We’d always stop outside Sun Devil Stadium and get bratwursts and giant bottles of water before heading to our seats. Some years, we went to the games with Karl and Brandon Reichardt, some years with Ryan and Craig Kardell, but most years it was just the two of us. The Cardinals lost most of those games, and that walk back to our car was always a painful one, but more important than wins and losses was the fact that I was there to experience everything with my dad.
One can go to Diamondbacks and Suns games for years, and wins just seem to fade into a blur with every other game. But, Cardinals’ victories…these games you never forget. One of the most vivid memories in my head is when the Cardinals beat the Cowboys on a last second field goal for the first time in a decade. My dad and I were sitting with the Reichardt’s in the loge section, and I remember looking down on the field as fans began tearing down the goalpost. Then, in the middle of the field, I see Richard and Pejman running around like maniacs. Some random woman runs topless behind them. The looks on their faces were priceless. What about Roy Green catching the winning touchdown against the 49ers during the Cardinals first season in AZ? Or what about the Cardinals beating the Saints and Chargers on last second field goals to make the playoffs? People talk about how hard it must be to survive in the cold during Packers games or how great the 49ers fans are. I would like to see them sit through 15 years of colossal disappointment in 110 degree weather! The Broncos win playoff games with the same frequency that the Cardinals get first downs. But, damnit, when the Cardinals get a first down, and Pejman does the “Cardinals Victory Dance”, there is no better feeling in the entire world.
Such was the experience at the Cardinals final game this season against the Vikings. A win would give the team a 4-12 record and it would ruin their chances of getting the #1 pick in the NFL Draft. Of the 40,000 fans attending the game, maybe 10,000 were rooting for the home team. This isn’t exactly the most glorious way to end the season for a football team or for its fans. But, you know, I would take a disaster of a season anytime if it meant I could spend an afternoon with my best friends and my dad, heckling players as they walked on and off the field, freezing my ass off, and then watching the Cardinals eliminate the Vikings from playoff contention.
Below are two representative photos from the game. First, we have a nice shot of the stadium during the action. Interesting things to note here include: the triangle-window dorm in the background, which housed Richard during his first year in college and is well-known as the #1 STD dorm in America; the guy in the lower right who looks like Justin Timberlake wearing the bandana; and, the absence of any red throughout the crowd. Next, we have a shot of one of Emmitt Smith’s family members keeping warm. His entire family sat next to us at the game, but only this guy chose to embarrass himself.
My Cardinals end of the season grade: A+
Pejman’s End of the Season Report Card:
The end has finally come to the disaster that I call the Arizona Cardinals Season. No more Sundays where I blackout due to my fits of rage. No more Greg calling me at halftime to laugh at the Cardinals being down three touchdowns. No more plotting the gruesome deaths of many of the players on the team. No more “Cardinals dance.” Since I have watched every minute of every game this year (yes, even when they were down by like 5 touchdowns to the 49ers), I feel I am the perfect man to give the Cardinals “End of the Season” review. I will give a position-by-position analysis of the team, including what I think needs to be done to fix this disaster. However, before the negativity starts flying, I would like to say I am a BIG fan of signing Dennis Green. So far, this off-season has been AWESOME!
Without further ado….
Quarterback – D
Coming into the season, I really thought Jeff Blake would be the quarterback the Cardinals have never had. Instead, he became the quarterback I WISH they never had. I wanted someone who could actually throw the ball to players on our team, semi-accurately. Someone who could make big plays for them when they needed it. Nope. Either Blake has been using too much KY on his hands, or he has hands the size of a child, because he could not hold on to the ball for the life of him. I don’t know the exact number of fumbles he had this year where NOBODY WAS NEAR HIM, but I do know that every time it happened, he caused the team the game. How can you not hold on to the football? It’s kind of important when you are a quarterback. And what happened to “Jeff Blake throws the best deep ball in the league”? I don’t remember him connecting on any. Now I know why he has been a backup for so long. Only the Cardinals would think a career backup in his 30′s is fit to start. Sorry, Blake, but you aren’t the answer.
I think everybody knows how I feel about Josh McCown. After his pass that hit LJ Shelton in the face, I can’t watch this guy anymore. I would have cut him immediately. I will give him this, he proved to me that he is a capable backup in this league.
Next year, the Cardinals MUST, I repeat MUST, get a franchise quarterback! They need to get Eli Manning. Trade up, do whatever it takes. It’s the most important position, we can’t keep rolling out career backups.
Running Back – C+
The Emmitt experiment didn’t work out so well. The guy looked older than George Burns (is that guy still alive?) He was too slow and not fast (if you get my drift). Who were the Cardinals kidding when they thought he would sell tickets? I don’t care if Emmitt was running for 16,000 yards THIS SEASON, nobody wants to watch a 4-12 team play.
Marcel Shipp again proved that he is for real. He had some excellent games. The problem was that the Cardinals were usually down by 21 by halftime, so Shipp would stop getting carries. I like Shipp and I think he is a solid running back.
The Cardinals are fine at running back and should focus their attention on other things this off-season.
Wide Receives/Tight Ends – B-
Two words for you: Anquan Boldin. That guy is a stud. Broke the all-time receptions record for a rookie and made the pro bowl. He is a star. Unfortunately, his comrades SUCKED. Bryan Gilmore, if by some miracle of God you are reading this article, can you please just cut yourself from the team? I hope to never see you play a football game again. You can’t catch. You can’t block. You can’t run routes. You are worthless as a human and more importantly, as a football player. Johnson showed flashes of brilliance, but I’m not sure about him yet. We’ll see.
Freddie Jones did an excellent job as the tight end. Rarely drops passes, blocks well. I like him.
The Cardinals need to add a veteran wide receiver to the mix and cut Gilmore immediately.
Offensive Line – D-
For being the supposed strength of the team, THEY WERE TERRIBLE! Pass protection was always pretty decent. Blake usually had enough time to throw. There would always be that time where the other team would blitz and the linemen would block nobody. Run blocking was a different story. Some games, best offensive line in NFL history. Most games, worst offensive line in NFL history. I don’t get it. For having one of the biggest lines in football, they failed on a surprising number of third and 1′s. Hopefully, Dennis Green can get these guys to perform consistently.
Defensive Line – F-
I know there is no such thing as F-, but these guys get it. I would vote for them as the WORST defensive line in NFL history. There are probably college d-lines better than this crap. Good coaching Mean Joe Greene. To their credit, they tried very hard. Unfortunately, they SUCK at defensive lining (it’s a word). If I had my way, I would redo the whole damn line. They MUST sign a big name defensive tackle. There is only so much Russell Davis, Barron Tanner, Marcus Bell that I can take. That, and PLEASE cut Wakefield.
Linebackers – B-
The linebackers were decent. McKinnon made a lot of tackles, and always hustles to the ball. Raynoch, before being suspended, was doing a very good job. Overall, I am pleased with the linebacking corps.
Defensive Backs – B
I think this is the strength of the team. Dexter Jackson was an excellent signing. He was awesome. I think Adrian Wilson also earned himself a nice check from the Cardinals. I like. Renaldo Hill also did an excellent job getting interceptions and “defending.” Next year, they get Duane Starks back, so this unit should get even better.
Coaching Staff – F
These idiots. Awful play calling. What the hell was that rush 3 drop 8 guys into coverage on third and 10 that ALWAYS yielded a first down? STOP CALLING IT! Half the time, the guys didn’t look like they were ready to play. Fire them all.
As you can see, the team didn’t fare so well on their report card. Looks like one of Steve’s report cards. However, they have a lot to build upon. They have a star at WR. Shipp is an above average running back. If they can get a franchise quarterback, and some good defensive linemen, I like their chances next year. Let’s see if they can make it past the draft without screwing something up.
Reprinted without permission from Qball.org.
* Movie Quote of the Day: “Run, Forrest! Run!”