It’s Late November and Time for Football Cardinal Fans to Worry
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I grew up as a diehard St. Louis football Cardinal fan. I will also admit that following the move to Arizona, the Big Red are down there on my likeability scale with ex-girlfriends whom you block on Facebook. It's a good Sunday when the football Cardinals lose.
This time of the year brings back bad memories from my younger days. A couple weeks back, much was made in the football media of the 2014 Arizona Cardinals start topping the 7-0 start by the then St. Louis football Cardinals in 1974. That was the beginning of the Cardiac Cardinals and the NFL’s first exposure to Air Coryell. The talk about the Big Red’s best start since brought back a lot of fond memories of the old football Cardinals.
Jackie Smith was the tight end. Smith was the first at that position who was a significant deep threat and a major part of an offense. Terry Metcalf was the halfback or tailback in the I. A forerunner to Barry Sanders for those too young to remember. Mel Gray was the fastest guy in the league at wide receiver. Lots of great memories watching those guys 40 years ago.
The current Cardinal start also stirred up other memories. Late season collapses. Epic, franchise altering collapses. And they all started around this time of the year.
The 1967 Big Red were 5-3-1 in mid November. They stumbled in at 6-7-1.
In 1970, the football Cardinals stood at 7-2 and they were coming off consecutive shutouts of Houston, the Boston Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. The shutout of Dallas was a Monday 38-0 drilling in the inaugural season of Monday Night Football. A 6-6 tie with the reigning Super Bowl IV Champion Kansas City Chiefs and a win over a bad Philadelphia Eagles followed the shutout streak and the Big Red were 8-2-1 as November ended. They went 0 for December and plummeted out of the playoff picture. Owner Bill Bidwill called his locksmith and changed the lock on Coach Charlie Winner's office. Winner did not get a new key.
The 1976 Big Red lost back to back November games to division rivals Washington and Dallas. That was enough to knock them out of the playoffs entirely despite a 10-4 record. …Only one wild card in those days and that 10-4 mark wasn’t good enough.
In 1977, a lack of depth and injuries contributed to another collapse. That team ran off six consecutive wins to reach 7-3 at Thanksgiving. Through mid season, they looked like a team that could represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Then, there were two key injuries in the secondary and the collapse started with a horrible 55-14 beating at the hands of Miami on Thanksgiving Day. That started a season ending four game losing streak. The ’77 season ended with a loss at Tampa Bay for the second win ever in Bucs history and their first ever home win. Bidwill called his locksmith again. There was no new key for Don Coryell either.
The ’84 Big Red changed the script a bit with a three game slide in November that chopped into a 6 and 3 start. That season ended with a loss at Washington when kicker Neil O’Donoghue missed a would-be winning field goal. I'm of the belief that the in-season skid in ’84 and the errant field goal did little for good will toward the franchise as the Big Red were starting to look for a better home than Busch Stadium II could provide.
Now, it’s 2014. The Arizona Cardinals are 9-2 as we arrive at Thanksgiving. They have injury and depth problems. Sounds familiar? It does to me.
Quarterback Carson Palmer is done for the year. The running game is not good and combining iffy running games and backup quarterbacks usually does not work out well on Sundays. The remaining schedule includes the Chiefs, Rams, Niners and Seattle. All present challenges—especially to a team with the problems the current edition of the Big Red face.
Arizona currently holds the #1 overall seed in the NFC. Wouldn’t surprise me if fans of the Arizona Cardinals get a taste of what those of us who lived and died with the St. Louis Football Cardinals experienced in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.