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Top 10 Arizona Cardinals in NFL History
They are one of the original NFL franchises established in 1920. Today, I rank the top 10 Arizona Cardinals of all time.
10. Jim Hart
He is one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks ever to play.
When you think of the most prolific passers in NFL history, Jim Hart isn't exactly a name that comes to mind. However, while piloting the Cardinals through the late 60s and 70s, Hart was just that. When he retired in 1984, he was third on the all-time yardage list, trailing only Fran Tarkenton and Johnny Unitas. Hart also led the Cardinals to three straight 10-win seasons from 1974 to 1976 and was the first quarterback to take the Cardinals to the postseason since 1948. In his 19 NFL seasons, he threw for over 34,000 yards and 209 touchdowns.
Hart spent his final season in Washington before retiring in 1984. He was a four time pro bowler, a 1974 All-Pro, and the 1974 NFC offensive player of the year.
9. Pat Tillman
He is one of those players where people wonder what might have been.
A seventh round pick in 1998. Pat Tillman moved from linebacker to safety in Arizona. His experience at linebacker made him a fierce tackler in the secondary. His best season was in 2000 when he recorded 155 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 9 pass deflections and an interception. At one point in his NFL career, Tillman turned down a five year, $9 million contract offer from the Rams out of loyalty to the Cardinals. After the September 11th attacks, Tillman turned down a contract offer of $3.6 million over three years from the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army. He finished his career with totals of 238 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 interceptions for 37 yards, 3 forced fumbles, 12 pass deflections, and 3 fumble recoveries in four seasons.
Tillman was killed by friendly fire in 2004. He was an All-Pro in 2000 and his #40 has since been retired by Arizona.
8. Roger Wehrli
He was the Cardinals defense for a long time.
A first round pick in 1969, Roger Wehrli's speed made him the original shutdown cornerback. In his 14 seasons, he played in 193 games. In addition to his starting defensive back duties, he was the holder on the place-kicks. Roger Staubach called Wehrli the best cornerback he ever had to play against. In his career, Wehrli had 40 career interceptions for 309 yards, recovered 19 fumbles, and scored nine touchdowns.
Wehrli retired after the 1980 season as a seven time pro bowler, six time All-Pro, and a member of the 70's all decade team. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.
7. Larry Wilson
The "Wildcat" was the blueprint for today's modern safety.
A seventh round pick in 1960, Larry Wilson moved from running back to safety due to his small frame. As a rookie, he became the first player to incorporate the safety blitz into a defense. In 1966, Wilson led the league with 10 interceptions and was named the NFL defensive player of the year. His most famous play came in 1967 when he intercepted a pass with two casts on his hands. In his 13 year career, he had 52 career picks for 800 yards and five touchdowns. Despite all this, he never played in a playoff game.
Wilson retired after 1972 as an eight time pro bowler and All-Pro, a member of the 60's and 70's all decade teams, and a member of the 50th and 75th anniversary teams. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.
6. Anquan Boldin
He was a bright spot for the early 2000's Cardinals.
A second round pick in 2003, Anquan Boldin made an instant impact on the offense. As a rookie he set an NFL record for most receiving yards by a rookie in his first game, and holds the NFL record for most receptions in the first 26 games of an NFL career. Boldin is also the fastest to record 300 career receptions and finished the season with 101 catches for 1,377 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. In 2005, he and fellow wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald became only the third duo from the same team to each catch over 100 receptions in addition to topping the 1,400-yard mark. He continued to put up great numbers in his seven seasons with the team as he has become the fastest player to reach every reception milestone.
Boldin was traded to Baltimore prior to the 2010 season. In his 11 seasons, he has been a three time pro bowler, the 2003 rookie of the year, two time conference champion, and Super Bowl champion.
5. Jackie Smith
He was one of the greatest vertical threat tight ends in league history.
A tenth round pick in 1963, Jackie Smith was a day one starter at tight end for the Cardinals. He was a talented receiver, a punishing blocker, a fierce competitor and an excellent runner after he caught the ball. He was also the teams punter for his first three seasons. Smith's 16.5 yards per catch average is higher than receivers like Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, and Randy Moss. He was also talented at running tight end sweeps when he had 12 carries for 163 yards and three touchdowns in 1968. At the time of his retirement, Smith's 7,918 receiving yards were the most ever by an NFL tight end. In his 15 seasons with the Cardinals, he recorded 480 receptions for just under 8,000 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Smith spent his final season in Dallas before retiring in 1978. He was a five time pro bowler and All-Pro, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
4. Aeneas Williams
He is one of the most productive careers of any cornerback in history.
A third round pick in 1991, Aeneas Williams quickly made an impact on the defense tying for the league lead in interceptions as a rookie. In 1994 he led the NFL in interceptions with 9. By 1997, Williams had already had established himself as the Cardinals' top cornerback, routinely covering the opponents lead receivers. In the 1998 season, Williams helped the Cardinals win their first playoff game since 1947 by intercepting two passes from Troy Aikman in a 20-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys, and added another interception in the Cardinals 41-21 loss in the divisional round. He shares an NFL record for longest fumble return for a touchdown.
Williams was traded to St. Louis prior to the 2001. He retired after 2004 as an eight time pro bowler, five time All-Pro, and a member of the 90's all decade team. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
3. Kurt Warner
He went from being a wash up, to revitalizing his career.
After six seasons with the Rams and Giants, Kurt Warner was signed by Arizona to help mentor the team's future starting quarterback in Matt Leinart. When Leinart went down with an injury, Warner stepped in and played as well as any quarterback in the league did that season. After the 2008 preseason, Warner beat out Leinart for the starting job and led the team to their first Super Bowl appearance. In the 2009 postseason, he threw five touchdowns and completed 29 of 33 passes for 379 yards in a 51–45 victory over the Green Bay Packers. The game had the highest combined total score in NFL playoff history. The following week he was knocked out of the game which ultimately decided his retirement. He is the first quarterback to throw 100 touchdowns for two different teams.
Warner retired after 2009 as a four time pro bowler, two time All-Pro, three time conference champion, and Super Bowl champion. He holds the three best passing performances in Super Bowl history.
2. Dan Dierdorf
He was the leader of one the best offensive lines in history.
A second round pick in 1971, Dan Dierdorf was brought in to help the dismal offensive line. He began his career as a guard and left tackle before settling in as a starter at right tackle in 1974. In 1982 he moved to center and was the starter in that season and became a back-up in his final year in 1983. In 1975, the Cardinals offensive line allowed a total of only 8 sacks, a then-NFL record. Dierdorf did not give up a sack for the entire 1976 and 1977 seasons.
Dierdorf retired after the 1983 season as a six time pro bowler and All-Pro, three time offensive lineman of the year, and a member of the 70's all decade team. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
1. Larry Fitzgerald
He is one of the best wide receivers playing today.
A first round pick in 2004, Larry Fitzgerald made an instant impact on the offense. In 2005, he led the NFL with 103 receptions for 1,409 yards and 10 touchdowns and teamed with Anquan Boldin to create one of the most dangerous wide receiver tandems in the NFL. During the NFC Championship for the 2008 NFL season, Fitzgerald tied an NFL record with three touchdown receptions in a playoff game. His three touchdown catches occurred in the first half and he became the first player in NFL history to accomplish that feat in a conference championship game. He also set a single postseason record with 546 receiving yards, 30 receptions, and 7 touchdown receptions surpassing Jerry Rice's records. He is the franchise's all time leading receiver and is the youngest player to reach every major receiving milestone.
In his 10 seasons in Arizona, Fitzgerald has been an eight time pro bowler, three time All-Pro, the 2008 receiving yards leader, and conference champion.