Former St. Louis football Cardinals can clinch title -- against St. Louis Rams
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Dec. 04 2008
For Bill Bidwill's football franchise, moments like this appear with the
frequency of Halley's comet. But a victory Sunday by Bidwill's Arizona
Cardinals clinches the franchise's first home playoff game since Harry S.
Truman was president.
One must go back to Dec. 28, 1947, when the Chicago Cardinals defeated
Philadelphia 28-21 in the NFL championship game at Comiskey Park, to find the
one and only Cardinals home playoff game.
That's not the only long playoff drought that's about to end for the team known
as the Big Red during its 28-season stay in St. Louis.
— The Cardinals haven't appeared in a playoff game since 1998, the longest
active playoff drought in the league.
— They haven't won a division title since 1975, when coach Don Coryell's St.
Louis Cardinals went 11-3 in the regular season.
Jim Hanifan, current Rams radio analyst, was offensive line coach for that '75
team, which featured three Hall of Famers (offensive tackle Dan Dierdorf, tight
end Jackie Smith and cornerback Roger Wehrli).
The thunder-and-lightning backfield consisted of Jim Otis and Terry Metcalf.
Mel Gray was the deep threat at wide receiver, with Jim Hart at quarterback.
The offensive line yielded only eight sacks, which was an NFL record until the
1988 Miami Dolphins allowed only seven. Jim Bakken was the clutch place-kicker
for a team known as the Cardiac Cards: five of their 11 victories came by a
touchdown or less.
"It was a fun team and it had a tremendous attitude about itself," Hanifan
said. "They felt, as time went on in that season, that they would not ever be
denied. That they were going to win every game."
But back then, only four teams made the playoffs in each conference, so winning
your division didn't guarantee a home game. Alas, the Cardinals were the No. 3
seed and lost their first-round game at Los Angeles against the Rams 35-23.
Between 1974-76, the Cardinals went 31-11. That was the best it would get for
pro football in St. Louis until a group known as the Greatest Show on Turf
arrived in town a quarter-century later.
But back then, in the mid '70s, "I thought we were going to continue on,"
Hanifan recalled. "We had a great nucleus of football players."
The success didn't last, nor did the Cardinals in St. Louis. The franchise
moved to the Phoenix area after the 1987 season, where the best record it could
manage was a 9-7 wild-card finish in '98.
But that's all about to change. If the heavily favored Cardinals (7-5) defeat
the Rams (2-10) Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, they will be NFC West
The "NFC West champions" T-shirts and hats are ready to be handed out Sunday,
at the Rams' expense. For many St. Louis football fans over the age of 35, this
could be a tough day. Our old team, with our old quarterback, winning our
"Our goal is to go in and try to not let them win the championship," Rams coach
Jim Haslett said. "They've done a good job over the years of accumulating
players. Ken (Whisenhunt) has done a good job with the team, running the
offense and getting those high-powered guys scoring points. So it's going to be
a great challenge for us to go in and try to win up there."
That's for sure. The Cardinals waxed the Rams 34-13 on Nov. 2 in St. Louis. The
"old quarterback," Kurt Warner, threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie
running back Tim Hightower rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown in his first
And with Whisenhunt as coach, the Cardinals have become very tough to beat in
their state-of-the-art $450 million stadium. Since the start of the 2007
season, the Cardinals are 10-3 at home, with their only home loss this season
to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
"It's always exciting to have a chance to get into the playoffs," Whisenhunt
said. "It's a very difficult thing to do in this league."
Cardinals fans in the Valley of the Sun are pumped up, too, according to Warner.
"There's definitely a lot more excitement here this year than at any time since
I've been around," he said Wednesday. "It reminds me a little bit of St. Louis
in those early years when there hadn't been a lot of success there, and it
wasn't much of a football town at the time.
"To be able to change that culture a little bit and have people excited about
the games, filling up the stadium, doing the tailgating and all that stuff,
it's fun to be a part of. That's the same kind of transition that we're seeing
here and it's been fun."
So would it be fun to clinch a title in front of his old team?
"Not really," Warner said. "It's kind of a new time in a new place. My time
there was special. I'm hoping to do some special things here as well."
Re: Former St. Louis football Cardinals can clinch title -- against St. Louis Rams
I love St. Louis sports writers. THE CARDS MOVED AWAY...GET OVER IT...WRITE ABOUT THE RAMS