Arizona Turning A Corner

The Arizona Cardinals have arrived back east in Charlotte, North Carolina for their Saturday night drubbing at the hands of the Carolina Panthers.  They might as well sit back in their hotel rooms and skip the trainers tables and the walk thru’s.  It’s going to be way too cold, the Cardinals are over-matched and quite frankly do not belong anywhere near an NFL stadium right now, unless of course they wish to buy tickets to a game, maybe like say, the San Diego Chargers-Pittsburgh Steelers game? The Cardinals have no running game, have a mediocre run stop defense, an ailing Anquan Boldin, who will be limited Saturday night at best, and they are playing in a time zone that might as well be called the Bermuda Triangle Time Zone rather than the Eastern Time Zone.

Did you buy any of that crap?  No, me either.  Ok, some reasonable arguements, but seriously, the national media has learned nothing from the Cardinals victory over the Atlanta Falcons last Saturday.  Yes, it is just one game, however, that game should have proved the Cardinals are here to play and be more than just the pushover everyone expects them to be.

I don’t expect people to come out and all of a sudden proclaim the Cardinals world beaters and predict victory, however, after listening to all the “experts”, you would have thought that the Cardinals did nothing last week and they were the ones that lost.  I think secretly some of those “experts” still think there is a chance the Falcons will appear on the field Saturday night.  Most have counted this game as a foregone conclusion.  Fine, you know what?  Let ‘em.

I am not discounting the Carolina Panthers one bit.  In fact I tried telling people to temper their excitement because the Cardinals, who played maybe their best overall game last week, will need to be that much better to even hang with the heavily favored Panthers.  The Panthers are an excellent team with what I called a fearsome twosome in the backfield with Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams.  Sure the Cards stopped Michael Turner, but he was one man.  Even if they can stop Stewart and Williams, they still have to contend with Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith.  Not an easy task to undertake.

I just listened to Pardon the Interruption on ESPN. Michael Wilbon, who I really like listneing to, said he is going to “root” for the Cards, but really thinks there is no chance for them to win.

The Cardinals know their history does leave a lot to prove and has created skeptics out of the most optimistic people in this world.  Those that have vehemetly argued against the Cardinals having any chance though should take a closer look at past predictions.  Some of the same people who were so against any Cardinals chances last week are still finding it tough to breathe anything positive about the red birds.

“We are all wrong so often that it amazes me that we can have any conviction at all over the direction of things to come.” – Jim Cramer, investment author and host of CNBC’s Mad Money

I’ve been a Cardinals fan since the age of 15 when they moved to Arizona in 1988.  I’ve watched this team lose close ones, not so close ones, get ridiculed in the press, go though a closet full of coaches, employ first round busts such as Garrison Heart, Wendell Bryant, and Timm Rosenbach.  I even became one of them for two preseason’s in 1989 and 1990 as a ball boy who worked with the equipment mangers and team trainers.  As a student (and eventual graduate) of Brophy  College Preparatory, our local Jesuit Catholic high school, I was provided the opportunity to travel to Flagstaff and be part of the Cardinals organization for 6 weeks for two consecutive summers.  Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell, a supporter of Brophy, was looking for six Brophy boys to help his team out.  Being one of the few selected was a distinct honor.  Many would call it a curse or a waste of time.  I called it the opportunity of a lifetime and I got to do it twice.  I’ve seen Mr. Bidwell up close, even had short conversations with the man.  He bleeds Cardinal red.  It’s a family business.

Many over the years have called him cheap and I’ll be honest, there were times I wished he had opened up his wallet a little more to help get this team to the promised land.  There were times I felt maybe he could have done more.  I will tell this to you though fellow fans.  Mr. Bidwell, no matter your opinion of him, does care about his team.  He cares about his fans.  That’s why he tried so hard to get a new stadium.  It took 18 years to get that stadium built, but it got done.  He did it for the team and for the people of this town.  Over the past few seasons he has opened up the wallet and loosened team rules about signing certain players.  This team is headed in a different direction.

Say what you want.  It can be argued (and trust me I’ve brought this subject up several times this season) that this team started to revert to their old ways.  That was mere commentary about their play on the field though.  That had nothing to do with the way this team is run.  That has turned a corner.

It is clear this team has turned a corner.  They hired a keeper in coach Ken Whisenhunt. Although he wasn’t up for coach of the year this year, he proved he has this team going in the right direction.  Even Whisenhunt will tell you he didn’t deserve the accolade after the way the Cardinals played the way they did against Minnesota and New England after clinching the division.  That is a man taking responsibility.  You could see it in his eyes especially after the New England game.  He was practically speechless with the way they played, but he put it on himself.  He has led the Cardinals to back to back non losing seasons since taking over.  For the Cardinals, that is saying something.

Whisenhunt brings a future to these Cardinals, a bright future.  He is a leader on and off the field.  He has brought a new attitude and has his team beliving in the greatest reward for an NFL player, a Super Bowl win.

“Leaders need to be optimists. Their vision is beyond the present.” – Rudy Giuliani

That’s exactly what Ken Whisenhunt has brought to these Cardinals, a vision for the future.  Win or lose tomorrow night in Carolina, there are now more believers in this team for the present and the future.  I’ve admitted to many this week I am nervous about tomorrow night.  I give the Cardinals a chance to win though if they play near perfect football.  Though if you listen to the “experts”, the Cardinals might as well forfeit the game so they can see a “real” NFC Championship game. Floyd Reese of ESPN just said on Sportscenter that if the Arizona isn’t careful, “it could be over by kickoff”.  It never ends.

I say this in closing.  Those involved with this organization truly believes from top to bottom that Cardinals have every right to be where they are.  They make no excuses about being the NFC West Champion and in the NFC Divisional playoff game.  Carolina isn’t taking them lightly, so why should the rest of us?  Win or lose, I consider this a successful season, unfortunately, lose and all I’ll hear is “I told you so”.  Win and it may still not be enough, but winning this one can go a long way in taking away the arguments that have people still thinking “same old Cardinals.”

I can’t say it enough, go Cardinals!  This is the most important game this organization has played since moving to the desert and one could argue ever.  If the Cards lose, they can hold their heads high, but have a lot of personnel questions to answer to.  Let’s hope they can put those issues off for at least another week.

Scott Allen

AZScott

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Tags: Arizona Cardinals Atlanta Falcons Bill Bidwell Carolina Panthers CNBC Deangelo Williams Espn Floyd Reese Garrison Hearst Jake Delhomme Jim Cramer Jonathan Steart Ken Whisenhunt Mad Money Michael Turner Michael Wilbon Pardon The Interruption Pittsburgh Steelers Rudy Giuliani San Diego Chargers Sportscenter Steve Smith Super Bowl Timm Rosenbach Wendell Bryant

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