Arizona Cardinals: Ranking the Five Greatest Cardinals of All Time


Dec. 2, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) attempts to catch a pass against the New York Jets during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Jets won 7-6. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking the five greatest Cardinals of all time is no easy task. After all, the Arizona Cardinals have been an NFL franchise since 1920. So for me to attempt and try to figure out who are the greatest Cardinals of all time; it is asking for some serious ridicule and disagreement.

Furthermore, it would be difficult enough to figure out who the best quarterbacks are. In fact, some time ago, I mentioned (to some long time Cardinals fans) that I thought Kurt Warner might be the greatest quarterback in Cardinal history, even though he was only great for about 3 years. The response (disagreement) that I would continue to get was; what about Jim Hart and Neil Lomax? Did you see them play? Or, you were not old enough to see them play. How could you say that?

So it is just not that easy to rank the greatest players. For instance, do we include longevity when we rank them? Or do we concentrate more on how great they were for one year? Or should it be how great they were at their peak performance, even if it was for a short period of time?

Additionally, how can you compare a quarterback with an offensive lineman for instant? That’s like comparing apples and oranges. But that’s what I will try to do.

After making my top five picks, I expect ridicule and controversy. In fact, there is a part of me that hopes I will get just that from you. At least then I will know that someone was interested enough to read my article (with a chuckle).

Never the less, after giving it some serious thought, I have decided to make it the top 5 Phoenix /Arizona Cardinals of all time. It is just way too difficult to compare or (should I say) it simply does not give due justice for me to try to compare players before the Cardinals arrived in Arizona. After all, I was not old enough (or alive) to appreciate the players during that time.  Perhaps that should be a debate for another time, or perhaps for someone who was old enough to appreciate the players during that time.

Here is my attempt at the top five. I have decided to weigh this heavily on ultimate greatness for that one year. But if a player does have ultimate greatness with longevity, this may put him over the top. So here goes.

At number five is the Q, Anquan Boldin.  The former 2003 second round pick (#54 overall) was named rookie of the year.  Boldin also broke an NFL record for the most receiving yards in his first game with 217 yards. He also holds the record for the most receptions in his first 26 NFL games with 157.  He also was the fastest player to accumulate 300 receptions (47 games).  Furthermore, in December 2008, he became the fastest in NFL history to have 500 receptions.

Boldin played for the Cardinals for seven years until traded to the Baltimore Ravens.  With those stats listed above, how could he not be considered one of the greatest Cardinals of all time (since the move to Arizona)?  During his time with the Redbirds he was truly a fan favorite and a leader on and off the field. He was a tough and hard-nosed player that always seemed to sacrifice his body at all times to make the play on the field.  Perhaps he should be listed higher than I have listed him.

At number four is Adrian Wilson.  Yes, I have a feeling there will be a lot of debate about this pick.  However, how can you not have him listed in the top 5?  As far as I am concerned, there has not been a more intimidating member of the Arizona Cardinals.  Wilson went to five Pro Bowls and if it wasn’t for playing in Arizona, probably, or should I say would have been to more Pro Bowls.  He is one of only six players in NFL History to have more than 25 sacks and 25 interceptions for his career, and is the only player in NFL History to have 2 or more touchdowns of 99 yards or more without the benefit of a kickoff return.

Wilson is also a player that was a true leader in the club house and a leader on and off the field.  He was also a hard-nosed player that was willing to sacrifice his body at all times to make the play.  After all, how could you forget, in 2011 he played the entire season with a torn triceps.

At number three is Aeneas Williams.  Williams was a six-time Pro Bowler, if not playing for the Cardinals probably would have been in the Hall of Fame by now.  He had 46 interceptions and was second in Cardinals history and scored nine defensive touchdowns. Williams’s played during the same time as Deion “Prime Time” Sanders and had comparable numbers to him.  Sanders got all the praise but Williams was every bit as good as him during his heyday, as far as I am concerned.

At number two is Kurt Warner.  If Warner would have played for the Cardinals longer than a few years, there is no doubt in my mind, he would have been considered to be number one over all.  Furthermore, he may have been considered number one throughout the Cardinals entire history (since 1920).  Or should I say, if Warner played at the level he did during his days in St Louis, during the “Greatest Show on Turf” and brought two additional Super Bowls to Arizona, for instance.  There is no doubt; he would have been the number one player of all time on my board.  Would you agree?

During his time in Arizona, Warner threw for 4,583 yards and a franchise-record 30 touchdowns in leading the Cardinals to an improbable NFC Championship and a trip to Super Bowl XLIII.  As we all know, since Warner’s sudden retirement in 2009, the Cardinals have been unable to find a serviceable replacement.  It has now been three seasons. That in a nut shell shows how great Warner was in Arizona.

At number one is Larry Fitzgerald.  Yes all-world Fitzgerald is the number one player on my board.  If you are a Cardinals fan, it is not too difficult to remember how amazing he was during the Super Bowl run in the 2008-2009 season.  I just cannot imagine where he would be considered all-time (already) if he were able to play with Warner throughout his entire career.  For that matter, you can probably say the same for Boldin.

With that in mind, Fitzgerald is already the Franchise’s all-time leading receiver and he is not even close to being done yet.  Furthermore, he somehow continues to have success regardless of who has been under center or at the helm.  Or should I say, he continues to have great success regardless of the litany at quarterback for the majority of his career.  I just cannot help to imagine how incredible his numbers would be if he had Warner throughout his entire career or at least an above average one at that.

Honorable mentioned: (FB) Larry Centers, (DT, DE) Darnell Dockett, (WR) Roy Green amongst others.

Much respect and appreciation for former greats and Hall of Famers that I have not had the good fortune to watch play: Larry Wilson, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Jackie Smith, Dan Dierdorf, Charlie Trippi, Jim Hart and Neil Lomax amongst others.

Current Cardinals watch list: Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell and Darrell Washington