Kliff Kingsbury aiming to mimic his Cardinals predecessors

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Ken Whisenhunt
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Ken Whisenhunt /

Ken Whisenhunt and Bruce Arians took the Arizona Cardinals on deep playoff runs, and Kliff Kingsbury hopes to do the same this season.

For many years, the playoffs seemed to be an unattainable goal for the Arizona Cardinals franchise.

From 1983 through 1997, the Cards failed to make it into the NFL’s postseason tournament. Quarterback Jake “The Snake” Plummer finally helped the organization get over that hump in 1998, but then another ugly playoff-less streak took hold of the Redbirds following that one improbable appearance.

Things began to change for the Cardinals in 2007 when longtime owner Bill Bidwill made his son Michael the team president. The younger Bidwill took over the day-to-day operations, and Arizona has been on an upswing ever since.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury will have a certain standard to live up to that begins against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night. The Cards’ previous two coaches engineered deep runs into the playoffs during their time in the desert, and the pressure is on for Kingsbury to follow in their footsteps.

Playoffs began to be a reachable goal for the Arizona Cardinals back in 2007

Ken Whisenhunt was brought in to be the club’s new head coach back in 2007, which happened to be Michael Bidwill’s first year at the controls. Promise was shown right away when the team posted their first non-losing record (8-8) since their last postseason run in ’98.

One year later, in 2008, Whisenhunt led “Big Red” to the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. The team got to the title game thanks to wins over the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Philadelphia Eagles. The Cardinals fell by a score of 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, but the organization had obviously taken a turn for the better.

In 2009, Arizona triumphed in the playoffs once again with Whisenhunt leading the group. The great Kurt Warner outdueled the sensational Aaron Rodgers in an absolute classic meeting with the Green Bay Packers. Linebacker Karlos Dansby‘s fumble-return for a touchdown in overtime resulted in a 51-45 victory for the Cards.

Five seasons later, in 2014, the Cardinals made it back into the postseason with a new head coach roaming the sidelines. The charismatic Bruce Arians led the squad into the league’s annual tournament, despite the fact that his top two signal-callers were sidelined with injuries. The infamous Ryan Lindley stepped in for Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, and proceeded to fail miserably during a 27-16 road loss to the Panthers.

In 2015, Arians engineered one of the greatest campaigns in franchise history. After posting a 13-3 regular-season mark, the Cards pinned a 26-20 defeat on the Rodgers-led Packers during the divisional round of the playoffs. An appearance in the NFC Championship game followed, but too many mistakes by Palmer resulted in a 49-15 blowout loss to Carolina.

An opportunity is available for Kingsbury to achieve something that both Whisenhunt and Arians failed to do. Taking home the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time in Cardinals history is clearly the goal. Beating the Rams this coming Monday would be the first step towards accomplishing that monumental feat.

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