Now that we're three weeks removed from the Cutthroat Island-style bomb the Arizona Cardinals tried to pass off as their 2010 season I feel it's appropriate to begin reviewing some of the highlights. Then I remembered there were no highlights so I put together this column.
That's right, it's the five worst moments of the Cardinals season.
As I'm sure you can imagine the hardest part of putting this list together was narrowing down the many, many choices for horrible moments into a list of just five. I suppose I'm just the guy for this Herculean task.
Rules are pretty simple for this one - (1) it had to happen during the 2010 season and (2) it had to suck. And there was an awful lot of suck.
First the moments that just missed the list:
- Early season road trip jack stompings: In the second week of the season the 1-0 Cardinals took their act to Atlanta for a matchup with the Falcons. Nobody was overly excited about the winning result the previous week against St. Louis but that was a party compared to a 41-7 blowout loss to the Falcons. Arizona edged Oakland at home the next week but in its next road game against San Diego it suffered another Falcons-style destruction - losing 41-10 to the Chargers.
Against the Falcons the Cardinals lost the time of possession battle by nearly a third of the game, failed to convert any of their third-down attempts, and lost the first down battle 33-11.
It didn't get all that much better against San Diego, who outgained the Cardinals 419-134. Have you ever tried gaining more than 134 yards in an NFL game? It's not hard.
- NFL's Worst Handle the Cardinals with ease: Over a 16-game season there wasn't a team that was more disgustingly bad and hard to watch as the Carolina Panthers. They cruised to a 14-loss season and did it behind such quarterback dignitaries as Jimmy Clausen and Brian St. Pierre.
Yet when the Cardinals came to visit in Week 15, the Panthers turned into a defensive juggernaut, holding the Cardinals to just three points in the first three quarters. But it wasn't just the defense, the Panthers running attack put up 177 yards as they romped all over the Cardinals putrid run D.
Arizona made a bit of a game of it late but Carolina won comfortably 19-12.
- Comeback begets choke job against Tampa: On the first drive of the game Max Hall led the Cardinals down the field for a touchdown. That was by far the peak of the day.
Hall gift-wrapped two pick sixes for Tampa in the first half and after LeGarrette Blount scampered for a TD the Bucs were up 31-14 in the third quarter. Enter Derek Anderson.
DA actually managed to lead a pair of touchdown drives and that plus a fumble recovery TD for Gerald Hayes put the Cardinals up 35-31 in the 4th.
Tampa Bay scored a touchdown on their next drive and then Derek Anderson reverted back to being Derek Anderson. He who is inaccurate, threw an interception on the subsequent drive and after the Cardinals managed to block a field goal Anderson had the team down to the Tampa Bay 20 down just three.
Then for some reason Anderson decided to chuck the ball into double coverage even though the team needed just a field goal and what do you know, he threw another pick. That ended the competitive portion of the contest.
(5) Cardinals Allergic To Rain; Punished At Qwest
Following a win over the defending Super Bowl champion Saints and their bye week the Cardinals came into a Week 7 matchup with Seattle with a share of the division lead.
This was the second start in the Max Hall era after everyone began writing about how incredible he was in a below pedestrian performance against New Orleans. At the time, the idea was that he would continue to improve and the fact that the Cardinals didn't score an offensive touchdown in the Saints wasn't really a problem.
With the rain pouring down in Seattle, the undersized Hall was completely unable to get a grip on the ball and it showed in a first half where the Cards offense was only able to muster 110 yards. But it wasn't just the lack of yards.
Arizona turned the ball over three times in the first half - highlighted by Tim Hightower fumbling on the one good drive of the half and Andre Roberts fumbling a punt and then inexplicably attempting to pick it up with one hand. Seattle recovered the fumble and punched in their one touchdown of the day a few plays later.
Hall came out for the first Arizona drive of the second half but after a fumble was ruled out for the rest of the day with a concussion.
Derek Anderson replaced Hall and breathed a slight amount of life into the offense - 10 points worth to be exact - but it was far too little too late. Seattle waltzed to a 22-10 win.
Why Did it Suck?
The Seahawks basically spent the entire day in Cardinals territory but was held to field goals on all but the drive they started from the Arizona 2. It was one of those rare days where the Cards defense actually played well.
In addition, dropping the game put the Cardinals a full game back of Seattle for first place in the NFC West.
Who was the anti-hero?
- Max Hall - 4/16, 36 yards, 1 INT, 1 fumble. Also most people realized he was really bad at football.
(4) Seattle Embarrasses Arizona Again With Season On The Line
In the Cardinals home return date with the Seahawks just three weeks later it was well acknowledged the team would probably need a win to stay in the NFC West hunt. Following the first Cardinals drive it looked like things might actually work out for the Cards as they jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
Seattle matched Arizona's touchdown and the offenses traded second quarter field goals to have the score knotted at 10.
In the middle of the second quarter, Matt Hasselbeck found a wide open Deon Butler for a 63 yard touchdown while the Cardinals offense -- back in the less-than-able hands of Derek Anderson -- stalled badly.
Hasselbeck actually broke a bone in his left hand during the game but after briefly sitting out returned to torch the Cardinals. Seattle was held to three field goals in the third quarter - but the nine points still boosted the Seattle lead to 26-10. A 4th quarter field goal basically finished the game for the Seahawks.
Anderson managed to put up 322 yards passing but the majority of it was in garbage time when the game was far from competitive. He effectively had those meaningless Vince Carter stats.
Why Did it Suck?
The L put the Cardinals two games behind Seattle in the loss column and gave the Seahawks a season series sweep. It also provided a sad realization that in a division of total suck, the Cardinals were at the bottom. That's an awful lot of suck.
Who was the anti-hero?
- Arizona's pass defense - surrendered 333 yards to a banged-up
Baldy BaldersonMatt Hasselbeck, his highest passing yardage game in over three years. That's tough to do. Mike Williams also obliterated Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the way to 11 catches for 145 yards.
(3) Cards Allow Creepy Old Man To Rally From 14 Down
This was actually shaping up to be a bit of a season-changer for the Cardinals. Coming off that tough loss to Tampa the previous week, I think a lot of Cardinals fans didn't think highly of Arizona's chances to go to Mall of America Field and beat Minnesota.
Sure, Minnesota was struggling but the starting quarterback job was back in the hands of Derek Anderson. Resistible force against very movable object.
On the first drive it appeared Minnesota was going to roll after a quick drive culminating in a Adrian Peterson touchdown reception. But a LaRod Stephens-Howling TD on the ensuing kickoff return evened the contest and a Andre Roberts touchdown reception just before halftime gave the Cardinals a lead.
To open the second half Minnesota fumbled the kickoff and Michael Adams returned it 30 yards to give the Cardinals something that was quite rare for their year - a two-score lead.
Brett Favre did his Favre thing and threw a few picks and when the Cardinals hit a field goal early in the 4th quarter they had a two touchdown lead. Imagine that.
Arizona stuffed the Vikings on a Fourth and Goal late in the game with their two-score lead intact. Ball game...right?
Okay, not ball game. Minnesota got the ball back with 4:39 remaining in the game and quickly scored a touchdown to close the deficit to a touchdown. With all the momentum on the Minnesota sideline, the Viking defense stepped up and forced the Cardinals into a three and out.
Back on the field, Favre led the Minnesota offense right back down the field and punched home a touchdown when Adrian Wilson turned the wrong way on a pass down the middle of the field and allowed Visanthe Shiancoe to score.
The game headed into overtime but although the Cards won the toss they could muster nothing offensively and went three and out. It took Minnesota just three plays to get deep in Cardinals territory and after a few more plays Ryan Longwell kicked the game winner.
Why Did it Suck?
If you're up two touchdowns with under 5 minutes left in a game you're supposed to win the football game. Road or not. Favre or not.
But it wasn't just that the Cardinals lost, it was that the loss gave the mainstream media one final chance to fawn at the greatness of Favre. Now I don't know about you, but I've become awfully tired of that. It may have been cute 10 years ago - but it's not fun anymore.
What was even more humiliating was that at this point of the season the Vikings were for all intents and purposes a dead team walking. There was speculation that if the Cardinals had finished the win Brad Childress would be fired as head coach. That speculation was basically confirmed two weeks later when Childress was fired in the wake of a Vikings loss to Green Bay.
The Cardinals weren't even good enough to get a guy fired who was begging to be fired.
Who was the anti-hero?
- Defense in the last 4 minutes 39 seconds - It took 4 plays and 1:05 for the Vikings to get the first touchdown they needed and then five more plays and 1:57 to get the second one. Two touchdowns in 3 minutes and 2 seconds. The defense provided effectively no resistance to Favre.
(2) Cardinals Fail To Bring Rowdy Friends; Crushed on Monday Night
Nobody in the nation was excited by the prospect of a matchup between the 3-7 Cardinals and 3-7 49ers but unfortunately Monday Night Football doesn't have flex scheduling so the nation was stuck. The game certainly lived up to the complete lack of expectation.
San Francisco missed a field goal on their first drive only to have Beanie Wells hand the football back on the very next play.
Michael Crabtree opened the scoring when he hauled in a touchdown pass from Troy Smith but that just opened the Niners gashing of the crap Cardinals defense which allowed touchdowns on three of the next four drives to take a 21-3 halftime lead.
The second half was basically more of the same for the Arizona offense although the San Fran offense slowed down - partly because they weren't very good and partly because they probably just got bored from destroying the Cardinals.
For the contest Arizona was nearly doubled up in total yards (386-203) and time of possession (39-21) and somehow allowed Brian Westbrook (filling in for Frank Gore who suffered a season ending injury on the second drive) to gain 136 yards on just 23 carries.
The real fireworks occurred after the game when Derek Anderson went off at a question from Arizona Republic beat writer Kent Somers when asked why he was laughing late in the blowout loss. Check the video:
Why Did it Suck?
If that home loss to Seattle represented the Cardinals losing control of their 2010 season - this loss was the absolute death kneel. The defeat dropped Arizona to 3-8 - their 6th straight loss - and gave them sole control of last place in the division.
Watching an uninspired, disorganized, undisciplined Cardinals team limp to a three touchdown loss would have been difficult under ordinary circumstances but it was even more difficult having it come at the hands of Troy Smith and the well past his prime Brian Westbrook.
Who was the anti-hero?
- Derek Anderson - 16/35, 196 yards, 1 INT, 1 rant directed towards Kent Somers
(1) Every Single Snap Taken By Cardinals Quarterbacks
Well the short story is that Kurt Warner retired with a year left on his deal and nobody replaced him. The season was expected to belong to 2006 first round pick Matt Leinart but to the surprise of nobody he wasn't a Ken Whisenhunt guy and was released following the conclusion of the preseason.
How the organization didn't know that Leinart wasn't his guy already, only a few select people know.
With Leinart gone, the Cardinals turned the QB position over to free agent quarterback Derek Anderson - a guy so bad that he lost a job to Brady Quinn. Brady Quinn! The backups were fan favorite local boy and undrafted free agent rookie Max Hall and 5th round Fordham man John Skelton.
Anderson took the gig at the outset and though he had the Cardinals at 2-2 he displayed an ability to make sure most of his throws weren't anywhere near his receivers. For the fifth game, Whisenhunt mixed it up going with Hall.
In his first start Hall "led" the Cardinals to a win over the Saints but did almost nothing and was a few lucky fumble bounces away from being a disaster. In the rest of his starts he was just an actual disaster. The guy made it blatantly clear that he didn't have the physical skills to play QB in the NFL and it can be argued he lacked the mental capabilities as well.
Hall stunk so bad that Whisenhunt returned the job to Derek Anderson who proceeded to get back to being bad and leading the Cardinals to five straight losses. The highlight of the Anderson era is the number three moment on our list.
Just because it really couldn't get any worse (and a concussion), the Cardinals turned the ill-prepared Skelton loose on the world. Skelton actually had a few nice moments in a dominant win over Denver and a fun Christmas game against Dallas but his completion percentage was below 50%. Some people wanted to attribute his completion percentage to drops - but seriously, come on guys.
To make sure the team had an even four bad quarterbacks - Arizona played relatively freshly-signed Richard Bartel in the season finale. He played about as well as you'd expect Daunte Culpepper's UFL backup to play.
Why Did it Suck?
Having to go from watching Kurt Warner to watching the Cardinals garbage stable of 2010 quarterbacks was like going from sleeping with Brooklyn Decker to Rex Ryan with a wig (yea, eat that imagery).
Over the course of the entire season, the Cardinals passers threw 10 touchdown passes. 10. Warner had 11 by Week 8 of the 2009 season.
But it wasn't just the dropoff from Warner - I realize that it's difficult to replace the production of a Hall of Fame QB - it was not even getting an average level of production from the position. The Cardinal QBs weren't just unable to bring anything to the table - they actively took stuff away from the table.
If you didn't know before the season you do now - it's almost impossible to win in the NFL without decent QB play.
Who were the anti-heroes?
- Derek Anderson - 169/327, 51.7%, 2,065 yards, 7/10 TD/INT, 65.9 QB rating
- Max Hall - 39/79, 50.0%, 370 yards, 1/6 TD/INT, 35.7 QB rating
- John Skelton - 60/126, 47.6%, 662 yards, 2/2 TD/INT, 62.3 QB rating
- Richard Bartel - 16/28, 57.1%, 150 yards, 0/1 TD/INT, 57.1 QB rating