The perfect storm

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Mar 13, 2006



When Arizona inked Edgerrin James to a four-year, $30 million deal Sunday, it marked one of those rare and remarkable meteorological moments when clueless management, disenchanted player, greedy agent and pathetic, delusional franchise all conspire to create the perfect storm of dealmaking.
           
Like any perfect storm, this one is likely to leave a trail of disaster in its wake as it moves across Pigskin America: disaster for the player, disaster for his former team and disaster for his new team.
           
It's truly a special occasion when all parties in a deal end up losing. How can something that sounds so good be so wrong?
           
We credit the potentially colossal disaster to a group of donkeys who have all misunderestimated each other and erred along the way in their individual strategery. Here's a look at the role each donkey played in creating this perfect storm of pigskin.
 
(By the way, one reader recently asked us why we throw around the word "donkey" so often. There's a very good reason. A donkey is simply a substitute for "ass" and we're not supposed to say "ass" here on the Internet. So we use "donkey" instead. But you didn't hear that from us.)
 
Edgerrin James is a donkey because ...
... he signed with the worst franchise in NFL history in what can only be described as a donk-ified cash grab.
 
But what else would you expect from a Drew Rosenhaus client?
           
You can't truly appreciate how spectacularly poor the Cardinals have been until you step back with your greasy binoculars and scan the length and breadth of the horizon of history here on Planet Pigskin. To put it most bluntly, James left a perpetually competitive team and ended up with the most uncompetitive franchise in the history of North American sports. Winning, it seems, is not a priority for James.
 
The Cardinals are one of the NFL's original franchises. They played in Chicago from 1920 to 1959, St. Louis from 1960 to 1987 and Phoenix/Arizona since 1988. They have sucked at every stop along the way. In 86 seasons, they have:
  • appeared in just 7 postseason games*
  • registered a 2-5 postseason record (if history is any indicator, the Cardinals will win their next playoff game in 2033)
  • appeared in two NFL championships games (most recently in 1948, a 7-0 loss to Philly)
  • won two NFL championships (in 1947, a 28-21 win over Philly, and in 1925, when the title was simply handed to the team with the best regular-season record)
  • fielded 25 teams with winning records
  • fielded 55 teams with losing records
  • won 11 or more games three times – and just once in the last 57 seasons (11-2-1 in 1925; 11-1 in 1948; 11-3 in 1975)
  • posted a cumulative 453-653-39 record (.410)
(*In 1964, the Cardinals appeared in an eighth playoff game. They beat the Packers, 24-17, in a postseason game that, for a brief period in the 1960s, pitted the conference runners-up in a consolation game. It was one of just two postseason losses suffered by the Packers in the Lombardi Era. But these games are not included in official NFL records.)

But that's ancient history, you might say. Surely, the Cardinals are on the rebound, right?

Wrong. The Cardinals have been as bad as ever in recent years. They have:
  • registered just one winning season in the last 21 years
  • failed to win 10 games every year since 1976 (10-4)
  • posted one playoff victory in the last 58 seasons
James apparently believes that a great running back is all that separates the Cardinals from competitiveness.
 
The Cold, Hard Football Fact is that the Cardinals have many other needs beside running back. The Cold, Hard Football Fact is that the Cardinals have not been without great players and coaches. But virtually without fail, Cardinal red is the funeral robe with which careers and reputations are buried. 
  • Roy Green caught 522 passes for 8,497 yards and 66 touchdowns in 12 seasons with the Cardinals (1979-90). He appeared in exactly one playoff game (a 41-16 wild-card loss to Green Bay in 1982) and two Pro Bowls.
  • Larry Centers caught more passes (826) than any running back in NFL history. He spent the first nine of his 14 seasons (1990-2003) with the Cardinals. During his time in Arizona, he appeared in exactly two playoff games (both in 1998) and two Pro Bowls.
  • Jim Hart (pictured here) spent 18 of his 19 seasons (1966-84) with the Cardinals and was one of the most prolific passers in NFL history. He retired with 34,665 passing yards, third all-time behind only Fran Tarkenton and Johnny Unitas. (Hart now stands at 15th on the career passing yardage list.) Despite his historic output, Hart appeared in just four Pro Bowls and three playoff games – a 1974 divisional-round loss to the Vikings, a 1975 divisional-round loss to the Rams and a 1982 wild-card loss to the Packers.
The hopes, dreams and careers of coaches also dry up and die in a Cardinals uniform.
  • Hall of Fame coach Curly Lambeau posted a 209-104-21 record (.668), won three NFL titles and got the NFL's most famous stadium named after him following 29 years in Green Bay. He went 7-15 (.318) in two seasons with the Cardinals, resigning before his second campaign had concluded.
  • Joe Stydahar built the most explosive offense in NFL history, posted a 17-7 record (.708) and won an NFL title in two full years with the L.A. Rams. He went 3-20-1 (.130) in two seasons with the Cardinals.
  • Bud Wilkinson is arguably the greatest coach in college football history. He led Oklahoma to three national titles, won 82.6 percent of his games and was the architect of the longest win streak in the history of major college football (47 games). In 1978, 15 years after leaving Oklahoma and at the age of 62, he took a shot at the NFL with the Cardinals. He won just 9 of 29 games (.310) before owner Bill Bidwell fired Wilkinson with three games remaining in the 1979 season.
This 86-year history of failure apparently means little to James. He just wants his touches.
 
"I told coach I hoped this wasn't going to mess up my 100-yard games," James is reported to have said yesterday after signing with Arizona. "I am used to getting 100 yards a lot and I like to make plays and I like moving the ball on offense. They said that we were going to do that there."
 

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