Cards sure to lose, so let's win top pick
Sept. 2, 2004 12:00 AM
We've grown accustomed to our feathered vertebrate's peculiarities. Only in Arizona can a Cardinal lay a goose egg and behave like an opossum (play dead at home and get killed on the road).
If the preseason is any indication, those crazy non-conformists are at it again. They're rebelling against playing good football. As coach Dennis Green said after a preseason loss to San Diego, "It was an effort that was not good on offense, defense or special teams."
The all-time losers in National Football League history. With team, year, record, coach:
1. Baltimore Colts (1981), 2-14, Mike McCormack
2. New England Patriots (1990), 1-15, Rod Rust
3. Dallas Texans (1952), 1-11, Jim Phelan
4. Buffalo Bills (1971), 1-13, Harvey Johnson
5. Dallas Cowboys (1989), 1-15, Jimmy Johnson
6. New Orleans Saints (1980), 1-15, Dick Nolan, Dick Stanfel
7. Detroit Lions (1946), 1-10, Gus Dorais
8. Baltimore Colts (1982), 0-8-1, Frank Kush
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (1965), 2-12, Mike Nixon
10. Cincinnati Bengals (2002), 2-14, Dick LeBeau
For those Cardinals fans in need of overbelievers anonymous, we offer Step 1 of a 12-step program to cure the misguided belief that the team will be better this year: Admit that you are powerless over this team, that your life has become unmanageable.
In other words, root them on to an 0-16 record.
Seriously. Imagine the possibilities. The No. 1 draft pick next year. Exposure on SportsCenter.
"Well, we prefer highlights. To run lowlights, it has to be pretty low, which obviously the Cardinals sometimes can be," said a smiling Josh Bernstein, the coordinator/producer for ESPN's SportsCenter.
An unimpressive preseason, significant injuries and a tough schedule suggest the Cardinals could hit a new low in futility. We're not saying the 0-14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976, but maybe the 2001 Detroit Lions (2-14). The 2002 Cincinnati Bengals (2-14)? Do I hear the New Orleans Saints, anyone?
"I wish it on no one," said Archie Manning, the quarterback of many of the Saints teams that struggled in the 1970s. "From Sunday night to kickoff the next Sunday, the week seemed like a month."
It's hard to remain optimistic with these troubling signs from the Cardinals:
Ross Kolodziej, slated to start at defensive tackle until just a few days ago, hasn't played in a game since Dec. 8 . . . 2002.
Defensive end Peppi Zellner was unemployed this summer until the Raiders signed him Aug. 17. Now he's a Cardinals starter.
The starting offense's first touchdown came in the third quarter . . . of the third game.
For what it's worth, the '76 expansion Buccaneers opened their preseason with a 26-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The 2004 Cardinals opened their preseason with a 23-6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Here's something else the Cardinals should ponder. During Tampa Bay's training camp in '76, tight end Ricou deShaw asked the coaches if he could use the bathroom. Then he sprinted into the locker room, cleaned his locker and was never seen by the coaches again.
If we're Green, we're limiting the bathroom breaks.
He may also want to see who's paying attention.
Then-Tampa Bay coach John McKay often tells the story about how, before Week 3, he met with the team.
"Gentlemen," he said, "losing starts with mistakes, losing starts with turnovers, losing starts with . . . " McKay stopped when he noticed offensive lineman Howard Fest asleep in his chair.
"Fest!" McKay said. "Where does losing start?"
Stunned, a flustered Fest answered, "Right here in Tampa Bay, Coach!"
In the Cardinals' defense, injuries to key players have set them back. A brutal schedule that kicks off with games against St. Louis and defending Super Bowl champion New England won't help.
Cardinals fans need to take a cue from New Orleans and take a light-hearted approach to their team's woes. The Saints built a hall of fame that features one of the original paper bags that shame-faced fans wore to games, a picture of Ricky Williams in a wedding dress that ESPN The Magazine ran on its cover, and photos from their spectacular halftime shows, which were stopped after a cannon blew off the hand of a participant.
The truth is, we like the Green hire. In a few years, we believe he'll have this turned around. In the meantime, fans should hope for the worst (think: draft pick) and prepare for the worst. Maybe those luminaria bags in the closet will come in handy after all.
Reach Boivin at email@example.com
or (602) 444-8956