Chicago years (1898–1959)Edit
The Cardinals began as an amateur athletic club team in Chicago named the Morgan Athletic Club, which was founded by Chicago painter/builder Chris O'Brien in 1898. In 1913 the team turned professional.
O'Brien later moved them to Chicago's Normal Park and renamed them the Racine Normals, since Normal Park was located on Racine Avenue in Chicago. In 1901, O'Brien bought used maroon uniforms from the University of Chicago, the colors of which had by then faded, leading O'Brien to exclaim, "That's not maroon, it's cardinal red!" It was then that the team changed its name to the Racine Cardinals.
The team disbanded in 1906 mostly for lack of local competition, but reformed in 1913. They were forced to suspend operations for a second time in 1918 due to World War I and the outbreak of the Spanish Flu Pandemic. They resumed operations later in the year, and have since operated continuously.
In 1920, the team became a charter member of the American Professional Football Association (which became the NFL in 1922), for a franchise fee of $100USD. The Cardinals and the Bears (originally founded as the Decatur Staleys before moving to Chicago in 1921) are the only charter members of the NFL still in existence, though the Green Bay Packers, who joined the league in 1921, existed prior to the formation of the NFL. The person keeping the minutes of the first league meeting, unfamiliar with the nuances of Chicago football, recorded the Cardinals as from Racine, Wisconsin. The team was renamed the Chicago Cardinals in 1922 after a team actually from Racine, Wisconsin (the Horlick-Racine Legion) entered the league. That season the team moved to Comiskey Park.
The Staleys and Cardinals played each other twice in 1920 as the Racine Cardinals and the Decatur Staleys, making their rivalry the oldest in the NFL. They split the series, with the home team winning in each. In the Cardinals 7-6 victory over the Staleys in their first meeting of the season, each team scored a TD on a fumble recovery, with the Staleys failing their extra point try.
The Cardinals' defeat of the Staleys proved critical, since George Halas's Staleys went on to a 10-1-2 record overall, 5-1-2 in league play. The Akron Pros were the first ever league champions, they finished with an 8-0-3 record, 6-0-3 in league play, ending their season in a 0-0 tie against the Staleys. Since the Pros merely had to tie the game in order to win the title, they could afford to play not to lose. Had the Staleys not lost to the Cardinals, they would have gone into that fateful game with an 11-0-1 record, 6-0-1 in league play. As it was, it all but assured that the Staleys/Bears and Cardinals would be intense rivals.
The two teams played to a tie in 1921, when the Staleyes won all but 2 games, thus the Cardinals came within 1 point of costing the Staleys a second consecutive championship in the league's first 2 years of existence.
In 1922, the Bears went 9-3-0, losing to the Cardinals twice. The Bears still edged the Cardinals for 2nd place in the league, but those losses dashed all hopes of the Bears repeating as champions.
In 1923 and 1924, the Bears got the better of the Cardinals all three times the two teams played. But in 1925, the Bears went 0-1-1 against the Cardinals with the tie meaning the Cardinals were only a 1/2 game in front of the Pottsville Maroons heading into their fateful 1925 showdown.
Thus, in the first 6 years of the NFL's existence, the Bears-Cardinals games had a direct impact on the league championship 4 times. The Bears and Cardinals each took home 1 title during that span. But the Bears nearly cost the Cardinals their title, the Cardinals nearly cost the Bears their title and but for the Cardinals tenacity against the Bears, the Bears very well might have won 2 others. The Bears were a dominant team against everyone but the Cardinals in the leagues early years. From 1920-1925 the Canton Bulldogs, champions in 1922 and 1923, beat the Bears just 2 times and no other team in the NFL defeated the Bears more than once over that entire 6 year span...except the Cardinals. The Cardinals battled the Bears to 4-4-2 split between 1920–1925 and established the NFL first rivalry.
Legend has it that the Cardinals played the Chicago Tigers in 1920, with the loser being forced to leave town. While this has never been proven, the Tigers did disband after one season.
The Cardinals won their first NFL championship in 1925, finishing the season with a record of 11-2-1. In a controversial ruling by the league, the Pottsville Maroons, the team with the best record, had their franchise revoked for violating the territorial rights of the Frankford Yellow Jackets. Thus, the Cardinals won the 1925 title by default. (For more on the controversy, see 1925 NFL Championship controversy.)
Dr. David Jones bought the team from O'Brien in 1929. In 1932 the team was purchased by Charles Bidwill, then a vice president of the Chicago Bears. The team has been under the ownership of the Bidwill family since then.
In 1944, owing to player shortages caused by World War II, the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers merged for one year and were known as the "Card-Pitt", or derisively as the "Carpets" as they were winless that season. In 1945, the Cardinals snapped their losing streak by beating the Bears 16-7. It was their only victory of the season. In 1946, the team finished 6-5 for the first winning season in eight years.
In 1947, the NFL standardized on a 12-game season. This would be the most celebrated year in Cardinals history as the team went 9-3, beating Philadelphia in the championship game 28-21 with their "Million-Dollar Backfield", which included quarterback Paul Christman, halfback Charley Trippi, halfback Elmer Angsman, and fullback Pat Harder, piling up 282 rushing yards. However, Bidwill was not around to see it; he'd died before the season, leaving the team to his wife Violet. He had, however, beaten the Chicago Rockets of the upstart All-America Football Conference for the rights to Trippi. This signing is generally acknowledged as the final piece in the championship puzzle. The next season saw the Cardinals finish 11-1 and again play in the championship game, but lost 7-0 in a rematch with the Eagles, played in a heavy snowstorm that almost completely obscured the field. This was the first NFL championship to be televised. The next year, Violet Bidwill married St. Louis businessman Walter Wolfner, and the Cardinals fell to 6-5-1.
The 1950s were a dismal period for the Cardinals, with records of 5-7 (1950), 3-9 (1951), 4-8 (1952), 1-10-1 (1953), 2-10 (1954), 4-7-1 (1955), 7-5 (1956; the best year of the decade), 3-9 (1957), 2-9-1 (1958), and 2-10 (1959). With just 33 wins in ten seasons, the Cardinals were nearly forgotten in Chicago, being completely overshadowed by the Bears. Attendance at games was sparse and the team was almost bankrupt. The Bidwills engineered a deal with the NFL that sent the Cardinals to St. Louis, Missouri beginning with the 1960 season, a move which also blocked St. Louis as a market against the new American Football League.
St. Louis years (1960–1987)Edit
The NFL conducted a survey of St. Louis and concluded that it was capable of supporting a team. The league's 12 owners unanimously approved the Cardinals' move. During the Cardinals' stay in St. Louis, two major Cardinal teams (football and baseball) called the city home. Sports fans and local news broadcasters called them "the football Cardinals" or "the baseball Cardinals" to distinguish the two. To avoid confusion, the NFL contemplated changing the Cardinals' name, but then dropped the idea. They shared Sportsman's Park with the baseball team, but professional football was new to St. Louis, and tickets were difficult to sell. The Cardinals initially held practices in the city park. Their first home game was a loss to the Giants on October 2, 1960, and they finished the year at 6-5-1 (the NFL had expanded to a 14-game season to compete with the upstart AFL). In 1961, they broke even at 7-7 and fell to 4-9 in 1962. Improving to 9-5 in 1963, the Cardinals almost reached the playoffs, but a loss to the Giants prevented that.
During the Cardinals' 28-year stay in St. Louis, they advanced to the playoffs just three times (1974, 1975 & 1982), never hosting or winning in any appearance. In spite of what was considered lackluster performance in St. Louis, their overall record there, of 187 wins, 202 losses, and 13 ties (.481 winning percentage) is easily the highest winning percentage for any of the three locations that the Cardinals have been associated with.
The new St. Louis football Cardinals were much improved, and the team was competitive for much of the 1960s. New stars emerged in Larry Wilson, Charley Johnson, Jim Bakken, Sonny Randle, and Jim Hart. Violet Bidwill Wolfner died in 1962, and her sons, Bill and Charles, Jr. took control. Although the Cardinals were competitive again in the '60s, they failed to achieve a playoff appearance during the decade, as only four teams qualified during this period. In 1964, the Bidwells, unsatisfied with St. Louis, considered moving the team to Atlanta. They wanted a new stadium, and that city was planning the construction of one. However, St. Louis persuaded them to stay with the promise of a stadium (a new expansion team, the Falcons, was eventually created for Atlanta). The Cardinals got off to a good start, and tied the Cleveland Browns 33-33 on the road. They finished 9-4-1 and second in the Eastern Conference, but a victory by the Browns over the New York Giants denied them a playoff berth. The team finished the year with a meaningless win over the Packers.
A 4-1 start to the 1965 season evaporated into a 5-9 finish. In 1966, the Cardinals were in first place in the Eastern Conference with an 8-2-1 record, but a loss to the Dallas Cowboys, which went on to win the conference title, started a three-game losing streak to end the season, leaving St. Louis at 8-5-1. Another middling season followed in 1967, with six wins, seven losses, and one tie.
In 1968, the Cardinals swept the Cleveland Browns and ended the year with a 9-4-1 mark, but a loss to a sub-par San Francisco 49ers club and a tie against the woeful Pittsburgh Steelers kept the Cardinals out of the playoffs.
St. Louis fell back to 4-9-1 in 1969, but that season saw the debut of Roger Wehrli, a star safety at the University of Missouri who played 14 seasons for the Cardinals and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 1970, the Cardinals were placed in the new NFC East division following the merger with the AFL. They posted three consecutive shutouts in November, blanking the Houston Oilers, Boston Patriots, and the Cowboys, the last of those victories coming 38-0 on Monday Night Football in the Cotton Bowl. But St. Louis collapsed down the stretch, losing December games to the New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins to finish 8-5-1 and out of the playoffs. The Cardinals then regressed to three consecutive 4-9-1 seasons from 1971-73. Bill Bidwill became sole owner in 1972 and still owns the team today. Only the New York Giants and Chicago Bears have been in the hands of one family longer than the Cardinals.
Larry Wilson retired following the 1972 season, and in 1973, Don Coryell, who built a powerhouse program at San Diego State became head coach. The Cardinals registered a 7-0 record to open the 1974 season and won the NFC East championship on the strength of a season sweep of the Redskins. In the franchise's first playoff game since 1948, St. Louis took an early 7-0 lead against the Minnesota Vikings in Bloomington, Minnesota, but a missed field goal just before halftime sapped the Cardinals' momentum. The Vikings scored 16 points in the first seven minutes of the second half and cruised to a 30-14 victory.
The Cardinals won the NFC East again in 1975, despite a 32-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving. The playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams was a disaster: Lawrence McCutcheon set an NFL playoff record by rushing for 202 yards, and Jack Youngblood and Bill Simpson returned interceptions for touchdowns, staking the Rams to a 28-9 halftime lead en route to a 35-23 victory at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
This period for the franchise was characterized by exciting close games, come-from-behind nailbiters, and several frustrating near-misses. The press and league fans began to call the team the "Cardiac Cardinals". Team stars from the 1970s included Wehrli, wide receiver Mel Gray, and running backs Terry Metcalf and Jim Otis.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1976, the Cardinals suffered a controversial loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Cardinal tight end J. V. Cain, running an apparent game-winning route, was shoved out of the end zone by Dallas defensive backs Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters in what appeared to be obvious interference, but a penalty was not called. With this loss, the Cardinals were dethroned from the divisional lead and became the first NFC team to reach 10 wins without qualifying for the playoffs, losing a tiebreaker to the Redskins due to Washington's sweep of the season series.
In 1977, the Cardinals started slowly but won 6 consecutive games before losing the Thanksgiving Day game to the Miami Dolphins, 55-14. Bob Griese's record-setting day turned out to be the first of 12 straight losses for the Cardinals (extending into 1978), a streak which included being only the second team ever to lose to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the first to lose in Tampa Stadium. Coryell and several key players, including Dobler and Metcalf, departed the team at the end of the 1977 season.
For the 1978 season, Bidwill hired Bud Wilkinson, famous for building a football dynasty in 17 seasons at the University of Oklahoma. But Wilkinson, who had been out of coaching since retiring from the Sooners following the 1963 season, could not turn the Cardinals around. St. Louis started 1978 with eight straight losses and finished at 6-10, and Wilkinson was fired in 1979 with the Cardinals at 3-10 and last in the NFC East. Wilkinson was canned by Bidwill for refusing to bench quarterback Jim Hart in favor of rookie Steve Pisarkiewicz. Larry Wilson, the Pro Football Hall of Fame safety who starred for the Cardinals for 13 seasons, coached the final three games of the 1979 season, finishing with a 5-11 record.
The Cardinals experienced several years of notoriously poor drafts and unfortunate personnel moves in the late 1970s, typified by the first-round selection of kicker Steve Little, who was paralyzed in a 1980 automobile accident, and hiring Wilkinson in 1978. The team also suffered a tragic loss during 1979 training camp when Cain died of a heart attack.
However, the Cardinals had some success in the early 1980s, posting three consecutive winning seasons from 1982 to 1984. The heart of this squad was the prolific trio of quarterback Neil Lomax, wide receiver Roy Green, and running back Ottis Anderson. Stellar performances by Anderson couldn't salvage the Cardinals' 1980 and 1981 campaigns, which ended at 5-11 and 7-9, respectively.
The Cardinals entered the final weekend of 1984 with a chance to win the NFC East by defeating the Redskins, but Neil O'Donoghue missed a game-winning field goal at the gun, giving Washington a 29-27 victory and the division championship.
St. Louis started 1985 3-1, but finished 5-11, leading to the termination of coach Jim Hanifan after six seasons. Hanifan would return triumphantly to St. Louis, serving offensive line coach during the St. Louis Rams' Super Bowl championship season.
Gene Stallings, formerly the head coach at Texas A&M and a long-time assistant to Tom Landry with the Cowboys, replaced Hanifan. The Cardinals finished 4-11-1 in 1986, but improved to 7-8 in 1987, falling just one win shy of the playoffs, losing 21-16 on the final Sunday of the season to the Cowboys.
The 1987 season is remembered for a stunning comeback, rallying from a 28-3 deficit against the Buccaneers by scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter for a 31-28 victory. It remains the largest fourth-quarter comeback in NFL history.
The overall mediocrity of the Cardinals, combined with an old stadium, caused game attendance to dwindle, and once again the Bidwills decided to move the team, this time to either Baltimore, Phoenix, or Jacksonville. Nonetheless, Cardinals fans were unhappy at losing their team, and Bill Bidwill, fearing for his safety, stayed away from several of the 1987 home games. Their last home game was on December 13, 1987 (a 27-24 victory over the New York Giants in front of 29,623 fans on a late Sunday afternoon).
Team Cardinals yearly resultsEdit
|1987||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||7||8||0||362||368||-6||Stallings||Lomax||Mitchell||Smith|
|1986||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||4||11||1||218||351||-133||Stallings||Lomax||Mitchell||Smith|
|1985||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||5||11||0||278||414||-136||Hanifan||Lomax||Mitchell||Tilley|
|1984||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||9||7||0||423||345||78||Hanifan||Lomax||Anderson||Green|
|1983||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||8||7||1||374||428||-54||Hanifan||Lomax||Anderson||Green|
|1982*||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||5||4||0||135||170||-35||Hanifan||Lomax||Anderson||Tilley|
|1981||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||7||9||0||315||408||-93||Hanifan||Hart||Anderson||Tilley|
|1980||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||5||11||0||299||350||-51||Hanifan||Hart||Anderson||Tilley|
|1979||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||5||11||0||307||358||-51||WilkinsonWilson||Hart||Anderson||Tilley|
|1978||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||6||10||0||248||296||-48||Wilkinson||Hart||Otis||Tilley|
|1977||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||7||7||0||272||287||-15||Coryell||Hart||Metcalf||Gray|
|1976||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||10||4||0||309||267||42||Coryell||Hart||Otis||Harris|
|1975*||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||11||3||0||356||276||80||Coryell||Hart||Otis||Gray|
|1974*||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||10||4||0||285||218||67||Coryell||Hart||Metcalf||Gray|
|1973||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||4||9||1||286||365||-79||Coryell||Hart||Anderson||Smith|
|1972||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||4||9||1||193||303||-110||Hollway||Cuozzo||Anderson||Gillette|
|1971||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||4||9||1||231||279||-48||Hollway||Hart||Lane||Gilliam|
|1970||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||8||5||1||325||228||97||Winner||Hart||Lane||Gilliam|
|1969||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||4||9||1||314||389||-75||Winner||Johnson||Edwards||Gilliam|
|1968||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||9||4||1||325||289||36||Winner||Hart||Crenshaw||Smith|
|1967||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||6||7||1||333||356||-23||Winner||Hart||Roland||Smith|
|1966||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||8||5||1||264||265||-1||Winner||Johnson||Roland||Smith|
|1965||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||5||9||0||296||309||-13||Lemm||Johnson||Triplett||Conrad|
|1964||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||9||3||2||357||331||26||Lemm||Johnson||Crow||Conrad|
|1963||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||9||5||0||341||283||58||Lemm||Johnson||Childress||Randle|
|1962||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||4||9||1||287||361||-74||Lemm||Johnson||Crow||Randle|
|1961||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||7||7||0||279||267||12||IvyWillseyProchaskaDrulis||Etcheverry||Gautt||Randle|
|1960||NFL||St. Louis Cardinals||6||5||1||288||230||58||Ivy||Roach||Crow||Randle|
|1919||Chicago Racine Cardinals|
|1918||Chicago Racine Cardinals|
|1917||Chicago Racine Cardinals|
|1916||Chicago Racine Cardinals|
|1900||Morgan Athletic Club|
|1899||Morgan Athletic Club|
|1898||Morgan Athletic Club|