Phoenix—Once upon a time, long, long ago, the Arizona Cardinals played for a World Championship. United with red shirts on their backs, white pants and a white helm emblazoned with the profile of a crimson bird, they were led by a magical quarterback who rode stallions for linemen and had minotaur for receivers. The running backs were powerful aurochs who could plow through any wall of defenders. And, save for the brilliance of one evil wizard, garbed in black and gold, the Cardinals were two minutes and thirty-seven seconds away from reaching the highest point in the realm before their defenses crumbled and all hope was dashed. It was a mystical ride that some thought could last forever.
That legendary Super Bowl was played in February of 2009 and oh, how the mighty have fallen. Two-and-a-half seasons, twenty-four defeats and five starting quarterbacks later, the team that carried their banners to the postseason with heads held high is now an unrecognizable troupe of jesters, finding ways to create losses like the Cardinals teams of lore.
When heralded king Kurt Warner denounced the throne at the end of the 2009 season, many knew the Cardinals would face hard times while struggling to find a new quarterback to replace the old. But surely, with the same men supporting them, in their keeps behind the scenes, the Cardinals could raise Matt Leinart up to the glory of his predecessor and keep the reign of the Red Bird alive (or Derrick Anderson? Or Max Hall? Or John Skelton?).
Then others deserted too. The stalwart men who’d fought hard on the battlefields to keep the enemies at bay abandoned their red and white helms to don the sigils of other, higher paying lords. Or were traded away for newer, younger squires. The likes of Karlos Dansby, Bertrand Berrian, Antrel Rolle and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gave way to new blood such as Joey Porter and Patrick Peterson. Well-serviced knights such as Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett remained to defend the realm, however they have proven to be aloof and frustrating in the roles of leadership.
Today the Cardinals boast a record of two victories compared to six defeats, with a margin of that old magic to thank for it. In a game that seemed sealed to send them to their seventh straight loss of the season, the Cardinals were able to forge a win out of thin air—blocking a Rams’ game-winning field goal and returning a punt for a touchdown in overtime. Now, nestled with the other low-born teams of their division, the Cardinals watch as the glimmer of another post-season grows ever more distant. The San Francisco 49ers, with an entirely new council and a much-maligned quarterback at the head of their army, have taken over the stronghold of the NFC West and left the Cardinals to fight for scrap.
The latest man chosen to lead the Red Birds, Kevin Kolb, a hired gun picked up during the long summer of free agency, has not yet proven his abilities leading his new team of warriors and now battles a wounded toe that may cause him to miss more than one battle.
Overcoming the obstacles they are presented with seems a daunting task in these troubled times. Whether there will be casualties within the organization remains to be seen. These days even the old warriors from house Fitzgerald and Lord Wisenhunt seem at a loss to turn the tides. Hopefully the time comes, before it is too late.