Who should be in the Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor?
There are SO many worthy players, and so much information out there for each one, that it is difficult to know where to start. I enjoy doing research, but the information overload here is worthy of a Cray supercomputer. So, an arbitrary starting point should be within the collective memories of the living fan base. I chose to start my search in 1973. This was the beginning of the ‘Air Coryell' years. It also was the time that the Cardinals became nationally relevant, because of the high-octane offense led by QB Jim Hart, and many nationally televised games versus their NFC East foes. 1973 showcased some worthy names on both sides of the ball from the past, like Conrad Dobler, who, with his linemate Dan Dierdorf, were legitimate threats to tick off the defense so badly that you'd start a fight with them, and get thrown out of the game for your trouble. Also, Mel Gray, a really tough possession receiver, and Jim Bakken, a reliable and trusty kicker. But, I have to start somewhere, so 1973 it is!
The most vivid memory I have from that time (I admit I can't remember which game, in which season, and if it were a MNF game or not...) is the ‘phantom' TD (if you were a Redskins fan) scored by Terry Metcalf in the game versus the Redskins. Metcalf's dive over the top of the pile on the goal line, with the game on the line, and the Redskins' determined defense meeting him en masse up top, was an exciting, defining moment in Cardinals' history. I believe that, after the refs clarified the ‘crossing the "plane" of the goal line', there was a national discussion about the play for several days after, and may have led to an offseason refinement of the rule. If I'm off on any points here, I'm sure someone will correct me.
Most current Cards fans were not even born at the time of this game, so if you want to see what the Cardinals looked like in their glory years, when they were relevant nationally, and seemingly had a hand in determining who from the NFC East was going to the Super Bowl every year, find this game and watch it. I guarantee you'll be on the edge of your seat at the end, butt clenched with anticipation when Metcalf takes the handoff from Jim Hart and launches toward the goal line.
Let's start with the most egregious omission (in my humble opinion) from the ROH, besides Centers; Jim Hart. This man is the most successful and prolific QB this team has ever seen (yes, Neil Lomax has a better completion percentage for a career; however, his body of work was cut short by injuries, and isn't nearly as long as Hart's). He wasn't even drafted by the Cards; he was a chance UDFA pickup, as the fourth of four QBs in 1966. By the time Don Coryell took over the Cards in 1973 (after the disastrous Gary Cuozzo experiment), Hart was ready for the passing attack Coryell installed. Career stats: 18 seasons with the Cards, 2,593 completions, 5,076 attempts, 209 TDs vs. 247 interceptions, 34,665 total yards (most in team history), with a 51.1% career rating (Pro Football Reference). Hart is 68 years young, and living in Florida. Let's not induct him posthumously, please? And we should retire his number (17), too.
Here is a list of players that I personally remember, and recommend, for inclusion in the Ring of Honor. Some have not yet finished their careers, so they must wait. Some may not want to be included; they may have had a cross word or two with the team (Anquan Boldin). Some, you youngsters may have never heard of. In any case, here they are. Did I leave anyone worthy out? Is anyone on my list unworthy?
In no particular order:
Larry Centers RB
A terrific threat out of the backfield, Centers was Mr. Offense for most of his tenure with the team. Why isn't he already there?
No need to rehash what Wilson meant to the team. He's in after he's done playing.
Kurt Warner QB
He took us to our only Super Bowl appearance. What higher honor is there?
Jim Hart QB
I've already pleaded my case for the outstanding ‘Air Coryell' star above. He's waited too long.
Roy Green WR
A fantastic receiver, Larry Fitzgerald's career may someday be mentioned in the same breath as Roy Green's. He saved many a possession in his career.
Stump Mitchell RB
Currently a Cardinals RB coach, Mitchell was a tough SOB with sure hands out of the backfield. When Mitchell blocked you, you felt it for a week after.
Terry Metcalf RB
As described above, Metcalf is the player who defined the ‘plane of the goal' rule forever. His son Eric also played a year for the Cards.
Ottis Anderson RB
The all-time rushing yardage leader in team history (7,999 yds) should be enough to get him in the ring. Especially with the RBs the team has used in the last few years. Finally got his SB ring with the Giants.
Neil Lomax QB
Lomax succeeded the great Jim Hart, and put up pretty good numbers, until too many sacks forced him to retire and have hip replacement surgery.
Ricky Proehl WR
Was Jake Plummer's favorite target for the few years he played here. Was sure-handed and reliable, caught everything thrown his way.
Jake Plummer QB
A popular draft choice of Cardinals fans, the ASU standout was nicknamed "the Snake" in college for his ability to wriggle out of trouble nearly every time. Perhaps not enough time has elapsed to appreciate how good he really was.
Simeon Rice DT
A terror on every defensive play, Rice was a player opposing offenses had to prepare for.
Anquan Boldin WR
Still playing, and his trade to the Ravens left a bad taste in his mouth. Still, teaming with Fitzgerald made both players better, and a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.
Larry Stallings LB
A great linebacker for the Cards, he played in the shadows of the greats in the league, like Dick Butkus and Alex Karras. Never was recognized for the terrific player he was.
Vai Sikahema PR/KR
Like his successor, Patrick Peterson, Sikahema was a definite threat to score whenever he caught the ball. Fans didn't dare leave their seats to get a hot dog when Sikahema was about to receive the ball. Sikahema was fast, shifty and popular with the fans.
Kwamie Lassiter S
Lassiter was a no-nonsense, hit-‘em-first-ask-questions-
I've had my say. What say you, ROTB Best and Brightest?