What is "The Cardinal Way"? I listened to a radio segment the other day. They were talking about Greg Jennings and how he said he’d been brainwashed by the Packers – he mentioned "The Packer Way". The hosts went on to speak about "ways" of different teams, at one point saying there isn’t really a "Browns Way". That got me thinking...what is "The Cardinals Way"? Do we even have one? What is the mantra, the persona, the heart and soul of the Cardinals organization?
The first thing I thought of was the history of the Cardinals. I asked myself, "is there a common thread in the history of the Cardinals"? BAM! It hit me! "The Cardiac Cards" popped into my head. The Cardinals have always been a team where their games could "hinge" on a defining moment, and the momentum would literally swing in our favor or from the Cardinals to their opponent in a single defining moment. Remember the Super Bowl? The phrase "Cardiac Cards" was actually dubbed during the times of Jake Plummer when 8 of their games were decided by 3 points or less in a single season. Even last year, we had 4 games where we lost by 7 points or less, and several more where we won by the same amount - in overtime no less, if I remember correctly! Whether the Cardinals had a winning or losing season has always been decided by how they play at that defining moment in multiple games throughout seasons.
It turns out this common thread throughout the Cardinals history is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way. The way the Cardinals have always played has been tied to the franchise since its inception! I found this out by accident. Something’s always bothered me about the Cardinals logo – it’s a red finch...not exactly the most intimidating figure to rally around. I’ve always asked myself, "is the Cardinal Logo something to be proud of? Is the Cardinal something that players can look at and find pride in?" Honestly, I’ve never really thought so! It’s a bird - not even an aggressive one, at that! So I looked deeper into the actual Cardinal bird for something that rang true to "The Cardinals Way" or at least something I could hang my hat on, so to speak.
I immediately found out that the "red bird" was named after the bright red outfits of the Cardinal officials of the Roman Catholic Church. Okay...I’m somewhat religious, but even with God on their side, these flashy friars don’t exactly inspire fear in the eyes of their enemies. I still wasn’t satisfied...I want the logo of our favorite franchise to have a deeper meaning – something that I can relate to and dainty red birds and (even high-ranking) Catholic Officials weren’t it. So...I dug deeper...
Where’d the Catholic Cardinals get their name? Well, this is where the plot grew thicker – where I had a proverbial revelation, no pun intended. The word cardinal is derived from the latin word "hinge". You see where I’m going with this? "Cardo" when translated can be interpreted as a "hinge" or figuratively speaking "a turning point or critical moment or action". Yeah, it’s no shit either! What I’m telling you is that the etymology of the Cardinals logo breaks down to "a turning point or critical moment or action"! "The Cardinals Way" is etymologically and historically related to that critical moment in games where they are either won or lost! The essence of the Cardinals lies in that cardinal moment on which the whole game hinges.
The next question I asked myself is, "how should I interpret this?" Well, let’s look at everything I’ve covered. 1) the history of the Cardinals organization (or the "Cardiac Cards") has always been that of a team that will win and lose entire seasons in a single game, drive, or even on a single play, 2) the momentum of Cardinals games has always quite literally "swung" in a split second between us and opponents, 3) the very definition of "cardinal" breaks down to "hinge", "critical mass", "critical moment", or "critical action", however you want to interpret it.
So what is the Cardinals Way? The answer to that lies in the cardinal etymology and essence of Cardinals history. The Cardinals Way has to do with critical mass events. It has to do with those situations where everything hinges on a single moment – that cardinal moment upon which everything depends – and the swing of momentum within the game...then, I had another revelation...
What was my next revelation, you ask! My revelation was this: Bruce Arians is already coaching the Cardinals Way...maybe without even knowing it! Ask yourself, "what are the critical moments where we can affect the swing of momentum in a game?" The answer is turnovers, third down and red zone situations. Isn't this EXACTLY what BA stresses to the team already? On defense, he said, "I don't give a crap about where our defense is ranked because that's all yardage. If we lead the league in points against and turnovers, we've got a heck of a defense." What does that mean? He only cares about points against (which is all about red zone and third down defense) and turnovers. Well, BA, what do you care about on offense then? BA says "third down, red zone, and 2 minute efficiency" if I remember correctly...So what does all this mean? It means that BA is teaching the Cardinals Way already and started even before some of us realized it was the way it should’ve been since the beginning. BA is teaching our team how to swing the momentum of games and overall act in that critical moment to win games.
In the grander scheme of things, we just recently were confronted with a critical moment in which the future of the franchise hinged, and we stayed true to the Cardinal Way by acting boldly and cleaning house. Now, practically all of our old coaches are gone and the entire power structure in our front office has swung in a different direction. The weird thing is, after all this change this offseason, it seems less like we’re heading into the unknown and more like we’re getting back to what we’re used to – maybe not the way we’ve always done it, but the way we were always meant to.