Alright folks you probably know the deal by now but just in case let’s do this one last time....
I wanted to try a new exercise where the fans could assemble the all-time team for the Arizona Cardinals in the days leading up to a much anticipated training camp.
Today’s focus: Off-ball Linebackers (finding 3, given that OLB/Edge is a flexible one and I put them w/ the pass-rushers)
Here’s how it works...for those who haven’t been following.
You take ONE game on a neutral field, pick the best player and go position by position, with Cards fans voting to assemble the greatest game-day roster of Arizona Cardinals in franchise history, period.
Again: Here’s a few of the rules and guidelines
-All players must have played for the Arizona Cardinals and players must be remembered as Cardinals foremost, or for a majority of their career (aka saying “Boomer Esiason is the greatest Cardinal quarterback ever” because he was a great QB doesn’t count)
Example: Ken Harvey was a Cardinal but his greatest career achievements were with the Redskins, meaning he will not qualify on this list.
-No impossible offensive alignments (ex. putting four tight ends on the field or finding 6 wide receivers)
-Talent wins over longevity (the goal is to find the team you’d take to win in a game) but that doesn’t mean players who played for the Cardinals forever shouldn’t be counted...
-St. Louis Cardinals do count, and if there’s an argument to be made for a Chicago Cardinal they can be included, too.
For today’s list on linebackers we’ll assume one of the edge players will flex so we need to find three linebackers to play in the middle of the best Cardinals defense to set foot on a field.
Daryl Washington (2010-2015)
It goes without saying that Washington might have been the most “talented” player at linebacker the Cardinals have ever had, period. He was on the cusp of superstardom in level and impact with a 389 tackles, 18 sacks, 6 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles.
However, after multiple marijuana suspensions and a domestic violence accusation/incident, he parted on bad terms with the team.
Considering what goes into this list, I think it’s fair to say that his talent SHOULD 100% be recognized and appreciated but I think most fans would agree that as far as future honors go he’s unavailable. But that one 2013 season with him AND Dansby was...wow.
He’s definitely a “what could have been” with the Cardinals, much like the lead-off person on this list...
Karlos Dansby (2004-2009, 2013, 2017)
When someone mentions Cardinals linebackers and “all time greats” obviously ‘Los is the first one in recent memory that comes to mind.
In his 8 years (over 3 stints) with the Cards Dansby “The Dirty Bird” racked up an astounding 770 tackles, 77 for loss, 33 sacks, 15 interceptions and 1 forced fumble & return.
He was the leader in the middle and heart of the defense bringing toughness, smarts and leadership. He also was a bit of a mercenary and wanted to maximize his earning potential during his time in the league, and Arizona, having paid Daryl Washington already, let him walk to the Miami Dolphins and again the Cleveland Browns before he returned in what would be his final season with Arizona in 2017. He was a character and deserves a mention on this list amongst others for sure.
Dale Meinart (1958-1967)
It’s hard to find Cardinals at the linebacker spot who earned Pro Bowl numbers and other accomplishments from the 80’s on, unfortunately. But going back into the past finds a player who earned no less than 3 pro bowl berths in Dale Meinart for the Chicago Cardinals, with 9 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries (sacks/tackles weren’t tracked back then).
Mark Arneson (1972-1980)
Arneson started a whopping 127 games for the Cardinals, putting up 5 defensive interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries. He never made a pro bowl but was a valuable part of that strong Cardinals 70’s teams.
Larry Stallings (1963-1976)
Stallins played in a stunning 181 games for the Cardinals (by comparison Larry Fitzgerald’s been in 232 games over his 15 year career not including playoffs) but that was only when they played 14 games. Factoring in it now he had a 14 season stint with the Cardinals that saw him put up 9 interceptions and force 13 fumbles. He’s a classic Cardinal who performed well enough to earn a 1970 Pro Bowl Bid.
Ronald McKinnon (1996-2004)
McKinnon also never made a Pro Bowl but was a long-time dominant force during the 90’s and early 2000’s for the Cards, a team that has never had that sort of consistency at the position. His numbers aren’t outstanding (except for Arizona) where he had 929 tackles (47 for loss) 12 forced fumbles and 10 interceptions.
He ended his career in New Orleans but was probably the closest thing the Redbirds had to a great linebacker before Karlos Dansby took over for him and propelled the Cards into the modern era of success.
Gerald Hayes (2003-2010)
Hayes is probably the shortest tenured Cardinal on this list but he performed and produced as the 2nd leader for the Cardinals in that Super Bowl year after Dansby. In 64 games for Arizona he had 5.5 sacks, 428 tackles, 82 for loss, along with 4 interceptions and some great plays on the way to Tampa before he left the team after 2010.
What are your thoughts, Birdgang?
Vote below and the highest 3 vote-getters will be named to the All-Time team!
Who are the greatest Cardinals linebackers of all-time?
This poll is closed
Sound off with your hot takes in the comments section? Anyone left out? Or were these names on point?