I: Sept. 17, 1920
II: Nov. 7, 1920
III: Nov. 28, 1920
IV: Oct. 7, 1923
V: Nov. 26, 1925
VI: Dec. 6, 1925
VII: Nov. 6, 1929
VIII: Nov. 28, 1929
IX: Oct. 24, 1933
X: Nov. 28, 1935
XI: Oct. 14, 1945
XII: Apr. 19, 1947
XIII: Dec. 28, 1947
XIV: Dec. 19, 1948
XV: Mar. 23, 1959
XVI: Mar. 13, 1960
XVII: Dec. 6, 1964
XVIII: Nov. 7, 1965
XIX: Nov. 16, 1970
XX: Dec. 27, 1975
XXI: Jan. 8, 1983
XXII: Dec. 16, 1984
XXIII: Nov. 8, 1987
XXIV: Mar. 15, 1988
XXV: Dec. 23, 1990
XXVI: Dec. 24, 1994
CARDINAL CHRONICLE XXVI
December 24, 1994: Neither Winner Nor Loser
- - - - - In 1993, head coach Joe Bugel knew that his team had to perform well in order to keep his job with the Cardinals. Not only was he
coming off two straight 4-12 seasons, but team owner Bill Bidwill had threatened in the off-season that Phoenix must win nine games for Bugel to
remain with the Cards.
- - - - - The team showed tremendous improvement, but somehow, always seemed to fall just short. Of their nine losses, eight were by a touchdown
or less. Eventual Super Bowl Champion Dallas, beat the Cardinals twice by a combined twelve points. Meanwhile, the Cards managed to split the series
with the title-contending Giants and their 19-17 loss in New York came on a last-minute 55-yard field goal. Even after the team was assured of a losing
season, the players, including Gary Clark and Steve Beuerline, fought to save their coach's job. When the season had ended, Phoenix owned a 7-9 record,
but had won three straight and five of their last eight. Despite falling short of the 9-7 mark, it appeared as if Bugel would stay as coach.
- - - - - Then, early in the off-season, Cardinals fans around the world were shocked to hear that Bugel had been let go. Even more horrifying was
that as his replacement, Bidwill hired Buddy Ryan. The difference between these coaches was about as large as Ryan's girth. The classy Bugel specialized
on offense, yet it was Buddy Ryan who could be described as offensive, most recently symbolized by his punch thrown at fellow assistant Kevin Gilbride in
Houston. He was also known for his boastful talk and for the bounty he once placed on an opposing kicker. Even running up the score against a defeated
foe was not below his level.
- - - - - Yet, the Phoenix faithful believed that he could turn the Cards into true contenders, and season ticket sales shot through the roof. The
team's name was even changed to "Arizona" to reflect the Cardinals' statewide presence as well as to accommodate Buddy's ego. Known as a defensive mastermind,
Ryan brought over some of his old friends from Philadelphia and Houston, including Seth Joyner and Clyde Simmons. Under Bugel, the offense was among the best
in the NFC, behind Dallas and San Francisco, and with the improved defense, many thought that the Cardinals would surely reach the playoffs. In his first game
with the Big-Red, Buddy's team crushed a helpless 49ers squad in the pre-season, earning him a Gatorade shower. Little did everyone know that this would be his last.
- - - - - "Buddy Ball" soon turned into "Cruddy Ball." The team would not win another pre-season game, and bombed in the season opener to the Los Angeles Rams.
The struggles continued as Arizona lost to the Giants. In Cleveland, the Cardinals set football back 75 years: not only were they wearing their 1920-throwback uniforms,
the team failed to score a single point, just like in their first NFL (APFA) game. Unfortunately, though, the Browns had more success than the 1920 Chicago Tigers (who
were also held scoreless), and rolled off 32 points.
- - - - - Ryan's highly vaunted defense finally cam to life by the eighth game, allowing no more than 19 points in any game the rest of the season. The only problem
is that the offense, led by the QB trio of Steve Beuerline, Jim McMahon, and Jay Schroeder, averaged just over 14 points per game. Schroeder had the most success of the
three and brought the team back from 3-6 into playoff contention as the season drew to a close. In fact, he remains the only Cardinals quarterback to start in more wins
than losses since the team left St. Louis.
- - - - - The Cardinals took advantage of a soft December schedule, giving themselves a chance for the post-season in the final week. In addition to having to beat
6-9 Atlanta, the Cards also needed the following help: Dallas must beat the Giants, and either the Packers (vs. Bucs) or Vikings (vs. 49ers) lose. Unfortunately, neither
Dallas nor San Francisco had any motivation to win, since both were already locked into their playoff seeds. Not surprisingly, all went wrong for the Cards, including
their 10-6 loss to the Falcons. It is a little known fact that a slip by former Cardinal TE Jay Novacek several weeks earlier may have cost the Cardinals a trip to the
playoffs. Against Cleveland, Dallas was driving for the winning score, but Novacek slipped and fell just short of the end-zone as time expired. Had Dallas won that game,
their season finale against New York would not have been meaningless (a win would give them a chance at the top playoff seed). A motivated Cowboys team should have been able
to defeat the Giants, giving the Cardinals more of a reason to push through late in their game against the Falcons. Finally, the 49ers, two days later on Monday night, would
have needed to beat Minnesota to clinch home-field advantage. Although this is a bit of a stretch, one still wonders how things might have been different.
- - - - - Anyhow, mid-way through the fourth quarter in Atlanta, the Cardinals got the news that the Giants had won, mathematically eliminating the Redbirds. Still, the
team bravely fought on, and with three seconds remaining, brought the ball to the one-yard line. At 8-7, a win would fulfill Buddy Ryan's pre-season promise of having a "winner
in town," something the Cardinals have not been since 1984. But, in a move symbolizing the way things had gone all year long, Ron Moore's run up the middle was stopped short.
In the end, the Cardinals would be 8-8, and although Ryan's words were never brought to fruition (he would be fired after a 4-12 record in 1995), for the first time ever, Arizona
did not have a loser in town.