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CARDINALS FOOTBALL HISTORY

1920-1959 Chicago Cardinals, 1944 Card-Pitt, 1960-1987 St. Louis Cardinals, 1988-1993 Phoenix Cardinals, 1994-present Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals, the oldest professional football team in terms of continuous operationm, were founded as the Morgan Athletic Club in 1898. Nicknamed after the Cardinal red jerseys they donned in the early years, the team operated in Chicago through 1959, in St. Louis from 1960 to 1987, moved to Arizona following the 1987 season.

Arizona Cardinals, professional football team is one of four teams in the West Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) of the National Football League (NFL). Formerly based in Chicago, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri, the Cardinals now play at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, and wear uniforms of red, black, and white. The Cardinals are the oldest continuously run professional football team in the United States.

The Cardinals built strong teams during the 1920s, 1940s, and 1970s, capturing a total of two NFL titles and four division crowns during those decades. Because the first Super Bowl was not played until 1967, however, the Cardinals have never played in it. The team’s championship lineup of 1947 starred the famed Dream Backfield of quarterback Paul Christman, fullback Pat Harder, and halfbacks Elmer Angsman and Charley Trippi. During the 1970s quarterback Jim Hart commanded one of the league’s most potent offenses.

The Cardinals organization dates from 1898, when the Morgan Athletic Club played regular games on Chicago’s South Side. The club adopted the name Cardinals in 1901 when team owner Chris O’Brien, a painting and decorating contractor, bought used maroon uniforms from the University of Chicago that had faded to the color of cardinal red.

In 1920 the Chicago Cardinals became charter members of the American Professional Football League, the NFL’s predecessor. The team’s first star was future Hall of Fame halfback Paddy Driscoll, who was known for his drop-kicking prowess. The Cardinals, based in Comiskey Park, captured their first NFL crown in 1925 under head coach Norman Barry.

Following the 1925 championship, the Cardinals struggled for two decades, recording only two winning records from 1926 to 1945. One highlight during those years was when star running back Ernie Nevers came out of retirement to join the club in 1929. On Thanksgiving Day of that year he scored all of the team’s 40 points in a victory over the Chicago Bears. World War II (1939-1945) deprived the team of so many players that in 1944 the Cardinals merged with the Pittsburgh Steelers to form a club called Card-Pitt. The combined squad lost all ten of its games.

From 1946 to 1948 head coach Jimmy Conzelman directed the Cardinals to three consecutive winning seasons. In 1947 Conzelman put together the offensive unit of Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Elmer Angsman, and Charley Trippi, which gained the name the Dream Backfield because of its overwhelming offensive production. The Cardinals rolled through the season and went on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1947 NFL Championship Game.

The Cardinals repeated as division champions in 1948 behind the NFL’s top offensive attack. Harder had a sensational year, scoring six touchdowns and converting on all 53 of his extra-point attempts. But after averaging 33 points per game during the regular season, Chicago was upset 7-0 in a championship game rematch against Philadelphia. After Christman’s departure in 1949, the Cardinals tried to fill the quarterback slot with seven different players, including Trippi. But without solid leadership on the field, the team posted just two winning records during its remaining 11 seasons in Chicago.

In 1960 the franchise moved to St. Louis, enjoying a solid first season in its new home. Running back John David Crow surpassed the 1,000-yard mark, and defensive back Jerry Norton led the NFC in interceptions. During the 1960s the Cardinals finished with winning seasons five times, yet failed to qualify for postseason play.

In 1974 second-year head coach Don Coryell took the Cardinals to the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. Coryell was named the league’s top coach, while quarterback Jim Hart and running back Terry Metcalf shared player of the year honors. St. Louis lost in the first round, but the following year the team repeated as division champions. Wide receiver Mel Gray and running back Jim Otis each led his respective position in yards gained, supported by an offensive line that featured Dan Dierdorf, a future Hall of Fame member, and Conrad Dobler, who was considered one of the era’s most intimidating players. St. Louis again lost in the first round of the playoffs.

The Cardinals played inconsistently during the next two decades, posting several winning records but reaching the postseason only once (1982) from 1976 to 1996. In 1979 running back Ottis Anderson rushed for 1,605 yards and was named both player of the year and rookie of the year. Notable individual achievements during the 1980s included four more 1,000-yard seasons by Anderson, wide receiver Roy Green’s yardage championship in 1984, (1,555 yards) and quarterback Neil Lomax’s two NFC yardage titles, in 1984 with 4,614 yards and in 1987 with 3,387 yards. During the 1990s Aeneas Williams became one of the NFC’s finest cornerbacks.

After a deal between team owner Bill Bidwill and the St. Louis County government to build the team a new domed structure failed, the franchise moved to Arizona in 1988. In 1998 second-year quarterback Jake Plummer led the Cardinals to the team’s first playoff appearance since 1982 and first postseason victory since 1947. Since joining the NFL, the Cardinals have called three cities home. After 40 seasons in Chicago, they moved to St. Louis in 1960. The Cardinals seriously challenged the Cleveland Browns twice for divisional honors in the 1960s, but they fell one-half game short both in 1964 and 1968. For a time in the mid 1970s, the St. Louis Cardinals were serious championship challengers. They won NFC Eastern division championships in both 1974 and 1975 but lost in the first round of the playoffs each year. The franchise was moved for a second time in 1988 when William Bidwill selected Phoenix as the new home city. There the Cardinals play in 73,521-seat Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State University campus.

The Arizona Cardinals have never played in the Super Bowl.

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