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Who's The Greatest Arizona Cardinal? Ranking The Top 10 Greatest Cardinals of All Time

The Arizona Cardinals are only one of two teams left from the National Football League’s founding members. However, they have undergone several name changes since their establishment in 1898. From their original name Morgan Athletic Club, they also went by Racine Normals and Racine Cardinals before joining the NFL as the Chicago Cardinals.

They merged with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1944 because several players served for the United States during World War II. In 1960, they relocated to Missouri to become the St. Louis Cardinals. They moved again in 1988 to become the Phoenix Cardinals and changed names to Arizona Cardinals in 1994. While the team hasn’t won a Super Bowl, they have two NFL championships (1925 and 1947).

Of all the great players who have donned the Cardinals uniform over the decades, ten can be considered the best. These players might quickly come to people’s minds whenever they see the Cardinals logo. They have represented the organization well, and all are worthy of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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10. Kurt Warner

If the St. Louis Rams were the first chapter in Warner’s phenomenal comeback, the Cardinals allowed him to write the next chapter. He joined the Cardinals on a one-year deal in 2005, but then-head coach Dennis Green selected him as the starter. Despite ending that season with a torn MCL, the Cardinals gave him a three-year extension.

He was at his best for the Cardinals in 2008, leading them to Super Bowl XLIII, which they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he did earn that year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award and a Pro Bowl nod. The Cardinals was the last stop in Warner’s playing career, retiring in 2009. Warner became a Pro Football Hall of Famer inductee in 2017. He finished his career with 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns.


9. Ollie Matson

Ollie Matson had a fantastic 1952. First, the Cardinals selected him third overall in that year’s draft. A few months later, he won two medals (one silver, one bronze) in the Summer Olympics in Finland. That stint in Helsinki was an excellent warm-up for his first year in the NFL, wherein he finished co-Rookie of the Year with Hugh McElhenny.

Matson played for the Cardinals until 1958 and retired as a football player in 1966. He became a six-time First Team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler with the squad. His 12,799 career all-purpose yards upon retirement were second all-time to Jim Brown. He is a member of the Cardinals Ring of Honor and the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team. Matson became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.


8. Dick “Night Train” Lane

Lane still owns the league record for most interceptions in a season with 14. While he established that record with another team, he was just as good during his time with the Chicago Cardinals from 1954 to 1959. In his first year with the Cardinals, he led the league in interceptions (10) and interception return yards (181).

Lane became a two-time Second Team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler during his time with the Cardinals. He retired in 1965 after tallying 68 interceptions, 1,207 interception return yards, and six touchdowns in 68 games. Lane is a member of the Cardinals Ring of Honor. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.


7. Jackie Smith

It’s depressing that football fans widely remember him as the guy who dropped a pass from Roger Staubach in Super Bowl XIII. But Smith did have a legendary career, especially during his time with the St. Louis Cardinals. He is largely credited as one of the players who revolutionized the tight-end position. By the time he retired, his 7,918 receiving yards were the most by any player at the position.

The Cardinals drafted Smith in the tenth round of the 1963 NFL Draft. His best year with the team was in 1967, wherein he had career highs of 1,205 yards and nine touchdowns. He became a four-time Second Team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler during his time with the Cardinals. Smith also has 480 receptions and 40 touchdowns in 210 career games. He became a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1994.


6. Charley Trippi

Have you ever heard of a quintuple-threat football player? That term precisely defines Trippi’s NFL career. Aside from passing and running, he was also good at catching, defense, and punting. Trippi got the money he deserved for his all-around talent, signing an unprecedented $100,000 contract to join the Cardinals in 1947, two years after the Cardinals made him a “future pick.”

He helped the team win the NFL Championship in his rookie season. Trippi also became a two-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler throughout his career. He retired in 1995 with 3,506 rushing yards, 2,547 passing yards, 1,321 receiving yards, 16 touchdown passes, 11 receiving touchdowns, and 23 rushing scores. This member of Chicago’s “Million Dollar Backfield” became a Pro Football Hall of Famer in 1968.


5. Roger Wehrli

It took a while before the Pro Football Hall of Fame recognized Roger Wehrli’s greatness. But when he was finally inducted in 2007, everyone knew that the recognition was a long time coming. Roger Staubach mentioned him as the best cornerback he played against and that the term “shutdown cornerback” originated from his greatness.

The Cardinals were the only team he played for in his 14-season NFL career, during which he became a five-team First Team All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler. His best year was in 1975 when he had six interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Wehrli is also a model of durability because he missed only six games throughout his career.


4. Aeneas Williams

His namesake, the mythical hero in Homer’s Iliad, defended Troy against the Greeks. That said, it’s no surprise that Aeneas Williams was excellent at defending their side of the field against the opponent’s best wide receiver. The Cardinals selected him in the third round of the 1991 NFL Draft, and he had an NFC-leading six interceptions in his rookie year.

The Southern University alumnus led the league in interceptions with nine in 1994. He played for the Cardinals until 2000, becoming a five-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler. He finished his career in 2004 with 795 tackles, 55 interceptions, three sacks, and 13 touchdowns. Williams was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.


3. Dan Dierdorf

Younger football fans might remember him as the color analyst for ABC’s Monday Night Football and announcer for NFL on CBS. But before his broadcasting career, he was a great offensive tackle for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1971 to 1983. By his second year, the former second-round draft pick was already a starter. Dierdorf did not allow a sack during the 1976 and 1977 NFL seasons.

His efforts helped the Cardinals win double-digit games from 1974 to 1976. Dierdorf became a six-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler in 13 NFL seasons played. The University of Michigan alumnus was also included in the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team. The Canton, Ohio native finally made it back home after becoming a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.


2. Larry Wilson

Wilson shined for the Cardinals from 1960 to 1972, even if the team never made a playoff game during his career. He was also the epitome of toughness, as evident by his interception while having casts on both hands because of broken wrists. This free safety also became the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1966 after tallying ten interceptions. He became a Pro Football Hall of Famer in 1978.

But aside from his stellar contributions on the field, Wilson deserves this high ranking because he worked in various roles with the Cardinals for over four decades. This seven-time All-Pro defensive also became a defensive backs coach and interim head coach in the 1970s. He also served as scouting director, personnel director, vice president, and general manager until he retired in May 2003.


1. Larry Fitzgerald

It would be a travesty if Larry Fitzgerald does not become a Pro Football Hall of Famer in his first year of eligibility. He is not only one of the best Cardinals players of all time. Instead, he is also one of the greatest wide receivers in league history. The team selected him third overall in the 2004 NFL Draft and played 17 seasons with the Cardinals.

By the time he finished playing in 2020, he was second all-time in receptions (1,432) and receiving yards (17,492). Fitzgerald was a consistent performer throughout his career, earning three All-Pro and 11 Pro Bowl selections. He is also the youngest player to reach 11,000 receiving yards and the oldest player to have a 1,000-yard, five-touchdown season.

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