When Super Bowl XLII kicks off at University of Phoenix Stadium, one of the competing squads will be designated as the home team. Unfortunately, it won't be the venue's regular occupants, the Arizona Cardinals. Here's our Top 10 reasons why...
10. The NFL's cruel schedulers have the Cardinals facing the San Francisco 49ers twice yearly. Though the Niners ranked among the league's worst teams both offensively and defensively in 2007, the Cards must be intimidated by San Francisco's five Super Bowl trophies. How else to explain going 0-2 against them this year?
8. Coach Ken Whisenhunt seems to have the makings of a good head coach, but what might have been if the Cardinals had landed Bill Parcells? The "Big Tuna" retired after the 2006 season as the only coach in NFL history to lead four different franchises to the playoffs and he won two Super Bowl rings. Then again, would he even have considered an offer?
7. Blame the Bidwills. The franchise-owning family responsible for moving the Cardinals to the Valley -- which otherwise would have certainly been granted an expansion team at some point -- has long drawn the ire of fans and, for the most part, rightfully so. While owning an NFL franchise is, essentially, a license to print money, the Bidwills have rarely put any of that dough back into the team. That goes a long way toward explaining why the Cards have had just a single winning season in 20 in town. Accountability, after all, should start at the top of any organization.
6. Not taking advantage of home-field advantage. While playing in Sun Devil Stadium for 18 years, the Cardinals consistently complained about a lack of fan support. Now, with two seasons of sold-out games before a sea of red-clad boosters in their state-of-the-art (read: air-conditioned!) University of Phoenix Stadium, we can throw that excuse out the retractable roof.
5. Cleaning up the Dennis Green mess. When the Cardinals' former coach was hired, he crowed about his career-winning percentage of .610 over 10 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Green then proceeded to lose twice as many games as he won (16-32) in three seasons with the Cards and cost the team $2.5 million to fire him and buy him out of the last year of his contract. Though Ken Whisenhunt had the team playing much better this season, finishing at 8-8, it's obviously going to take more than one campaign to completely right the ship.
4. Lack of a consistent running game. Despite Coach Whisenhunt's pre-season pronouncements that the Cardinals would become an effective running team, that just didn't happen. This season, the team ranked 29th of 32 teams in rushing despite more than 1,200 yards by Edgerrin James. Still, considering the Cards ranked dead last in the category in 2005 and 30th in 2006, the team is improving... but at such a glacial pace it's not much to get excited about.
3. Where's the defense? It's tough to win consistently when you have to put four touchdowns on the board every Sunday to do so. This season, the Cards ranked 27th of 32 teams in points allowed, giving up 24.9 per game.
2. Inability to put teams away. Until the 48-19 destruction of the St. Louis Rams in the final game of the season, the Cardinals' seven other victories included only one by a double digit margin, and that one (31-21 over the Detroit Lions) was just barely. Many Cards fans are taking solace in the fact that the Cardinals were only blown out once this season (42-21 at the Seattle Seahawks after going down 24-0 in the first half) and were in every other game until well into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, several of the team's eight losses included giving up fourth-quarter leads and/or blowing last-second field goal opportunities for wins. When you play almost every game close, some of them are going to bite you. To win more consistently, the Cards must learn to put teams -- especially weaker foes -- out of reach. The finale against the Rams was a step in the right direction.
1. Despite the game's venue being scheduled years in advance, no team has ever played in a Super Bowl in its home stadium. No way in hell the Cardinals had enough mojo to break a streak like that.