Somewhere Cris Collinsworth, the man who once called the Cardinals the worst team to ever make the playoffs, is probably reading this with a bit of a smile.
The folks over at AthlonSports have put together a list of the 10 worst teams to ever play in a Super Bowl, and the 2008 Arizona Cardinals made the cut.
They’re ranked fourth. As in the fourth worst team. Rude.
The greatest season in Arizona Cardinals franchise history is largely the product of great timing and having all of the breaks go your way, at least up until the game that counts the most. Arizona won the NFC West with a 9-7 record that included a spotless divisional mark (6-0) thanks to one of the top scoring offenses in the league at 26.7 points per game.
The flip side of this, however, is the fact that the rest of the Cardinals’ division went a combined 13-35, as they beat just two teams in the regular season that finished with a winning record and stumbled into the postseason losing four of their final six games. A suspect defense (team finished with +1 point differential in regular season), caught a break in the Wild Card round when it got to face Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan making his first career playoff start on the road. The Cardinals then got plenty of help from Carolina’s Jake Delhomme, who tossed five interceptions at home in their Divisional matchup. Arizona claimed its first conference championship with a 32-25 home victory over No. 6 seed Philadelphia, thanks to a late Kurt Warner touchdown pass and despite being out-gained by the Eagles (454 to 369).
In the Super Bowl, Arizona had its chance to completely cash in on all of its good fortune, fighting back from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit against Pittsburgh to take a 23-20 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald with less than three minutes remaining. Alas, it was not meant to be, as Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes in the end zone with 42 seconds left for one of the more memorable plays in Super Bowl history, much to the chagrin of the Cardinals and their fans.
To be fair to Athlon, it would be tough for anyone to argue the 2008 Cardinals were a great team. In fact Kurt Warner, who quarterbacked that squad, said the 2013 Cardinals — who missed the postseason entirely — were a better team.
“I even remember sitting and talking to some of my teammates, once we had clinched the playoffs but then we were getting destroyed, and I was so frustrated because I’m like, ‘We’re finally going to get a chance to compete for this thing and we’re not very good, we’re not going to have a chance to win this thing,'” Warner said.
At any rate, the Cardinals did play in the Super Bowl and did almost win it. Had they, no one would care how “bad” the team may have been, as they would have been NFL champions nonetheless.
And for what it’s worth, of the 10 teams on Athlon’s list, all of whom lost in their bids for a title, the Cardinals were the only one to actually carry a fourth quarter lead in the big game.