The 5: Best seasons by Arizona pros whose teams didn’t make the playoffs
It’s a lost season in many ways, a disappointing one for sure. But if the Arizona Cardinals need a pick-me-up, then recounting the breakout season by second-year running back David Johnson would do the trick.
Three games remain, and he’s already rushed for 1,085 yards on a 4.4 average with 11 touchdowns. He’s added 745 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Johnson is still churning out yardage despite the Cardinals’ limitations around him and on the opponents’ defense on him.
Maybe it doesn’t mean anything now.
It’s nonetheless something to enjoy.
Johnson isn’t the first athlete to put together a fantastic individual season for a team that fell short of doing anything big as a whole (more on D.J. later). The Valley’s history, unfortunately, includes a number of such performances.
This week in The 5, we present five stellar seasons that weren’t enough for their teams to reach the postseason.
Randy Johnson, 2004
This is about as far from the playoffs as it gets. By far the worst Diamondbacks team in history featured several faces who played key roles in the World Series title three years earlier. Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley were in their waning years for a team that ranked dead last in baseball at 3.8 runs per game. Somehow, Arizona went 51-111, but don’t blame another familiar face, The Big Unit. Johnson’s final All-Star season saw him go 16-14 with a 2.60 ERA and a career-best WHIP of 0.90, which was best in MLB. At 40 years old, Johnson led baseball with 290 strikeouts, in WHIP and with 6.5 hits allowed per nine innings. He pitched a perfect game that season and maybe most amazingly, finished second in the National League Cy Young Award voting for a team that finished 60 games under .500.
Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, 2005
Fitzgerald barely-upped Boldin during their team’s 5-11 campaign, but let’s give this to both of them. In his second NFL season, Fitzgerald led the NFL with 103 receptions that accounted for 1,409 total yards and 10 touchdowns. For what it’s worth, Boldin led the league by averaging 100.1 yards per game — he caught 102 receptions for 1,402 yards but did so in two fewer games (14) than Fitzgerald. The wideouts averaged an identical 13.7 yards per catch, but Fitzgerald led the duo with 10 touchdowns to seven for Boldin. Credit quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Josh McCown — they each played significantly under head coach Denny Green — for the near-perfect divvying up of the workload.
Shane Doan, 2007-08
The Captain’s best of 20 seasons with the Coyotes came in an otherwise lost year. Phoenix went 38-37-7 in the 2007-08 campaign that saw Doan tally 78 points, which with Jeremy Roenick’s 1999-2000 season, ties for the second-most points scored by a ‘Yote since the franchise moved to the Valley from Winnipeg. Doan recorded 28 goals and 50 assists and notched 16 multi-point games for a team that missed a playoff spot by eight points.
Paul Goldschmidt, 2015
It’s hard to distinguish the differences from Goldy’s breakout season in 2013 to his 2015 campaign in which Arizona went 79-83. While he led the league with 36 home runs and 125 RBI in the former — not to mention slugging (.551) and OPS (.952) — he nearly duplicated those numbers again in 2015 as a more established and known weapon for the D-backs. Last season, the first baseman recorded 33 homers and 110 RBI with an even better slash line of .435/.570/1.000.
David Johnson, 2016
Yes, we have to include the second-year running back here — as painful as that may be.
Johnson leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,830 yards through 13 games. If he keeps his current pace over the last three games, he’ll finish with 2,252 total yards, which would rank near the top ten among single season leaders in league history.
In addition, Johnson could become just the third player in NFL history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving in a single season, joining San Francisco’s Roger Craig (1985) and St. Louis’ Marshall Faulk (1999). The former Northern Iowa star needs to average 85 yards receiving over the last three games to hit the mark. In case you’re wondering, Johnson has gone over the 85-yard mark in the passing game three times this season.
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