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Photos that define 2016 in Arizona Sports

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs as Washington Redskins inside linebacker Su'a Cravens (36) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It’s probably a safe bet to assume Arizona sports fans are excited to move on from 2016.

None of the Grand Canyon State’s professional teams reached their respective postseasons — they didn’t really come close, for that matter — and the college squads failed to live up to even the most modest of expectations.

Still, as much as we might want to forget, the year did happen, and in an effort to push forward it does not hurt to take a look back.

With that in mind, here are photos that represent 2016 in Arizona sports.

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs as Washington Redskins inside linebacker Su'a Cravens (36) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Welcome to stardom, David Johnson. The Cardinals’ second-year running back built off his impressive rookie season and established himself as one of the best players in the entire NFL. He set an NFL record for most games with 100 yards from scrimmage to start a season, and cemented his place in the Cardinals’ record books for touchdowns. He also approached the exclusive 1,000/1,000 club.

Arizona Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro (7) looks at punter Drew Butler (2) after missing a game winning field goal attempt during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Patriots won 23-21. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Why did the Cardinals miss the playoffs? There are plenty of reasons, but the most obvious is special teams woes. From the very first game, when Chandler Catanzaro hooked a potential game-winning field goal, to miscues in losses to Buffalo and Miami as well as a tie vs. Seattle, Arizona’s special teams have mostly been anything but.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) reacts to giving up a home run against the Colorado Rockies during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Monday, April 4, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Zack Greinke arrived in Arizona with much fanfare and great expectations, but mostly failed to deliver in his first season in the desert. The ace right-hander who had signed a monster six-year, $206.5 million contract in the previous offseason got off to a rocky start against Colorado, and though he had some very good stretches, finished an injury-shortened season with just 13 wins and an ERA of 4.37.

Arizona Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock grabs his arm after scoring on a hit by David Peralta during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Friday, April 1, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

All teams deal with injuries, of that there is no doubt. However, it’s fair to say the D-backs suffered more than their share, and given that they entered the season with precious little margin for error, losing All-Star outfielder A.J. Pollock in the final days of spring training was a significant blow they were never able to recover from. One of the team’s best players, he returned late in the season to bat .244 with two home runs and four RBI in 41 at-bats.

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson looks on in the first half during an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Suns did not take long to settle on their permanent head coach, with GM Ryan McDonough tabbing Earl Watson — who had guided the team to a 9-24 record after taking over for Jeff Hornacek on an interim basis — for the gig. The early returns have been mixed, at best, with the Suns still struggling to win games and constant questioning of the young coach’s rotations.

From left to right, Phoenix Suns second-round draft pick Tyler Ulis and first-round draft picks Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss are introduced to the media as head coach Earl Watson smiles, Friday, June 24, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

No one really expected the Suns to be good in 2016, but there is a good amount of hope for the future after their draft class produced a couple of talented bigs in Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss as well as point guard Tyler Ulis.

Arizona Coyotes

Newly appointed Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka speaks at a news conference announcing his promotion as head coach Dave Tippett listens, Thursday, May 5, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. Chayka is the youngest GM in NHL history. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Coyotes thought outside of the box in replacing GM Don Maloney, going with the young John Chayka. Just 27 years old, he is tasked with helping to rebuild a roster that has struggled to find any kind of consistency.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) shields Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak from the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

He’s not a Coyote (insert disappointed face here), but Auston Matthews being selected first overall in the draft was a big deal for the state, since he is from Arizona. On Dec. 23 he played his first game against his home-town team, tallying an assist and three shots on goal in a 4-1 Maple Leafs victory.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State's Zane Gonzalez connects for a field goal from the hold of Matt Haack (26) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. Gonzalez had three field goals, and set the NCAA mark with 89 in his career, as Arizona State defeated UCLA 23-20. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

ASU kicker Zane Gonzalez had a season for the ages, converting 23-of-25 field goal attempts and 39-of-40 PATs on his way to winning the Lou Groza Award, which is given annually to the best kicker in college football. Also during the season, Gonzalez kicked a school-record 59-yard field goal against Colorado, and became the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer for a kicker.

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham reacts on the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Washington, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Expectations for the Sun Devils were modest in 2016, though a 4-0 start led to renewed optimism that something special might be happening in Tempe. However, as the schedule got tougher the Devils got worse, as Arizona State earned just one victory over its final eight contests. Head coach Todd Graham was left searching for answers, of which he found few in a season that ended with a 56-35 loss in the Territorial Cup that prevented the Devils from earning bowl eligibility.

University of Arizona Wildcats

Arizona coach Sean Miller argues with an official during the second half against Wichita State during the first round of the NCAA college men's basketball tournament in Providence, R.I., Thursday, March 17, 2016. Wichita State defeated Arizona 65-55. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

For the first time as the head coach of the Arizona Wildcats, Sean Miller had a team get bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. UA struggled to gain much traction throughout a season that saw them win 25 games before struggling against 11th-seeded Wichita State in the Dance. While the loss was upsetting, Miller’s soak-drenched shirt from the game became a topic for all sorts of jokes and memes.

Arizona defensive lineman Sani Fuimaono (99) celebrates with teammates after they defeated Arizona State 56-35 in an NCAA college football game, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

There’s no such thing as a good 3-win season, but when one of those wins comes against your rival in the final game of the year, it’s easier to ignore the disaster that was everything else. The Arizona Wildcats had two wins entering their rivalry game with ASU, but racked up 511 rushing yards and only needed to complete three passes all game to earn a 56-35 victory.

Grand Canyon University Antelopes

In this photo taken Nov. 6, 2014 and provided by Grand Canyon University, Grand Canyon hosts Western New Mexico in an NCAA college basketball game in Phoenix. Grand Canyon President Brian Mueller had a vision for the school's basketball program, hoping a jump to Division I would boost its status and that of the university. With the help of local basketball icons Jerry Colangelo and Dan Majerle, the for-profit school in the heart of Phoenix is flourishing faster than he could have ever imagined. (Darryl Webb/Grand Canyon University via AP)

Reputations are earned — not given — and GCU hoops has quickly earned a reputation for being a quality basketball program with an incredible homecourt advantage. GCU Arena is regularly packed, and after Louisville escaped with a close win over the Antelopes, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino praised the home crowd as being tougher than those he has faced at Duke and Kentucky.

 

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