Will 2018 go down as one of the worst seasons in Cardinals history?
The year was 1988: St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill announced the relocation of his NFL franchise to Phoenix.
Now 30 years since football arrived in the Valley, the franchise has certainly enjoyed its fair share of victories and accomplishments. But on the flipside, it has indisputably endured its low points. The 2018 season is no exception.
With five games left in the regular season, the Cardinals sit at 2-9 and tied for last in the NFC. Record-wise, this is on track to be one of the worst seasons since the team moved to Arizona, but it isn’t without competition for that unwanted crown.
Here’s a look at some of the worst years since the franchise moved to Arizona (in chronological order):
Since moving to the Valley, the Cardinals have finished the season with a 4-12 record five times. The 1991 season was among the most disheartening of those. Despite beginning the year 2-0, the then-Phoenix Cardinals struggled down the stretch, losing their last eight games.
The main issue for the Cardinals that season was offense. Phoenix’s 196 points scored is the franchise’s lowest mark since the NFL increased the number of games in a season to 16. At quarterback, the snaps were split among Tom Tupa, Stan Gelbaugh and Chris Chandler, all of whom threw more interceptions than touchdowns.
One of the few positives of the squad was then-rookie Aeneas Williams, who recorded six interceptions.
The season was the beginning of the end for head coach Joe Bugel, who would coach two more seasons in the Valley before receiving the pink slip. In four years with the Cardinals, Bugel posted a 20-44 record.
Following an 8-8 season in Buddy Ryan’s first season at the helm and the signing of former Seahawks star quarterback Dave Krieg, expectations were somewhat high in 1995. That didn’t stop the Cardinals from being a laughingstock once again.
In the second season as the “Arizona Cardinals,” the team struggled mightily on both sides of the ball. Arizona finished 27th of the league’s 30 teams (Texans and Ravens didn’t yet exist) in points per game with 17.2, and on defense, the Cardinals allowed a league-worst 26.4 points per game.
Despite his success in previous years, Krieg struggled behind center. Starting all 16 games, Krieg threw 16 touchdowns and 21 interceptions while completing just over 58 percent of his passes. He didn’t return the following season.
The dismal year also led to Ryan’s firing. Ryan never coached again in the NFL, but his sons, Rob and Rex, have coached all around the league.
This is saying a lot, but the 2000 season very well might be the worst in Arizona Cardinals history. Since relocating to the Phoenix area, the Cardinals have never won fewer games than they did in 2003.
What stood out that year was the atrocious turnover margin. Arizona posted a league-worst takeaway-giveaway differential of -24. Much of this was a result of quarterback Jake Plummer throwing 21 interceptions and losing eight fumbles.
Not only did the Cardinals lose a lot of games, they got blown out consistently. Arizona’s -233 point differential was the worst in franchise history and the second lowest in the league that year to, you guessed it, the Cleveland Browns.
As a result of the team’s poor performance and a 48-7 stomping at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, head coach Vince Tobin was fired seven games into the season.
Despite posting a better record than 2000, this is the season ESPN’s Bill Barnwell dawns as the worst in franchise history.
Arizona finished last in the NFL in both scoring offense and scoring defense that season. Additionally, the Cardinals had a league-worst point differential of -227.
The offensive struggles may have been a result of Plummer’s departure in the offseason. Though his stat line was never eye-popping, Plummer was a team leader for several years and consistently racked up significant yards. His replacement was Jeff Blake, who struggled to move the offense, throwing 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with a completion percentage of 56.7.
One of the only positives of this season was wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Boldin wowed during his first season in the NFL, accumulating 1,377 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, helping him win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Following the trends of Ryan and Tobin, head coach Dave McGinnis was fired after the dreary season. But one good thing did come out of this forgettable year: Arizona selected Larry Fitzgerald with the No. 3 pick in the subsequent NFL Draft.
The 2018-19 season isn’t even complete, but it has undoubtedly been one of the Cardinals’ worst seasons ever. Problems have stemmed on both sides of the ball, but perhaps the struggles on offense are the most notable.
With five games left, the Cardinals are dead last in almost every major offensive statistic — scoring offense, total yards per game, passing yards per game and rushing yards per game.
What’s been most disappointing for the Cardinals this year may be the use of David Johnson. Though an elite back, Johnson has been unable to find daylight this year due to offensive line struggles and so-so play calling that led to offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s firing. Through 11 games, Johnson has rushed for 692 yards and six touchdowns on 3.7 yards per carry.
Sam Bradford was expected to lead the passing game, but needless to say, that didn’t go as planned. Rookie Josh Rosen is now the primary signal caller for the Cardinals, and his play has been up and down thus far.
At 2-9, there’s a chance Arizona could eclipse the 2000 season as the worst record since moving to the Valley. This is Steve Wilks’ first year coaching the Cardinals, but if his squad doesn’t show signs of life soon, it could be his last.