For the longest time, Kurt Warner’s 2008 team that advanced to Super Bowl XLIII has been regarded as the greatest in Arizona Cardinals history. And if not for Santonio Holmes’ right big toe, that team would have gone down in NFL history as a champion.
Fast forward to 2015.
Warner joined Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and explained how this year’s Cardinals far more dynamic than the team he led in 2008.
“If you look at this team, they are so talented across the board, they can beat you in so many different ways. That’s what you want when you’re on a team, if you’re a quarterback you struggle one week, you can still win because you can run the ball, stop people on defense, score points off turnovers”, Warner said. “All those different things, that’s the kind of team you want to be on, because come playoff time, you’re going to have to win different ways, and this team has potential to win in different ways.”
Warner did not have the luxury of struggling, not even for one week. The ’08 team was led on the ground by Edgerrin James, who ran for 514 yards, and Tim Hightower, who tallied 399. The duo combined for 13 touchdowns but averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. This season, the Cardinals are led by Chris Johnson’s 814 yards, while David Johnson had run for 556 and Andre Ellington 287. The trio is averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
The discrepancies between the two teams doesn’t stop there. This year’s team has scored 57 touchdowns to ’08’s 51, with one game still remaining for the 2015 version. Palmer has thrown for 34 touchdowns, breaking Warner’s franchise record of 30 set in 2008.
Even the 2015 defense is superior, producing more sacks (35 to 31), more interceptions (19 to 13) and allowing fewer touchdowns (30 to 52) than the ’08 squad.
That type of balance and being able to dominate in all facets of the game is what separates this Cardinals team from the 2008 Super Bowl team.
Warner did address the one weakness this year’s team has that opponents will attempt to exploit.
“The worry I have is if somebody has the ability to take away the big play. When you watch them, they are so built on the big play and so good at it,” Warner said. “With all the different weapons they have, and I think Carson throws the deep ball better than anybody in the league right now — when teams take that away, and they have to be more consistent and drive the football, and win in different situations, that’s my biggest concern.”
The emergence of David Johnson might be the solution to that problem.
Warner had an aging Edgerrin James and an inexperienced Tim Hightower in his backfield. The ’08 team was very pass dependent, and could not establish a run game. Forcing defenses to respect what the Cardinals could do against them on the ground helps allow Palmer to pick apart the secondary.
Although former general manager Rod Graves took the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl, that team was unbalanced and lacked top-tier talent at the skill positions. Current general manager Steve Keim has not only constructed the most talented Cardinals team in history, with a franchise-record tying seven players selected to the Pro Bowl, but possibly the most talented team in the league.
And if nothing else, it’s better than the team that came oh-so-close to bringing the Valley its first Super Bowl championship seven years ago.