professional football team is one of five teams in the Eastern Division
of the National Football Conference (NFC) of the National Football
League (NFL). Under the league’s realignment plan, which will take
affect in 2002, the Cardinals will move into the West Division of the
NFC. Formerly based in Chicago, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri, the
Cardinals now play at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, and wear
uniforms of red, black, and white. The Cardinals are the oldest
continuously run professional football team in the United States.
The Cardinals built strong teams during the 1920s, 1940s, and 1970s,
capturing a total of two NFL titles and four division crowns during
those decades. Because the first Super Bowl was not played until 1967,
however, the Cardinals have never played in it. The team’s championship
lineup of 1947 starred the famed Dream Backfield of quarterback Paul
Christman, fullback Pat Harder, and halfbacks Elmer Angsman and Charley
Trippi. During the 1970s quarterback Jim Hart commanded one of the
league’s most potent offenses.
The Cardinals organization dates from 1898, when the Morgan Athletic
Club played regular games on Chicago’s South Side. The club adopted the
name Cardinals in 1901 when team owner Chris O’Brien, a painting and
decorating contractor, bought used maroon uniforms from the University
of Chicago that had faded to the color of cardinal red.
In 1920 the Chicago Cardinals became charter members of the American
Professional Football League, the NFL’s predecessor. The team’s first
star was future Hall of Fame halfback Paddy Driscoll, who was known for
his drop-kicking prowess. The Cardinals, based in Comiskey Park,
captured their first NFL crown in 1925 under head coach Norman Barry.
Following the 1925 championship, the Cardinals struggled for two
decades, recording only two winning records from 1926 to 1945. One
highlight during those years was when star running back Ernie Nevers
came out of retirement to join the club in 1929. On Thanksgiving Day of
that year he scored all of the team’s 40 points in a victory over the
Chicago Bears. World War II (1939-1945) deprived the team of so many
players that in 1944 the Cardinals merged with the Pittsburgh Steelers
to form a club called Card-Pitt. The combined squad lost all ten of its
From 1946 to 1948 head coach Jimmy Conzelman directed the Cardinals to
three consecutive winning seasons. In 1947 Conzelman put together the
offensive unit of Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Elmer Angsman, and Charley
Trippi, which gained the name the Dream Backfield because of its
overwhelming offensive production. The Cardinals rolled through the
season and went on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1947 NFL
The Cardinals repeated as division champions in 1948 behind the NFL’s
top offensive attack. Harder had a sensational year, scoring six
touchdowns and converting on all 53 of his extra-point attempts. But
after averaging 33 points per game during the regular season, Chicago
was upset 7-0 in a championship game rematch against Philadelphia. After
Christman’s departure in 1949, the Cardinals tried to fill the
quarterback slot with seven different players, including Trippi. But
without solid leadership on the field, the team posted just two winning
records during its remaining 11 seasons in Chicago.
In 1960 the franchise moved to St. Louis, enjoying a solid first season
in its new home. Running back John David Crow surpassed the 1,000-yard
mark, and defensive back Jerry Norton led the NFC in interceptions.
During the 1960s the Cardinals finished with winning seasons five times,
yet failed to qualify for postseason play.
In 1974 second-year head coach Don Coryell took the Cardinals to the
playoffs for the first time in 26 years. Coryell was named the league’s
top coach, while quarterback Jim Hart and running back Terry Metcalf
shared player of the year honors. St. Louis lost in the first round, but
the following year the team repeated as division champions. Wide
receiver Mel Gray and running back Jim Otis each led his respective
position in yards gained, supported by an offensive line that featured
Dan Dierdorf, a future Hall of Fame member, and Conrad Dobler, who was
considered one of the era’s most intimidating players. St. Louis again
lost in the first round of the playoffs.
The Cardinals played inconsistently during the next two decades, posting
several winning records but reaching the postseason only once (1982)
from 1976 to 1996. In 1979 running back Ottis Anderson rushed for 1,605
yards and was named both player of the year and rookie of the year.
Notable individual achievements during the 1980s included four more
1,000-yard seasons by Anderson, wide receiver Roy Green’s yardage
championship in 1984, (1,555 yards) and quarterback Neil Lomax’s two NFC
yardage titles, in 1984 with 4,614 yards and in 1987 with 3,387 yards.
During the 1990s Aeneas Williams became one of the NFC’s finest
After a deal between team owner Bill Bidwill and the St. Louis County
government to build the team a new domed structure failed, the franchise
moved to Arizona in 1988. In 1998 second-year quarterback Jake Plummer
led the Cardinals to the team’s first playoff appearance since 1982 and
first postseason victory since 1947.
The Arizona Cardinals have never played in the Super Bowl.
NFL History Guide