Note: This column appears in the 1/3 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 1/4 issue of the Peoria Times
Because I am not above such literary gimmicks as handing out fake end-of-the-year awards to professional athletes who don’t give two craps about what I have to say anyway, I think it’s time to do just that! So brace yourselves, Arizona Cardinals, because it’s award time…
Biggest Surprise: Kurt Warner. From his valiant effort in replacing Matt Leinart against Baltimore in Week 3, to his 369-yard, three-TD performance versus Atlanta in Week 16, Warner pretty much saved the Cardinals from yet another embarrassing season. And he did it all with one elbow, an ever-graying beard, and while being sacked 20 times. Even Kurt Warner was surprised by Kurt Warner.
Best Season That Wasn’t That Great: Edgerrin James. Many (for example, Edgerrin James) will point out that James now has back-to-back seasons of rushing for over 1,000 yards, the first Cardinals’ RB to do that, since...I have no idea. Ever? Sounds good. But James displayed no game-breaking ability, and broke the 100-yard mark just three times this season, which were all Arizona victories. If James could have had just four really good games instead of three, the Cardinals might still be playing.
Best Injury: Matt Leinart. Remember him? Pegged as the face of the franchise heading into 2007, Leinart’s season-ending shoulder injury was ultimately a blessing for everyone involved, allowing Warner to shine, and giving Leinart the opportunity to have women sign his cast. Win, win.
My collarbone hurts...let's go back to my place
Worst Injury: Adrian Wilson. Before their standout safety went down, the Cardinals allowed more than 26 points in a game just once. Post-Adrian Wilson, they did it five times.
Best Win: Arizona 21, Pittsburgh 14. In handing the Steelers their first loss of the season, the Cardinals made the rest of the NFL take notice. (The rest of the NFL was unimpressed, but still…)
Worst Loss: San Francisco 37, Arizona 31. This game had it all -- missed chip-shots, bad coaching, turnovers galore – and it all happened at home, at the hands of one of the worst teams in the league, and in the middle of a playoff push. But other than that, it wasn’t so bad.
Best Upgrade: Ken Whisenhunt. In a move reminiscent of Justin Timberlake shedding Britney Spears for Cameron Diaz, the Cardinals went from Dennis Green to Whisenhunt, and watched as virtually the same team went from 5-11 to 8-8. He was far from perfect, but Whisenhunt exuded the confidence of man coaching a Super Bowl contender, and the Cards followed his lead.
The ‘Achy, Breaky Heart’ Memorial One-Hit Wonder Award: Antrel Rolle versus the Bengals. M.I.A. for much of the year, Rolle broke out against Cincy for three interceptions, returning two of them for scores during a crucial road win. Having filled his forced turnover quota, Rolle went back into hibernation.
Best Stat: Cardinals hold Detroit Lions to minus-18 yards rushing. By the way, that game was the beginning of the end for Detroit, the first of a six-game losing streak. So if nothing else, the Cardinals ruined Detroit’s season. That’s almost like going to the playoffs, right?
Worst Ongoing Storyline: Penalties. In 2007, the Cardinals did their best Oakland Raiders impression, killing their own drives and sustaining their opponents’ drives with costly penalties throughout the season. Whether it was a brain fart, unwarranted machismo, or inexperience, almost no one was immune to the yellow flag in 2007. It was Ken Whisenhunt’s biggest failure as head coach.
And the Cardinals take the field...wait, there's a penalty flag
Worst Recurring Commercial Not Involving John Mellencamp: Dennis Green’s Coors Light Commercial. Nice job opening fresh wounds for Cardinals’ fans during game breaks, Coors Light. Oh, and it could have been much funnier. I’m just saying.
Best Player: Larry Fitzgerald. The Cards’ lone Pro Bowl starter had another outstanding season, and did so while battling injuries throughout. 100 catches for 1,409 yards and 10 TDs…I mean, wow.
Best Coverage: The Glendale Star. Hey, what can I say?..the fake voters have spoken. (Runner up: Peoria Times.)