St. Louis Cardinals
1960: Professional football was changing, the NFL had agreed to add two new teams; the Dallas Cowboys in 1960, and Minnesota Vikings in 1961 while the upstart AFL was get set for its first season. However, not all was rosy the Chicago Cardinals were drowning in red ink, and were no longer able to compete with the Bears in the Windy City. Owner Violet Bidwell decided it was time for a change and began looking for a new nest for the NFL’s oldest franchise. A study prior to expansion suggested St. Louis would be able to support a team nicely. With the newly formed rival league, eyeing this promising bit of territory, the NFL wanted to secure a team in the area. So, on March 13th the NFL owners unanimously voted to allow the Chicago Cardinals to relocate to St. Louis. In order to avoid confusion with the baseball team, management even considered changing the team’s nickname, but in the end, the name Cardinals was retained. It was the NFL’s third time flying into St. Louis having tried a team called the All-Stars in 1923 and the Gunners in 1934. Sharing old Sportsmen’s Park (now known as Busch Stadium) with the baseball Cardinals the NFL Cardinals would find a host of problems upon starting their first season in the Gateway City. First ticket sales fell well below the 25,000 promised by the city. Also, since there was no regular place to practice, the Cardinals worked out in an open field at a city park. After the Cardinals beat the Rams 43-21 in Los Angeles the Cardinals debuted in front of the home crowd with a 35-14 loss to the New York Giants on October 2nd. The Cards would earn their first win in St. Louis on October 23rd by beating the expansion Cowboys 12-10. The Cardinals would end up finishing the season with a winning 6-5-1 record their best mark in four years.
1961: The Cardinals play mediocre football all season and end up in fourth place with a break even record of 7-7.
1962: The Cardinals’ matriarch Violet Bidwell passes away in January. She served as Cardinals owner since her husband death in 1947. Upon Violet’s death her sons Charles W. Bidwill, Jr. and William V. Bidwill would take over the ownership of the NFL’s oldest franchise. The Cardinals would also continue to struggle finishing with a woeful 4-9 record.
1963: The Cardinals show some life, and challenge for a playoff spot for the first time in 15 years. A stunning win on November 24th in New York over the Giants had the Cards right in thick of the race for first Place in the NFL East. However, losses in two of their finals three games dropped the Cards record to 9-5, as they finished in third place, two games behind the Eastern Division Champion Giants.
1964: With the construction of a new stadium behind schedule the Cardinals still continued to struggle financially, and contemplated looking for a new city to nest in. In July, the Bidwill brothers (Bill and Charles) were approached by a group from Atlanta wanting them to bring the Cards to Georgia. The city of Atlanta was also building a new stadium and it appeared as though the team might be on the move again, but, when the St. Louis stadium authority matched Atlanta’s terms, and civic support of the team was boosted, the Bidwills were persuaded to stay in St. Louis. The Cardinals get off to a fast start by going 3-0-1 on the road in their first four games. Included was a hard fought 33-33 tie against the Browns in Cleveland. However the Cardinals were forced to play another game on the road after the baseball Cards made the World Series. The Cardinals would lose starting off a 2-3-1 record over the next 6 games that hurt their chances for a division championship. However the Cardinals would not lose again winning their final four games including a December 6th match up with Browns that got the team within a half game of first place. However the Browns would hold off the fast charging Cardinals by beating the New York Giants in their final game. The Cards would go to play in the NFL consolation match against the Green Bay Packers. St. Louis would beat the Packers 24-17 in this meaningless game that legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi would call “a game for losers;” it was fitting that the Cardinals would triumph in such a contest.
1965: After a 4-1 start the Cardinals lose eight of their remaining nine games to finish with a disappointing 5-9 record. The lone bright spot during the disappointing season comes on November 7th in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. When FS Larry Wilson, who broke his left hand as well as a finger on in the previous week’s game started, playing with casts on both hands. Unable to wrap his arms around the ball-carrier, he would try to “butt them down, like a goat,” Yet, his most amazing feat of the game would be the time he batted a pass with his club-like fists, then, cradling the deflected ball to his chest, returned the interception 35 yards for a touchdown. His contribution undoubtedly helped the Cards to a victory, winning by the count of 21-17.
1966: With the completion of the new Busch Stadium, the Cardinals finally had a new field they could be proud of. The new nest inspired the Cardinals who started 7-1-1 under new coach Charley Winner and sat atop the Eastern Conference. However, when Quarterback Charley Johnson went down with season ending injury, the season was in serious jeopardy. His loss, as well as the loss of other key players, caused the Cardinals to plummet like bird-droppings, as the team only managed a total of 52 points in the last five games, winning one and losing four. The Cards would finish in fourth place with an 8-5-1 record.
1967: The Cardinals continue to flutter about finishing in third place in the Century Division with a less then stellar record of 6-7-1.
1968: The Cardinals defeat the Cleveland Browns 27-16 in the season’s final game on December 14th to finish with a 9-4-1 record. However, because of a slow start the win was not good enough to capture Century Division Title which the Browns won by a half game over St. Louis.
1969: The Cardinals are unable to build off their solid season as they end up back in third place while reversing their solid previous season record to finish with a disappointing 4-9-1 record.
1970: The Cards finish with an 8-5-1 record, which was good enough for 3rd place in the NFC East. The highlight of the season comes on November 16th in a Monday Night Game against the eventual NFC Champion Dallas Cowboys. The Cardinals, who had already beaten Dallas 20-7 earlier in the season, brought their “Big-D” and put on quite a show for those assembled in the Cotton Bowl and in front of their TV sets around the nation. The mighty Cowboys were beaten in every aspect of the game, and beaten badly.
1971: The Cardinals are unable to build off their winning season as the end up in fourth place with a disappointing record of 4-9-1.
1972: The Cardinals continue to struggle finishing in fourth place with a record of 4-9-1 for the second straight season.
1973: The Cardinals seem to be stuck in a rut as they finish in fourth place, with a poor record of 4-9-1 for the thirrd year in a row.
1974: After three consecutive fourth place 4-9-1 seasons there was no much hope for the Cardinals in 1974. However the Cards would get off to fats start winning their first seven games. However, the Cards would lose four of their next six games, and would be in danger of slipping out of the playoffs again. However the Cards would win their final game to finish with a 10-4 record, which was good enough to win the NFC East by a tiebreaker over eth Washington Redskins. In their first playoff game in 26 years the Cardinals would lose 30-14 to the eventual NFC Champion Vikings in Minnesota.
1975: With the high flying offense of “Air Coryell” led by QB Jim Hart the Cards flew out in front of the NFC East again finishing with an 11-3 record to captured their second consecutive NFC East crown. However, once again the Cards were third seed and were forced to play on the road in the playoffs this time traveling to Los Angeles to play the Rams. The Cardinals were never really in the game trailing 28-9 at the half, and finally falling 35-23.
1976: After ten games, the Cardinals were tied for first place at 8-2 and in prime playoff position. However, consecutive losses to the Washington Redskins (16-10, with last-second touchdown nullified by the officials) and the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving (19-14, with St. Louis on the Cowboys’ 8-yard-line late in the game) four days apart severely hurt their playoff aspirations. Despite winning the final two games and finishing with an impressive 10-4 record, but failed to qualify for the playoffs.
1977: After a 7-3 start the Cardinals lose their final 4 games to finish with a disappointing 7-7 record. Following the season Head Coach Don Coryall would take his pass oriented offense to San Diego.
1978: Under new Coach Bud Wilkinson the Cardinals would stumble out of the gate losing their first eight games. However the Cardinals would end the season on a positive note winning six of their last eight games on the way to finishing in fourth place with a record of 6-10.
1979: Tragedy strikes the Cardinals in training camp when Tight End J.V. Cain suffers a fatal heart attack. The Cardinals would go on struggle all season finishing in last place with a record of 5-11. Highlighting an otherwise awful season would be the quick feet of Running Back Otis Anderson whose exciting rushing style earns him the Offensive Rookie of the Year, with 1,605 rushing yards.
1980: Ottis Anderson continues to establish himself as one of the best up and coming rushers in the NFL with 1,352 rushing yards and nine Touch Downs. However the Cards continue to struggle finishing in third place with a 5-11 record.
1981: Ottis Anderson has another solid season with 1,376 yards rushing as the Cardinals end a string of three straight double-digit loss seasons. However the Cardinals would finish in last place with a 7-9 record.
1982: The Cardinals stood at 1-1 after the first two games of the season before a two-month player’s strike interrupted the season. After the strike the NFL drew up an expanded 8-team playoff format that would make the final seven weeks a mad scramble for the postseason. The Cards would win four of the next six games to secure a playoff spot, with a chance to earn a home playoff game if they won their season finale against the Redskins in Washington. However the Cards would be over matched by the eventual Super Bowl Champions losing 28-0, and falling into the sixth playoff spot. The loss forced the Cards to play in Green Bay in the first Round where they would be mauled 41-16 by the Packers.
1983: The Cardinals get off to a slow start losing five of their first six games. However, thanks to a strong second half the Cards will be able to post their second straight winning season which had them land in third place with a record of 8-7-1.
1984: Thanks to the superb passing of Quarterback Neil Lomax, and Wide Reciever Roy Green, who left behind his Defensive Back position to set a team record of 1,555 receiving yards, the Cardinals made up one of the league’s most explosive offenses and scored thirty or more points seven times. With one game left the Cards stood at 9-6, and were 1 game behind the Redskins, with a math up for the Division title in Washington. A win and the Cards were Division Champions, while a loss would drop the Cards completely out of the playoffs. The Redskins held a slim two point lead, 29-27, late in the 4th Quarter. Amid the swirling December winds, the Cardinals frantically tried to put together one final drive, as the final seconds were ticking away. The Cards managed to creep into field goal range, but were unable to stop the clock. The kicking unit was raced onto the field, led by Kicker Neil O’Donoghue, who had earlier tied the team record for most points in a season with 117. However, on this final, hurried attempt, the kick sail wide right as time ran out.
1985: The Cardinals fire Head Coach Jim Hanifan after a disappointing 5-11 record that saw the Cardinals return to last place.
1986: In a year of change Running Back Ottis Anderson is dealt to the New York Giants early in season as the Cardinals continue to struggle under new Coach Gene Stallings finishing in last place again with a terrible record of 4-11-1.
1987: Faced with dwindling attendance in an outdated stadium talk swirled around St. Louis the team was ready to fly away for a new home. The Cardinals would get off to a slow start, which included three games played by replacement players while the NFL was on strike. With an impending move, and another rough start most teams would have wilted. However, the Cards would win four of their next five games and entered the final game of the season with a chance to win a playoff spot. However a loss in Dallas in final game of the season would drop the Cards to 7-8, and would end the redbird playoff chances, as well as their days in St. Louis. A week earlier on December 13th the Cardinals beat the Giants 27-24 in front of 29,623 fans in their final game at Busch Stadium. An air of doom had surrounded St. Louis fans all season as owner Bill Bidwell made it clear he intended on moving the Cardinals to a new home in 1988. As Bidwell narrowed down his choices for the Cards new nest between Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Phoenix death threats forced him form attending the final Cards home games. Bidwell will eventually select Phoenix, and the Cards were bound for the desert leaving St. Louis without an NFL team for the first time in 28 years. The NFL would return to St. Louis 8 years later when the Rams moved in from Los Angeles.