Hey everyone, hope all is well as we are back as my Top 5 greatest players of each NFL franchise list continues. This time I’ll be covering the Arizona Cardinals. This was one of the franchises I didn’t know a whole lot about the history of and I’ll say after watching the film and doing a lot of research there are some absolutely great players that came thru Arizona and it was hard to just keep the list to 5. But I did and here are my top 5 greatest Arizona Cardinals of All-Time.
Jackie Smith, Tight End, (1963-1978)
A tenth-round draft selection who got his chance at starter due to injury, Jackie Smith became one of the most prolific receivers in Cardinals history from 1963 to 1977. In the midst of five consecutive Pro Bowl nominations from 1966-1969, he put up a career year of 56 receptions for 1,205 yards in 1967; he finished out his Cardinals career with 480 receptions for 7,918 yards.
Charley Trippi, Halfback/Quarterback, (1947-1955)
Part of the 1940’s “Million Dollar Backfield”, Charley Trippi was instrumental in the Cardinals’ 1947 NFL championship. In nine seasons with the Cardinals, he was nominated for the Pro Bowl twice and the First-Team All-Pro once rushed for 3,506 yards, passed for 2,547, and received another 1,321. At the time of his retirement, that was the most of any player in NFL history.
Duke Slater, Offensive Tackle, (1922-1931)
Frederick “Duke” Slater signed for Cardinals in 1926, becoming one of five Black players in the National Football League and the first Black offensive lineman in league history. He became the only Black player by the next season’s end. Slater had athleticism and speed that was well before his time, in addition to being one of the most durable players in the NFL by the end of his career in 1931. Having played 10 total seasons, Slater was named to First-Team or Second-Team All-Pro in seven.
5.) Kurt Warner, Quarterback, (2005-2009)
Yes, he was only there for 5 years but the impact Warner made on this franchise can’t go without being applauded. THE ONLY Quarterback to lead this franchise to a Super Bowl. Think about that. Warner is a Hall of Famer and a member of the Cardinals Ring of Honor. Warner also made the Pro Bowl in 2008 and threw for more than 1100 yards and 11 touchdowns in the playoffs. People won’t like it but Warner’s impact on the team is why I have to have him in my top 5.
4.) Aeneas Williams, Cornerback, (1991-2000)
Williams talked softly but made huge plays! Williams only played two years in college but made an instant impact when he joined the Cardinals in 1991, finishing second in interceptions his rookie year. He went on to play with the Cardinals for a decade, racking up six consecutive Pro Bowl nominations from 1994-1995. He led the league in interceptions in 1994 (9) and fumble return yards in 2000 (104), finishing his Cardinals career with 46 interceptions for 653 yards. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
3.) Dan Dierdorf, Offensive Tackle, (1971-1983)
Despite breaking his jaw in 1977, Dan Dierdorf was named to the Pro Bowl each season from 1974-1978 and the First-Team All-Pro from 1976-1978. He was named Offensive Lineman of the Year three times by the NFLPA. Dierdorf was named All-Pro five seasons – from 1975 to 1978 and again in 1980. He was elected to six Pro Bowl games, missing only once from 1974 through 1980. The NFL Players Association picked him as the best overall blocker in the NFL three straight years from 1976 to 1978.
2.) Larry Wilson, Safety, (1960-1972)
Wilson is the most decorated defensive player in the history of the Cardinals spending 13 seasons on the field and 30 years in the team’s front office. He holds the franchise records with 52 career interceptions and is second all-time with five returns for a touchdown. Wilson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978, is in the Cardinals Ring of Honor, was a member of the 1960s and 1970’s All-Decade Teams, a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary team, and the NFL 100th Anniversary Team. He also won Defensive Player of the Year in 1966. What a career indeed.
1.) Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, (2004-Present)
A 9 time Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro in 2008 Larry Fitzgerald is easily not only the best receiver in Arizona Cardinals history but the best player. He’s a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s still playing, but Fitzgerald has put his name all over the record books, both for the Cardinals and the NFL. He’s first in team history in receptions (5th in NFL history) with 1,096, receiving touchdowns (8th in NFL history) with 103, and receiving yards (11th in NFL history) with 14,168. He had 7 catches for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns in his only Super Bowl appearance and had the Cardinals three minutes away from a championship. One of the nicest people on the planet it was an honor to watch him play in college and the NFL and was an easy choice for number one on this list.