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Thursday, April 13, 2006
Updated: April 19, 7:53 AM ET
Worst franchise: Cardinals

By Graham Hays
Page 2

Maybe Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill has just been gazing somewhat deeper into history than the rest of us for his model of a successful dynasty.

Like the great pyramids of Egypt, the new football stadium in Glendale, Ariz., which will house Bidwill's team, rises grandly from the flat expanse of an arid region. It's an engineering marvel that will play host to Super Bowl XLII, featuring both a fully retractable roof and a fully retractable grass field.

Also like the famous landmarks at Giza, the new stadium was built at extreme cost (in this case, more financial than physical) to the local population.

And in one final connection, the stadium may well go down in history as little more than an effort by a delusional power broker and his minions to glorify themselves and create a false legacy. (If players see embalming fluids in the training room, they may want to pass on that option year, lest they be entombed right along with their owner).

Welcome to life as a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, a franchise that crushes your spirit and then thumbs through your wallet.

Cardinals: Past Five Years
Year Record Pct.
2005 5-11 .313
2004 6-10 .375
2003 4-12 .333
2002 5-11 .313
2001 7-9 .438
Last winning season: 1998
Last playoff season: 1998

There have been only two constants for the Cardinals since relocating to Arizona prior to the 1988 season: Bidwill and on-field mediocrity.

Only once in 18 seasons have the Cardinals finished above .500, posting a 9-7 record before winning a wild-card game against Dallas in 1998.

That's it. That's the sum of the good times for football fans in Arizona.

If you can judge a person by the company they keep, the same ought to hold true for sports teams. And among the company kept by the Cardinals since moving to Arizona before the 1988 season are names like Gary Hogeboom, Stan Gelbaugh and Timm Rosenbach.

Leeland McElroy, who lasted just two years in the NFL, once led the Cardinals in rushing yards for a season.

Randall Hill, who caught just 14 touchdown passes in eight seasons, once led the team in receiving yards (although he couldn't quite nip the immortal Ernie Jones for the lead in touchdown receptions that season).

And the nominees are ...
The Clippers have escaped purgatory. We need a new team to mock. Check out the Page 2 essays on why the following teams may be the new Worst Franchise in Sports.

Arizona Cardinals | Atlanta Hawks Baltimore Orioles | Chicago Blackhawks | Detroit Lions | Golden State Warriors | Kansas City Royals New York Knicks | Pittsburgh Pirates Portland Trail Blazers

Vote: Click on our SportsNation listranker to rank the worst of the worst. Plus, send us your thoughts and sob stories on these teams, and read what others have to say!

The Cardinals haven't just been bad; they've been bad without a plan and without money from their owner. Mixing failed drafts (Andre Wadsworth, Tom Knight) with pointless veteran farewell tours (Boomer Esiason, Dave Krieg), the franchise has been mired in mediocrity with little reason for optimism.

Even recent success in stockpiling talent like Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and new arrival Edgerrin James is tempered by the knowledge that the team is relying on Kurt Warner to stay healthy behind an offensive line of dubious ability.

There was a time when Boomer Esiason, Frank Sanders and Rob Moore sounded like a winning aerial combination.

All Cardinals fans know for sure is that if by some miracle, things do improve on the field under Dennis Green, Bidwill will find a way to make them pay for it. At least if the latest rebuilding phase falls flat, fans can take some solace in watching the grass field roll in and out of the new stadium.

Graham Hays is an editor for ESPN.com's SportsNation. He can be reached at graham.hays@espn3.com.