The Arizona Cardinals, initially founded as the Morgan Athletic Club in 1898, have a long, storied history in the world of football. Since becoming an NFL member in 1920, the franchise has bounced around from Chicago (where it started), St. Louis (not unlike the MLB team), and Phoenix before settling in Glendale, AZ and finally embracing the name, Arizona Cardinals.
Considering they’ve been around a while, it’s only natural that a number of great players have suited up. Let’s take a look at the top five Arizona Cardinals in history.
The Top 5 Arizona Cardinals in Franchise History
what is the Larry Fitzgerald statue going to be? @azcardinals @LarryFitzgerald pic.twitter.com/QrqlW5erpC
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The undisputed GOAT in Cardinals history has to be Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona spent its 3rd overall pick in the 2004 draft to take Fitzbergald out of Pitt and the rest is history. There is no player even close to him in terms of measurables and intangibles. In terms of Approximate Value from Pro Football Reference, Fitzgerald is way ahead with 138.
The sure-fire Hall of Famer is peerless in terms of Cardinals receiving history. He owns franchise records in all measurable receiving stats and it’s not close. Fitzgerald spent every second of his NFL career in Arizona and will represent the franchise once elected to the Hall of Fame in a few years.
The greatest stat is that Fitzgerald has more tackles (39) than drops (29).
From 3rd overall pick to a seventh-rounder, Larry Wilson is legitimately the greatest defender in Arizona Cardinals history. After playing for the Cardinals for a baker’s dozen years, Wilson served three decades in the front office in a myriad of roles.
Across those 13 years, Wilson hauled in 52 interceptions and returned five for touchdowns. But where he was iconic was his ability to blitz from the safety position in an era were it was uncommon. He amassed 21.0 sacks in his career and held the mark for most sacks by a safety until Adrian Wilson (no relation) broke it in 2012. In an era with fewer high-flying passing offenses, Wilson led the NFL with 10 interceptions in just 14 games in 1966.
From one defensive back to another, Aeneas Williams was a stalwart in his time in Phoenix. Williams played from 1991 until 2000 with the Cardinals in did not miss a single game; 160 games, 160 appearances.
Behind Wilson, Williams is second in franchise history with 46 interceptions but he returned them for a franchise-best six touchdowns. In 1997, he was integral to the team winning its first playoff game in 50 years as he hauled in a pair of interceptions to down the Cowboys.
Playing on the offensive line is a thankless job. Regardless, Dan Dierdorf excelled for over a decade as a tackle and actually earned NFLPA Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in 1976, 1977, and 1978.
In those three years, Dierdorf was integral in the best three-year stretch in Cardinals history. Led by the tackle, the Cardinals offensive line, as a unit, was among the best in the NFL. Dierdorf racked up five first-team All-Pro honors from 1975-1978 and then again in 1980. When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996, it was a given.
Finally, there may be a little recency bias but Patrick Peterson has a legitimate case to be considered as one of the greatest Arizona Cardinals players of all time.
Peterson, drafted out of LSU, earned Pro Bowl nods in each of his first eight years and was All-Pro three times. In addition to his 18 interceptions, Peterson leads the way with four punt return touchdowns. He also has a 114 AV, just four behind the Cardinals cornerback leader in 39 fewer games. Peterson is second in franchise history with 91 passes defended (shout out to Adrian Wilson who leads the way with 99 and added a ridiculous 16 forced fumbles).
He’s the only player in NFL history to have four punt return touchdowns of over 80 yards and his cleats made it to the Hall of Fame after his game-winning 99-yard return touchdown against the Rams in 2011.
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