The Cardinals have a chance to win their first Lombardi Trophy if they can beat the Steelers Sunday in Super Bowl XLIII.
TAMPA, Fla. – With a win, so many things would change.
The focus for the Cardinals players this week has been on a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, not this crazy, hype-created thing called Super Bowl XLIII. At least, that's what they have mostly said.
But the potential result can't be ignored, especially with this franchise that has long been beaten down, always a punchline and never a powerhouse. Hoisting a
Lombardi Trophy can't escape the mind's eye.
"Anybody, whether you are a kid playing in the garage or the backyard or if you are a professional, you dream what it will be like to do that," guard Reggie Wells said.
"You would always be a part of history," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said.
It starts with the team, of course, and ownership. Bill Bidwill has suffered through his share of criticism over the years, the losses making the barbs hard to fend off. Now Bidwill is in line to have a moment like the Steelers' Art Rooney did after Pittsburgh's championship in Super Bowl IX.
"One of my lifelong dreams is to watch my dad hold up a trophy," team president Michael Bidwill said, and while Bill did get that chance after the NFC Championship game, it is the Super Bowl win the family most covets.
Yet there are so many others to think about.
There is safety Adrian Wilson, who committed to being a career Cardinal, hoping that loyalty would eventually end up right here on this stage.
There is wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who, for at least a day, could forget about his contract issues and revel in his role bringing an improbable championship to Arizona.
There is fullback Terrelle Smith, who still weeps for the loss of his mother yet holds the knowledge that she – somehow – predicted this for the Cards.
There are veterans like defensive end Bertrand Berry, who was stung when he had to take a pay cut to stay this season, and could be rewarded with the ultimate prize. Or nose tackle Bryan Robinson, whose 12-year NFL career had featured an 0-2 playoff record and who can't stop smiling now that the Cards have gotten this far.
There is Kurt Warner, tossed on the scrap heap multiple times and who now stands to upgrade his Hall of Fame potential through the finest season a Cardinal quarterback has ever had.
What Warner remembers "is not going to be about touchdown passes thrown or games won. It's going to be being a part of two organizations that nobody expected anything from, and being able to be a part of them taking a run to the Super Bowl and exceeding expectations and changing perceptions of those two teams."
Perception may not fully change, of course. There are hints of what lies ahead, and regardless of the result, some can't get past the Cards' 9-7 regular-season record. The playoff wins don't matter, not enough.
A big Steelers win would fuel the I-told-you-so's. A Cards' win? It may depend on how it happens.
Would any of that change the amount of tears certain to flow from players, or satisfaction from the coaches, or the size of the ring they will eventually wear for being champion?
"I'm not sure how people would see us if we won the Super Bowl," Boldin said. "The only thing I'm worried about is winning the Super Bowl. They can think whatever they want, but you can't take a Super Bowl ring away from us. No matter how people view us—as the best Super Bowl team or the worst Super Bowl team—it really wouldn't matter."
What matters is football immortality.That is what the Cardinals can earn Sunday, a step further than franchises like the Seahawks, Eagles, Panthers and Bears have been able to achieve over recent seasons.
"I think we're a team of destiny," Wilson said. "I think for all the turmoil the Arizona Cardinals organization has gone through, I think it is our time."
With a win, the Cards become a forever team.
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 1/31/09.