Earlier than Dallas dominated Thanksgiving, the NFL tried St. Louis – eastpowernews

For practically a half-century, Individuals have watched the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions host video games on Thanksgiving — it’s as etched into the vacation because the Macy’s parade and candy potatoes.

But when issues had turned out otherwise throughout a mid-Nineteen Seventies scheduling take a look at run, St. Louis might have supplanted Dallas as a kind of Thanksgiving hosts. Again then, the St. Louis Cardinals had been one of many NFL’s most dynamic groups, routinely storming again to win video games behind a highflying offense that earned them the nickname “Cardiac Playing cards.”

Commissioner Pete Rozelle sought to benefit from the Cardinals’ reputation by giving them a nationwide platform at house on Thanksgiving in 1975 and 1977, because the Arizona Republic reported in 2017. However they acquired blown out each occasions, shortly placing an finish to the experiment. The second of these video games, a 55-14 drubbing by the hands of the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 24, 1977, additionally marked the implosion of a once-great group. Not solely did it snap a six-game profitable streak, however it launched a 12-game skid that prolonged into the following season.

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The Cardinals by no means made the playoffs once more in St. Louis, aside from the strike-shortened 1982 season, when a 5-4 document was ok to achieve an expanded postseason that included greater than half the league’s groups. (The Cardinals promptly misplaced by 25 factors to the Inexperienced Bay Packers within the first spherical.) The franchise moved to Phoenix following the 1987 season.

Largely forgotten in the present day, the mid-70s Cardinals had been a terrific group underneath Coach Don Coryell, who helped revolutionize the game along with his “Air Coryell” offense. St. Louis received consecutive NFC East Division titles in 1974, when it went 10-4, and in 1975, enhancing to 11-3, though the Cardinals misplaced their first playoff sport each seasons. They only missed one other playoff berth in 1976 regardless of a 10-4 document. Over the three-year interval, the Cardinals posted a .738 profitable share.

Quarterback Jim Hart led a high-octane offense that featured standouts akin to huge receiver Mel Grey, operating backs Terry Metcalf and Jim Otis and offensive linemen Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler. The teaching employees included a younger Joe Gibbs, the offensive backfield assistant, who would go on to steer Washington to a few Tremendous Bowl titles.

However it was Coryell who set the tone along with his aerial assault mind-set.

“Air was his ally,” St. Louis Submit-Dispatch sports activities columnist Benjamin Hochman wrote in an appreciation in August, after Coryell was belatedly and posthumously inducted to the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame. “Soccer was a run-first sport — and positively a run-on-first sport — till Coryell began tinkering with the game’s parameters and prospects.”

St. Louis hosted its first Thanksgiving sport in 1975 and acquired crushed by the Buffalo Payments, 32-14. When the Cowboys beat the Giants three days later, Dallas and St. Louis had been tied for first place at 8-3. However the next week, the Cardinals thumped Dallas, 31-17, which proved to be the decisive sport for the division title.

The Cardinals performed on Thanksgiving once more the following season, however this time as guests in Dallas, shedding, 19-14. They completed a sport behind the Cowboys within the division (together with Washington, which additionally completed 10-4 and took the wild-card spot).

Main as much as their 1977 Thanksgiving sport, the Cardinals had been on a curler coaster of a season. They began 1-3, however then stormed again with six straight victories, together with two mid-November wins that appeared to strengthen Rozelle’s instincts to function the group on Thanksgiving. The primary befell in Week 9, when the 5-3 Cardinals took on the 8-0 Cowboys in a “Monday Night time Soccer” showdown in Dallas. They rallied from a 17-10 fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Cowboys, 24-17.

The following week, they fell behind the Eagles 16-0 however got here again to win, 21-16. In these days, there was just one wild-card berth per convention, and had the season ended that day, St. Louis would have claimed it within the NFC. The Cardinals, who had been only one sport behind the 8-2 Cowboys, additionally had a shot on the division title. Twenty years earlier than the St. Louis Rams’ “Best Present on Turf,” the Cardinals led the league in offense heading into their Thanksgiving showdown with the Dolphins.

As Sports activities Illustrated put it in a 1977 postmortem, the Cardinals “had a proper to be dreaming Tremendous Bowl on Nov. 20 after that they had overwhelmed Philadelphia 21-16 for his or her sixth straight win. Their document was 7-3, that they had defeated Dallas, and the NFC’s wild-card playoff berth appeared a cinch.”

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That each one got here to a screeching halt 4 days later towards the Dolphins, who had been additionally 7-3.

“On Thanksgiving Day in St. Louis, Miami quarterback Bob Griese did for eyeglasses what Clark Gable did for ears. He made them fairly modern,” Harry Kalas recounted for NFL Movies in a dated reference to a film star over an equally dated groovy ’70s soundtrack. “Peering by way of windshields, all Mr. Griese did was throw six landing passes in main his group to a 55-14 romp over the Cardinals, who had been busy giving up essentially the most factors of their 58-year NFL historical past.” The Dolphins amassed 34 first downs, eight touchdowns and 503 yards.

“The Miami Dolphins despatched shock waves by way of the Nationwide Soccer League in the present day with an unbelievable 55-14 upset of the St. Louis Cardinals,” The Washington Submit reported.

It was the Cardinals’ third Thanksgiving defeat in three seasons, together with two at house as a part of Rozelle’s plan to showcase St. Louis. That embarrassing 1977 efficiency apparently soured Rozelle on the town. He requested the Cowboys — who had hosted a Thanksgiving sport each season from 1966 to 1974 — if they’d host video games once more, Dallas proprietor Tex Schramm recounted years later.

“It was a dud in St. Louis,” Schramm informed the Chicago Tribune in 1988. “Pete requested if we’d take it again. I stated provided that we get it completely. It’s one thing you need to construct as a practice. He stated, ‘It’s yours endlessly.’ ”

After the ’77 Thanksgiving fiasco, the Cardinals and Cowboys went in reverse instructions. The Cardinals didn’t win one other sport that season, whereas the Cowboys by no means misplaced once more, culminating with a victory in Tremendous Bowl XII. The following season, NFL Movies dubbed them “America’s Crew,” a nickname that has caught over the previous 45 years. Inside a decade, the Cardinals wouldn’t even be St. Louis’s group.

Two weeks after their 1977 Thanksgiving embarrassment, a 26-20 house loss to Washington extinguished the Cardinals’ postseason probabilities. Coryell went off on possession and the followers after the sport, guaranteeing he wouldn’t return the following season. It was a household affair — his spouse left in the course of the sport as a result of she couldn’t take the abusive feedback followers made about her husband, and his 16-year-old daughter tried to punch a fan who had criticized her dad.

“I’m not staying in a spot I’m not wished,” Coryell stated. “I’d wish to be fired. Let me have a highschool job.” He complained that proprietor Invoice Bidwill wasn’t keen to spend money on the group and predicted the group would win simply 4 video games the following yr. (A number of stars wound up leaving after the season, akin to Metcalf, who signed with the Canadian Soccer League’s Toronto franchise, whereas Dobler, dubbed the NFL’s “dirtiest participant,” was traded after saying he wouldn’t return the following season.)

After their loss to Washington, the Cardinals traveled to Tampa for a meaningless sport towards the enlargement Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had simply received their first sport after beginning out 0-26. Within the closing indignity of the season, St. Louis misplaced, 17-7, to complete with a .500 document simply 4 weeks after trying like a Tremendous Bowl contender.

Early in 1978, the group introduced that by way of “mutual settlement,” Coryell wouldn’t be returning. He went to the San Diego Chargers, the place he arguably had extra success. Coryell’s teaching tree contains Gibbs and John Madden, each of whom labored as Coryell assistants.

For the ’78 season, the Cardinals employed legendary former Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson, who as soon as received 47 video games in a row. So it will need to have been fairly jarring when he began his NFL teaching profession with eight straight losses. By the point the Cardinals lastly received on Oct. 29, 1978, it had been practically a calendar yr since their earlier victory — one sport earlier than their closing flip as Thanksgiving hosts. Wilkinson lasted lower than two full seasons and completed with a professional document of 9-20.

Earlier than shifting to Phoenix, the Cardinals did play twice extra on Thanksgiving, however because the street group in Dallas. They misplaced each video games by a rating of 35-17. The Thanksgiving jinx continued in Arizona, when the visiting Cardinals acquired creamed by the Philadelphia Eagles, 48-20, in 2008.

The group’s 1977 Thanksgiving loss proved to be a turning level for a franchise that seemed to be on the ascent. Had the group received that sport, the Cardinals would have had an 8-3 document with three video games left and possibly would have made the playoffs. And a victory may need satisfied Rozelle to stay with St. Louis as a Thanksgiving showcase metropolis. Since then, St. Louis has misplaced two NFL franchises — first the Cardinals, then the Rams, who moved again to Los Angeles after the 2015 season.

The Cardinals have made the playoffs a number of occasions since shifting to Arizona, however they misplaced their solely Tremendous Bowl look, following the 2008 season. The franchise, which began in Chicago, has the longest championship drought of any group within the 4 main North American sports activities leagues, at 76 years. The final one got here when the Chicago Cardinals received the 1947 NFL championship sport.

And as one other Thanksgiving arrives, issues don’t look nice for them. The Cardinals are 2-9.

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