Arakotaram: Don’t under-estimate the Arizona wild Cards

The Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl.

This is the same team that hasn’t hosted a playoff game since 1947. The losingest franchise in NFL history. The league’s biggest running joke outside of Detroit.

And now, they’re in the Super Bowl.

What a perfect ending to one of the most unpredictable seasons in NFL history.

In August, ESPN had 16 of its football writers make their annual preseason predictions. Twelve picked the Dallas Cowboys (sigh) to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. (Two writers, Jeffri Chadiha and James Walker, even predicted that Wade Phillips would win Coach of the Year.) Only two of the writers thought that the Cardinals would even make the playoffs. And none of them picked the Steelers to win the AFC.

But after last week, Kurt Warner is a likely Hall of Famer, Larry Fitzgerald has cemented his status as the best wide receiver in the NFL and Mike Tomlin is the youngest head coach in Super Bowl history.

The Cardinals-Steelers matchup is so surprising that even Cardinals fans can’t believe what they’re seeing. Diehard Arizona fans — all four of them — were so uncertain of their team’s chances that the NFL had to extend its blackout deadline by 24 hours to give the Cards enough time to sell out their 65,000 seat stadium. To put things in perspective: Harvard-Yale had over 57,000 in attendance last year.

So it’s no surprise that an “us-against-the-world” mentality pervades the entire organization. The team has good reason, too. Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and assistant coach Russ Grimm were both passed over by the Steelers in their search for Bill Cowher’s replacement.

The Dallas Cowboys cut ties with wide receivers coach Todd Haley because he couldn’t get along with T.O. Now with the Cardinals, Haley is credited with turning Fitzgerald from an enormous talent to an absolutely dominant player. In fact, Fitzgerald went looking for Haley after his three-touchdown performance and thanked him personally for “keeping your foot on my throat for two years.”

Even the supremely talented Fitzgerald has been overlooked at times. Jason White beat out Fitzgerald for the Heisman in 2003, and many Cardinals fans often debate whether Fitzgerald is even the best wide receiver on his own team.

Now, this team of snubs is one win away from their first championship in six decades.

As six point underdogs in Super Bowl XLIII, the Cardinals will have one more chance to prove everyone wrong. With everything that’s happened this season, I wouldn’t bet against it.

Karan Arakotaram is a junior in Ezra Stiles College.

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