Red Bird Recap is moving along with its All-Time Arizona Cardinals roster with the addition of running backs. The Cardinals have had a number of top-notch RBs in their long history, including Offensive Rookie of the Year award winners, veteran NFL standouts and players who flew under the radar playing on teams that weren’t very good.
Four Cardinals will be selected to represent the running back position on the roster. For our purposes, fullbacks will be considered, although their use as runners in the contemporary game is becoming rare. This All-Time Cardinals team is all-encompassing with absolutely no generation bias. Check out who made the cut below.
RB4 – Larry Centers
Larry Centers played nine seasons with the Cardinals franchise, a number of which weren’t all that successful from a team standpoint. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t successful on an individual level. Having played in an era where the fullback was utilized more than it is today, he was both a threat to run and catch the ball out of the backfield. He holds the NFL record for passes caught by an RB.
In his tenure with the Cardinals, Centers was a two-time Pro Bowl selection (1995, 1996) and a first-team All-Pro selection in ’96. In the ’95 and ’96 seasons, he recorded over 1,000 yards in overall yards from scrimmage. To say they don’t make fullbacks like him anymore would be a grotesque understatement in this era where the position is merely used as a blocker or a formality.
RB3 – Charley Trippi
Charley Trippi was one of the great RBs from the NFL’s pre-Super Bowl era. He helped lead the Chicago Cardinals to back-to-back NFL Championship games in 1947 and 1948, winning in ’47 and losing in ’48 in a game dominated by bad weather conditions, both games against the Philadelphia Eagles. In the ’48 regular season, he led the NFL with 5.4 rushing yards per attempt.
Trippi has received a number of accolades over the years. He was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 and the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor in 2006 as an inaugural member. He’s been named to the NFL’s 1940s All-Decade Team. He’s a foundational piece of the Cardinals franchise and one of its greatest figures.
RB2 – Terry Metcalf
Terry Metcalf, alongside Jim Hart, is among the most recognizable figures from the Cardinals’ 28-year history in St. Louis. He was also an absolute rocket shot with the ball in his hands. Showcasing some of the smoothest moves of any RB of his or any other era, he factored heavily in both the running game and the passing game for the Cardinals.
Metcalf was also an effective kick and punt returner, where he again found an effective way to utilize his speed and gifted athleticism. If there was any downside to his game, it’s that he twice led the NFL in fumbles (1974, 1976). But the risk was worth the reward for the three-time Pro Bowl selection and 1975 second-team All-Pro selection. In ’74 and ’75, he finished in the top three for NFL MVP.
RB1 – Ottis Anderson
Ottis Anderson takes the starting position at RB on our All-Time Cardinals roster because of the manner in which he set put up numbers unheard of for a Cardinal at the time. In seven full seasons with the team, he rushed for over 1,000 yards five times, including his remarkable 1979 season where he rushed for 1,605 yards and took home the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
But that isn’t all. Anderson was also named first-team All-Pro in the ’79 season. He would be named to the Pro Bowl in both ’79 and 1980. Though the New York Giants teams he played on in the later years of his career were generally more successful, there’s no question that his best years were spent with the Cardinals.
- Edgerrin James – Great in his Cardinals tenure, but it was just three seasons.
- David Johnson – Never followed up his remarkable 2016 season.
- John David Crow – Member of the NFL’s 1960s All-Decade Team.
- Stump Mitchell – 1,000 yards in 1985. Great kick returner.
- Johnny Roland – Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1966.