TEMPE, Ariz. — We were scraping the bottom of the barrel for Cardinals story ideas today. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? What depressing note can we illuminate that hasn’t already been illuminated in this 30-car pileup of a season? What strength can we muster for yet another grim game preview?
Following a 4-0 start, the Cards have lost nine of their last 10 games to fall out of contention for anything but a high draft pick and a new coach. Following a 7-1 start, the Bears have dropped five of their last six games to fall out of what seemed certain playoff position while threatening the job of their coach.
Fortunately for us, the past provides an opportunity for comic relief. Yes, we’re going where you thought we were going: to the infamous Monday Night Meltdown in 2006 and then-coach Dennis Green’s equally impressive postgame meltdown that was mercifully cut short by the quick thinking of Cardinals vice president of media relations Mark Dalton.
The Bears are in the Valley for the first time since that fateful evening. The last time they arrived, they were sporting a 5-0 record and quarterback Rex Grossman was playing like anyone but Rex Grossman.
The Cardinals were 1-4 and, once again, headed nowhere, yet somehow they rose up for the Bears. They led 20-0 at halftime and 23-3 at the end of the third quarter thanks to four Grossman interceptions and two first-quarter touchdown passes from QB Matt Leinart.
Then it all unraveled. Valley native Mike Brown returned a fumble three yards for a TD for the Bears. Charles Tillman returned another fumble 40 yards for a TD, and Devin Hester then busted loose on an 83-yard punt return for a TD. When Neil Rackers missed a 41-yard field goal wide to the left with 53 seconds left, the Bears had escaped with a 24-23 victory, at which point much of America was treated to one of the greatest postgame tirades in pro sports history, which we present to the right of this column in its entirety.
First, note the reporter’s question lobbed at Green from local freelance writer Mark Brown. This is classic journalism. Throw an easy, non-confrontational question at the subject to get him talking. You couldn’t find a more innocuous or better-constructed question than Brown’s. It was just clear that Green wanted to blow — and he had every right to blow after the Cards’ historic collapse.
Second, note Dalton’s voice in the background after Green had finished. “Thanks, coach.” Was ever a more graceful yet necessary verbal hook uttered by a media relations representative?
We tried to get the Cardinals and Bears coach Lovie Smith talking about the game this week. Cards receiver Larry Fitzgerald obviously still remembers it but wouldn’t go there with azcardinals.com.
“I remember everything about it. That was a rough one. We had ‘em,” he said, before being asked if the Bears were who he thought they were.
“I’m not going to touch that,” he said, smiling. “You know I love Denny Green. I’m not going to touch that.”
Smith, coach of the Bears since 2004, also took the high road in his Wednesday conference call with the Arizona media.
“You know, I’m getting up in age,” he said “It’s hard for me to remember some things.”
Thanks to YouTube, the nation won’t soon forget. With a couple possible exceptions from former Colts coach Jim Mora, Green’s meltdown is arguably the greatest clip of postgame fury ever to grace the NFL, and it’s the unrivaled best the Cardinals have ever offered. Or it was until Derek Anderson came to town …