Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bird's-Eye View: Rams' Hanifan Has Unique Line on Big Red

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bird's-Eye View: Rams' Hanifan Has Unique Line on Big Red

Article excerpt

Quick trivia quiz, Big Red fans.

Who was the last football Cardinals head coach to post a winning record? . . .

Sorry, time's up. Would you believe Jim Hanifan?

Yes, it's been two cities, three name changes, six head coaches and 13 seasons since Bill Bidwill's St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals last enjoyed a winning season.

"It's been a long time," said Hanifan, now a Rams offensive line coach. "I'm very proud of it."

Hanifan's 1984 Cardinals finished 9-7. Had Neil O'Donoghue's hurried, last-second, long-range field goal not missed the mark in a 29-27 season-ending loss to Washington, the Big Red would have made the playoffs.

Who knows? There may have been a groundswell of support for the team, which featured a high-powered offense of quarterback Neil Lomax, running backs Ottis Anderson and Stump Mitchell, and wide receivers Roy Green and Pat Tilley. Maybe the team would still be in St. Louis.

"At that point in time, we were a team that I really thought was on the ascendancy," Hanifan said. "We just needed to shore up a couple spots."

The '85 season started in promising fashion, but ended in a 5-11 debacle. Early-season injuries to Benny Perrin and Lionel Washington robbed the team of its two best defensive backs. Green and Anderson played most of the season with nagging injuries. Lomax got beat up early in the season, and lost his poise.

Fullback Earl Ferrell ended the season in drug rehab. Owner Bill Bidwill was so concerned about a widespread drug problem that he ordered random drug-testing of the entire team before the '85 season finale. The NFL Players Association blocked the request.

Hanifan was fired after the season, but doesn't apologize for the job he did as head coach. He lasted six seasons, longer than any other coach in the franchise's 77-year history. He won 39 games, second only to Don Coryell (42) in franchise history. He coached the team to three winning records, and a playoff berth in what was called the Super Bowl Tournament in the strike-shortened '82 season.

Surprisingly, Hanifan never got another chance as a head coach, except for four games on an interim basis in Atlanta after Marion Campbell was fired in 1989. …

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