With the NFL celebrating its centennial season in 2019, the league will soon be announcing its top 100 players of all-time. I thought it would be fun to look back and rank the Big Red’s top 100 players who played in St. Louis.
The Cardinals moved from Chicago after the 1959 season and played 28 years in St. Louis before Bill Bidwill moved to the desert in 1988. Several great players played under the arch during this period including four Hall of Famers.
These rankings are only based on the player’s time spent in St. Louis. Consideration was given to the player’s statistics, All-Pro/Pro Bowl selections, team leadership, and impact in the community. It is next to impossible to compare eras, so many of these picks were very difficult.
The Top 100 St. Louis Football Cardinals of All-Time: 20-11
20. PAT TILLEY (WR)
Pat Tilley played 11 seasons for the Big Red and retired as the second leading pass catcher in team history. The Louisiana Tech product was the Cards 4th round pick in 1976 and shared the team rookie of the year honor with Mike Dawson. Tilley scored his first NFL touchdown in the ’76 season opener against the Seahawks. Teammates Mel Gray and Roy Green got all the headlines, but Tilley led the team in receiving from 1978-1982 earning one Pro Bowl appearance in 1980. He started every game but one from 1978-1985. His best season was in 1981 when he caught 66 passes for 1040 yards and three TDs. Tilley finished his career with 469 receptions, 7005 yards and 37 touchdowns.
19. DALE MEINERT (LB)
The late Dale Meinert was considered one of the top linebackers in the NFL in the 1960s. He was acquired from the Colts in a 1958 trade and the Cardinals switched him from offensive guard to defense in 1960 where he went on to play in three Pro Bowls as a middle linebacker. Meinert played 8 seasons in St. Louis and was named the team MVP in 1961. The lean, rangy Oklahoma State alum was known as a diagnostician and vicious tackler. He finished his career with 9 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries and a touchdown. He was named to the all-St. Louis Cardinals team by the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1988.
18. ERNIE MCMILLAN (T)
Ernie McMillan was a four-time Pro Bowl right tackle who played 14 seasons in St. Louis. McMillan was a 13th round draft choice in 1961 out of the University of Illinois and was a key member on an outstanding offensive line in the 1960s. McMillan played along side fellow Pro Bowlers Ken Gray, Irv Goode, Bob DeMarco, and Bob Reynolds who combined for 18 Pro Bowls. He started a remarkable 162 consecutive games which started in 1962 and ended with a knee injury in 1973. The 6’6 280-lb McMillan is the father of former NFL safety Erik McMillan and uncle of former Mizzou star and Cowboys first round pick Howard Richards.
17. STUMP MITCHELL (RB)
Stump Mitchell is still the Cardinals second all time leading rusher with 4649 yards and second with a yards-per-carry average of 4.7. He retired as the Cardinals all-time combined yardage leader with almost 12,000 yards. The 5’9 fan-favorite was a 9th round draft pick out of The Citadel in 1981. As a rookie kick/punter returner, Mitchell broke or tied eight team records and four NFL marks and led the Cards in total offense. He gained 145 yards rushing in his first start in 1983 against the Eagles subbing for the injured O.J. Anderson. His best season came in 1985 when he totaled over 1500 yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs in only 8 starts. He led the team in rushing his last three seasons in St. Louis. Mitchell retired after the 1989 season.
16. NEIL LOMAX (QB)
Neil Lomax was a two time Pro Bowler who set numerous passing records for the Cardinals during his seven seasons in St. Louis. Lomax was a record breaking QB out of Portland State when the Big Red drafted him early in the second round in 1981. He started seven games his first year which included a come from behind win against the Patriots on a Lomax to Roy Green TD pass with 42 seconds left in the game. He took over the starting position from Jim Hart in 1982 and led the Cards to the Super Bowl Tournament which would be his only playoff appearance. Lomax threw 24 TD passes in ’83, but his best season came in 1984 when he threw for 4614 yards and 28 TDs, almost leading the Cards to a playoff berth. After two subpar seasons in ’85 and ’86, Lomax rebounded in 1987 throwing for over 3300 yards and 24 TDs, but again, just missed the playoffs. Lomax had the unfortunate pleasure of taking over for the iconic Hart and many fans never warmed up to him. He retired after the 1988 season in Phoenix due to an arthritic hip.
15. JIM BAKKEN (K)
Jim Bakken was a four time Pro Bowler, a two time All-Pro and named to the NFL All-Decade Teams of the 1960s and 1970s. Bakken was drafted by the Rams in 1962 as a defensive back and punter, but was cut and later signed with St. Louis. The Wisconsin native played 17 seasons in St. Louis and is the organization’s all-time leading scorer with 1380 points. In 1967, he led the NFL in points with a team record 117, field goals made (25), and FG pct. He also set NFL records for field goals made (7) and field goal attempts (9) against the Pittsburgh Steelers in ’67. He was named All-Pro for the Cardiac Cards in 1975/1976 and was named Team MVP in ’76. Bakken retired after the 1978 season as the 3rd leading scorer in NFL history.
14. TOM BANKS (C)
Tom Banks was a four time Pro Bowler and All-Pro center who played ten seasons for the Cardinals. The former Auburn star was an 8th round draft choice in 1970. The rugged, versatile Banks was a fan favorite, not only for his aggressive play, but for his ability to get under the skin of Big Red management. He was part of the great Cardiac Cards offensive line that allowed only 8 sacks in 1975. After suffering a season ending injury in the first game of 1974, Banks didn’t miss another game until 1980 when he was unceremoniously released midseason. He would later play and coach with the Birmingham Stallions in the USFL.
13. BOB DEMARCO (C)
Bob DeMarco was the Cards 14th round draft choice in 1960 out of Dayton. He played guard his rookie year, but became a two time All-Pro and four time Pro Bowler after being moved to center in ’61. DeMarco was the hub of a great Big Red offensive line in the 1960s. He was awarded a game ball in 1967 after playing with a broken wrist and torn rib cartilage. DeMarco had a falling out with head coach Charley Winner and was released after an All-Pro season in 1969. He later played for Miami, Cleveland, and the Rams before retiring in 1976. He and Tom Banks are considered the top two centers in Cardinals history.
12. SONNY RANDLE (WR)
All-Pro wide receiver Sonny Randle was a 19th round draft choice by the Chicago Cardinals in 1958. The Virginia product had a break out season in 1960 when he led the Big Red in receiving with 62 receptions for 893 yards and 15 TDs in 12 games. The four time Pro Bowler caught 16 passes for 256 yards in a game against the Giants in 1962. He had back-to-back 1000 yard seasons in ’62/’63 scoring 19 TDs. Randle scored 65 TDs in the 1960s which was most of any receiver. He also served as sports director at KSD Channel 5 in St. Louis and often interview players in full uniform. Randle was traded just to the 49ers just before the season opener in 1967. He also played a few games with the Cowboys in 1968 before retiring.
11. TERRY METCALF (RB)
Terry Metcalf was named to the Pro Bowl three times in five seasons with the Big Red. Metcalf was a quadruple threat and became one of only four NFL players to account for TDs five different ways (rushing, receiving, KO return, Punt Return, and Passing) in a season (’75). He also became the first player to average 30 yards per kick return and 10 yards per punt return in the same season. Metcalf set an NFL record with 2462 combined yards in 1975 and finished 2nd in the MVP vote. He was a third round pick in 1973 out of Long Beach State where he set a collegiate record with 28 TDs his junior year. Metcalf left the NFL after the 1977 season when he signed a lifetime contract with the Toronto Argonauts. He spent three disappointing years in the CFL before returning to the Redskins in 1981 for his final season.