As we move closer to the 2023 NFL Draft (April 27-29), The Big Red Zone is looking back on all of the 28 St. Louis Cardinals drafts (1960-87). This installment focuses on the 1962 Draft, which was held December 4, 1961 in Chicago. Although the Cardinals had 21 picks, it was arguably their least productive selection meeting. Wally Lemm, who was in his first season as the team’s head coach in 1962, summarized it succinctly. “We came up with only one player,Irv Goode, who helped us,” Lemm said in the 1975 book “Big Red,” written by St. Louis Globe-Democrat sports editor Robert L. Burnes.
Steve Jones experienced both good times and hard times in his National Football League career.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound running back was a 5th-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Rams in 1973 but was slowed by a hamstring injury and traded to St. Louis in training camp.
During his brief stay with the Cardinals, Jones impressed some coaches, but there was no room in a crowded backfield that included Terry Metcalf, Jim Otis, Donnie Anderson, Ken Willard, and Eddie Moss.
“I was beginning to pick up the St. Louis system,” Jones told The News and Observer in a 1973 interview. “They liked the way I was playing. And I know Larry Wilson was upset when I was put on waivers.”
After being release by St. Louis, Jones signed with the Buffalo Bills but didn’t see much action playing behind O.J. Simpson.
As the NFL moves closer to the 2023 Draft (April 27-29), the Big Red Zone is looking back at each of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 28 drafts (starting in 1960). Each installment in the series will include a list of that year’s selections, a rating of each pick based on that player’s contributions to the Cardinals, and notes about some of the players. Feel free to debate. One thing we probably all can agree on: The Big Red had a lot of bad drafts even before George Boone arrived on the scene.
As the NFL moves closer to the 2023 Draft (April 27-29), the Big Red Zone will look back at each of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 28 drafts, starting in 1960. Each installment in the series will include a list of that year’s selections, a rating of each pick based on that player’s contributions to the Cardinals, and notes about some of the players. Feel free to debate. One thing we probably all can agree on: The Big Red had a lot of bad drafts even before George Boone arrived on the scene.
With the 2023 NFL Draft on the horizon (April 27-29 in Kansas City), the Big Red Zone is looking back at each of the St. Louis Cardinals’s 28 drafts, starting in 1960. Each installment in the series will include a list of that year’s selections, an evaluation of each pick (based on what the player contributed to the Cardinals), and notes about some of the players. We begin the series with a story on the St. Louis team’s first draft pick: quarterback George Izo.
During their time in St. Louis (1960-87), the football Cardinals took 24 shots at drafting quarterbacks. They missed on only 22 of them.
With the exceptions of Charley Johnson and Neil Lomax, the other quarterbacks drafted contributed little to nothing to the Cardinals, played for other teams, or never played a single snap in the NFL. Four of the misfires came in the first round, starting, well, right from the start.
Although the Cardinals were still in Chicago when the 1960 draft was held on November 29, 1959, that is recognized as the first draft class in the team’s St. Louis history. And with their first pick in that draft (No. 2 overall), the Big Red selected Notre Dame quarterback George Izo.
(Izo also was a “territorial selection” of the New York Titans in the 1960 AFL draft. He chose to sign with the Cardinals—for $15,000, including a $2,000 signing bonus—not only because the AFL was just beginning but also because Chicago was geographically close to Notre Dame and he thought he could parlay his college stardom and, hopefully, success in the NFL into a lucrative off-the-field career in Chicago business. He even received a lucrative offer from Chicago radio station WGN. Alas, the Cardinals moved to St. Louis in March 1960.)
He has an “unusual background,” head coach Jim Hanifan said after the Cardinals drafted a little-known linebacker in the eighth round of the 1984 NFL draft.
That man was University of Hawaii star Falaniko “Niko” Noga who was born in American Samoa in 1962, and born with him, he said, was something that is given to all Samoans at birth.
“It’s an instinct that comes from way back,” he told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in a 1985 interview. “I think our people have big monsters in them. We believe that we can do anything to anybody. When you realize you have that monster in you, you have to find something to use it for. I found football.”
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound rookie quickly caught the eye of head coach Jim Hanifan. He excelled on special teams and introduced himself to the home fans in an October 1984 game against the Chicago Bears.
Noga broke open a close game when he barrelled through the Bears’ line and blocked Dave Finzer’s punt with just over 6 minutes remaining in the contest.
“As soon as I saw him drop the snap, I put on my engine and was gone,” Noga said after the game. “The play wasn’t designed to block a punt. But when I saw what had happened, I knew what I had to do. I just wanted to get there.
“That’s the best hit I’ve had in the National Football League,” the rookie added.
After Don Coryell left the NFL Cardinals, he appeared in St. Louis one time as an opposing head coach. It was an experience he could have done without.
On Nov. 20, 1983, Coryell brought the San Diego Chargers to Busch Stadium to play the Cardinals.
This was no tender homecoming. Too much weird mojo, and too many factors Coryell couldn’t control, not the least of which was an injured quarterback.
In five seasons with Coryell as their head coach, the Cardinals were 42-27-1 and reached the playoffs twice. “We weren’t the best football team when Don was here,” his quarterback, Jim Hart, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “but we were the most exciting. We did the unexpected.”
Coryell departed following the 1977 season after a falling out with club owner Bill Bidwill. Subsequently, the Cardinals had four consecutive losing seasons before going 5-4 in strike-shortened 1982.
From his first regular-season game as a head coach in the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals, Don Coryell showed signs of being special. He got the Cardinals to play with confidence and collective pride.
When he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Feb. 9, 2023, Coryell correctly was hailed as an innovator whose offenses with the Cardinals, and later the San Diego Chargers, were thrilling to watch and nerve-wracking to defend.
Those progressive schemes were just part of his skillset. Coryell also was an effective leader who got players to buy into his philosophies and to execute consistently within a framework of selfless collaboration.
Meet the new boss
The season opener between the Cardinals and Eagles on Sept. 16, 1973, at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia marked the NFL head coaching debuts of Coryell and Mike McCormack.
Conrad Dobler, who Sports Illustrated once anointed “Pro Football’s Dirtiest Player,” has passed away at the age of 72 according to his family and former teammates.
Dobler played college ball at Wyoming and was a 5th round draft choice in 1972 by the St. Louis Football Cardinals where he played six seasons. He was traded to the New Orleans Saints in 1978 where he added toughness to a historically losing organization before finishing his career in Buffalo in 1980 and 1981.
“Our hearts go out to the family, friends and former teammates of Conrad Dobler,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said in the team’s statement “He was the kind of tough, physical and fierce player that you love to line up with as a teammate and hate to line up against as an opponent. On the field, Conrad was a big reason for the success of the Cardiac Cards of the 1970s. Away from it, he brought authentic joy and caring to everyone who had the privilege of being his friend and that is what I will remember most.”
“Conrad was like a brother to me,” former teammate and friend Dan Dierdorf said during an interview with Gabe Kuhn on 92.3 ESPN Radio in Memphis. “He was just one year younger than I and we played side-by-side for six years. He was family.”
Dierdorf said that Dobler loved his reputation as the dirtiest player in football. “But deep down inside, he was a giant pussycat. He was as soft as a guy could be and I’ll miss him desperately.”
The annual Big Red alumni Christmas party was recently held at Circa Pub & Grill in Des Peres, MO. The following former players were in attendance: Dan Dierdorf, Jackie Smith, Johnny Roland, Eric Williams, Terry Miller, Keith Wortman, Irv Goode, … Continue reading →