Cardinals could be 1st to play Super Bowl at homePosted: Updated:
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Through 48 Super Bowls, no team has played the game at home.
The Arizona Cardinals, for so long the laughingstock of the NFL, have their sights set on being the first.
Halfway through the season, the idea is no joke. Arizona, at 7-1, has the best record in the NFL. If this keeps up, the Cardinals could conceivably move through the playoffs and onto the game's biggest stage without ever leaving Arizona.
It's a heady thought for a franchise that from 1985 through 2007 had one winning season.
That changed when Kurt Warner directed a 9-7 Arizona team on a stunning run to the 2009 Super Bowl, where the Cardinals came within a whisker of beating Pittsburgh. The offensive coordinator for the Steelers that day was Bruce Arians, the man who this season has Arizona off to its best start through eight games in 40 years.
Back at the start of offseason workouts, when everyone figured the Cardinals would be looking up at Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West, Arians offered his players a simple goal.
"Put a ring on your finger," he said, "and don't let anybody dress in your locker in February."
Arians said making it to the Super Bowl and winning it is always the goal.
"That wouldn't change just because it's at home and no one has done it," he said.
Oddsmakers didn't think much of the Cardinals' chances in the preseason. They were a 40-to-1 longshot to win the Super Bowl before the season began. This week, after Arizona's 28-17 win at Dallas on Sunday, those odds are down to 12-to-1. Only Denver (13-to-4), Seattle (15-to-2), New England (6-to-1) and Green Bay (9-to-1) are considered better bets.
"Walking into your home stadium for a Super Bowl, it's something that everybody definitely has thought about," Arizona cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "If we're blessed enough to continue to play like we're playing and winning games and get there, it would be something magical."
Only the Miami Dolphins have had much of a chance of playing the Super Bowl at home. They made the playoffs four times in seasons that the game was played in their stadium, but never made it past the divisional round. Their most recent chance came in 1998.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made no secret of his fervent desire to have his team play in the 2011 Super Bowl in his gigantic, opulent new AT&T Stadium. They finished 6-10.
The big game will be played for the third time in the state of Arizona, the second since the construction of University of Phoenix Stadium, which sits like some giant silver space ship in suburban west Phoenix, its natural grass field kept outdoors in the sunshine until it's rolled inside on game day.
It was the site of the New York Giants' memorable upset of then-unbeaten New England in 2008 - a year before the Cardinals made their unexpected Super Bowl run.
Arizona went on to make the playoffs again in the 2009 season, then Warner retired and the team fell on hard times again, leading to the firing of coach Ken Whisenhunt after consecutive 5-11 seasons in 2011 and 2012. Enter Arians, hired at age 60 after a long career as a top NFL assistant and a portion of one season as interim coach at Indianapolis.
Although Arians has his team believing it can beat anyone, veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote doesn't want to get carried away with the Super Bowl-at-home talk with so much football still to be played.
"I'm not giving the Super Bowl too much thought to be honest with you," Foote said. "I've been there three times. In December if we're 12-and-whatever or something like that I might start thinking about it, but we're just trying to win the West. That's all we can control right now."
Defensive end Calais Campbell said he just wants "to play in the Super Bowl period."
"For it to be in your home just gives you a little bit of extra motivation because you want to do it for your fans," he said. "But that's so far away. We just want to try and win the division and get in the playoffs first. From there, anything's possible."
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