The 5 Best NFL Arizona Cardinals Quarterbacks

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The Arizona Cardinals Quarterbacks position remains one of perpetual turbulence in the 100-year history of the Arizona Cardinals. While seldom considered a franchise incubating legendary field generals, the few signal callers who have manned the helm in the Valley of the Sun with aplomb deserve retrospection for digging this oft-futile club out of the doldrums. When the rare gridiron field magician emerges guiding the Cardinals to relevance through his on-field exploits, the presence of these All-Pro anomalies correlates directly to the team’s seldom-seen peaks throughout the decades.

For more on the greatest NFL quarterbacks ever across all teams, don’t miss our rankings of the best signal callers of all time.

In this authoritative appraisal of the greatest quarterbacks to don the Cardinals uniform, we spotlight the five field generals responsible for the franchise’s most successful clashes and triumphant campaigns. The list traverses from a 1970s stalwart who rewrote the team record books over 13 admirable seasons to a pair of decorated veterans who capped their illustrious careers with late-stage flourishes in the desert. Supplementing the brightest luminaries are the unsung names whose statistics and honors attest to their own excellence behind the center as well. Let the numbers speak for themselves as we properly acknowledge and analyze the most outstanding accomplishments of the select few quarterbacks who elevated the Cardinals to sporadic playoff prominence.

The 5 Best NFL Arizona Cardinals Quarterbacks

Jake Plummer

Jake Plummer – TeeAloha
  • Years With the Cardinals: 1997–2002
  • Regular Season Record: 30–52
  • Playoff Appearances: 1998
  • Playoff Record: 1–1

The Arizona Cardinals pinned high hopes on Jake Plummer when drafting him in 1997 to reverse the fortunes of an offense ranked dead last in yards per game the previous year. The mobile lefty promptly rattled off one of the most scintillating starts ever for a Cardinals rookie quarterback. After entering the lineup mid-season, Plummer piloted the Cardinals to 3 wins in his first 4 games as a starter. He posted a brilliant 108.0 passer rating while shattering franchise rookie records for yards and touchdowns in the process. Plummer’s prolific potential reached its apex in 1998 with several torching performances, including a 465-yard aerial assault on the Cowboys. His nine victories spearheaded the franchise’s first playoff berth in 16 years. And Plummer etched his name in lore by quarterbacking the Cardinals’ first postseason win since 1947. Though ultimately unable to replicate that magic, Jake the Snake’s initial breakout proved a harbinger of better times on the desert horizon.

Neil Lomax

Neil Lomax – TeeAloha
  • Years With the Cardinals: 1981–88
  • Regular Season Record: 47-52-2
  • Playoff Appearances: 1982
  • Playoff Record: 0–1
  • Pro Bowl: 1984, ’87

As the Cardinals ushered out the Jim Hart era in 1981, second-round pick Neil Lomax gripped the reigns for the next chapter under center. After seizing the starting job as a rookie, Lomax lifted Arizona to its first playoff appearance in 7 seasons the very next year. By 1984, the young gunslinger blossomed into a Pro Bowl passer while shattering Cardinal single-season records with 4,614 yards and 28 touchdowns. Lomax unleashed the full fury of his right arm again during a 1987 All-Pro campaign. He topped the NFL in completions, attempts, and aerial yards with maestro-like precision in another offense-centric Pro Bowl season. Despite chronic hip issues forcing early retirement in 1988, Neil Lomax exited holding every major Cardinals passing record behind 5 straight years terrorizing defenses. His prolific pinnacle seasons still rank top 3 in franchise annals for touchdowns and yards.

Carson Palmer

Carson Palmer – TeeAloha
  • Years With the Cardinals: 2013–17
  • Regular Season Record: 38-21-1
  • Playoff Appearances: 2015
  • Playoff Record: 1–1
  • Pro Bowl: 2015
  • All-Pro: 2015

After washing out of Oakland in 2012, Carson Palmer found a career second wind in the desert during his early 30s Autumn. His 2013 debut firing 4,274 yards for Arizona remains the franchise’s single-season yardage record. But Palmer truly caught fire in 2015 by propelling the Cardinals to a 13-3 record while securing career-best marks of 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns. He added postseason heroics with 349 yards and 3 touchdowns to notch the elusive first playoff victory of his star-crossed career. The crafty veteran crossed 4,000+ yards in all but one season as a Cardinal while registering three of the top five passing yardage outputs in the franchise record books. Despite a late career arc in Arizona cut short by injury, Carson Palmer provided both record-setting productivity and long-sought playoff glory.

Jim Hart 

Jim Hart – TeeAloha
  • Years With the Cardinals: 1966–83
  • Regular Season Record: 87-88-5
  • Playoff Appearances: 1974–75
  • Playoff Record: 0–2
  • Pro Bowl: 1974–77
  • All-Pro: 1974
  • Major Awards: Cardinals Ring of Honor, United Press International NFC Player of the Year (1974)

No player defines Cardinals quarterbacking before the 21st century more than Jim Hart. The undrafted signal caller signed in 1966 would cling to the starting job for a staggering 15 years. He set every major career passing benchmark over 18 seasons fully rooted in St. Louis and Phoenix. Hart’s 4-year Pro Bowl peak from 1974-77 stands as the best-concentrated success under center in franchise history. During that dominant run, Hart led the perennial cellar Birds to consecutive playoff berths behind fierce aerial assaults deep into his 30s. When he finally retired in 1983, the Cardinals patriarch had amassed 34,639 yards and 209 touchdowns – records that are atop the franchise leaderboards to this very day. Though his teams struggled for playoff victories, Jim Hart’s individual numbers and durability earned him silver medalist status amongst Cardinals quarterbacks all-time.

 Kurt Warner

Kurt Warner  – TeeAloha
  • Years With the Cardinals: 2005–09
  • Regular Season Record: 27–30
  • Playoff Appearances: 2008–09
  • Playoff Record: 4–2
  • Pro Bowl: 2008
  • Major Awards: NFL Hall of Fame (2017), Cardinals Ring of Honor, NFL Man of the Year (2008)

The architect behind the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams rewrote his Hall of Fame legacy during a legendary second act in Arizona. Kurt Warner defibrillated the floundering Cardinals franchise by piloting their first-ever Super Bowl berth in 2008. Early playoff agony for the Cardinals quickly turned to ecstasy that year behind Warner posting career-bests in yards (4,583) and touchdowns (30). After carving up four straight postseason opponents for a blistering 11 scores, he dueled the Steelers in an all-time Super Bowl shootout for the ages. Warner engineered Arizona’s second straight playoff run in 2009 before injuries cut short his valiant late chapter. By pure mythology and postseason heroics, Kurt Warner’s elite three seasons cement his place as the Cardinals finest field general the game has seen.

Who Is The Best Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Of All Time?

Spanning an astonishing 18 seasons under center, Jim Hart’s extraordinary tenure itself makes him a prime candidate for the best Cardinals quarterback by longevity default. After all, the durability to start for nearly two decades while piloting periodic competitive clubs cannot go understated. During a 4-year peak, Hart scored Pro Bowl honors annually on fierce aerial assaults lifting the squad to rare consecutive playoff trips in 1974-77 – cementing his legacy through on-field exploits as well.

Jim Hart – TeeAloha

However, the full-frame reveals frustrating fits of futility. Hart captained losing campaigns in 13 of 18 years at the helm. And for all the yards accumulated as statistical king, his career 247 interceptions also rank an ignominious 11th most ever. While he retired owning all major Cardinals passing milestones, Hart’s 209 career touchdowns feel modest next to today’s prolific passers.

In the end, though names like Warner and Palmer boasted higher apexes, Jim Hart’s sprawling career arc and tapestry of team records inlet the steady quarterback stream that preceded Arizona’s current golden era under center. For these grateful generations of Cards fans, it becomes tough not placing the franchise’s quintessential field general atop this list – even if partly by longevity default after nearly two decades weathering the desert sun.

Speaking of Super Bowl wins, click here to see how many championships the Chiefs have captured with standout quarterbacks under center.

Wrapping up, Arizona’s occasional quarterbacking magic brought flashes of brilliance through gunslingers like Plummer, Lomax and Palmer over the years. While elder statesman Hart set longevity records across almost two decades of starts, Kurt Warner etched his legend guiding Arizona’s lone Super Bowl run. So if the miracles emerged irregularly before, sustained stability has finally arrived at football’s most vital position – transforming quarterback from historical liability to foundation cornerstone for the Cardinals’ current golden era.