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Carson Palmer-Led Arizona Cardinals Will Make History, Have Top-10 Offense in 2013

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COMMENTARY | It has happened only four times in the Super Bowl era. To go from dead-last in total yards one season to the top 10 in yards the next can take a number of different variables -- there is no exact science to making the jump.

That's four teams since 1966. To pull that off is as rare a feat as there is in the NFL, and it should not go unnoticed.

With that in mind, let's talk for a minute about those four teams before diving into why the Arizona Cardinals will be the fifth team to make the leap from last to the top 10.

1971-72 New York Jets

The first franchise to do it was the 1972 New York Jets . Future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath suffered a knee injury during the 1971 preseason, causing him to miss the first 10 games. By the time he returned to start Week 11, the team was 4-6 and the offense had sputtered all year.

They finished 6-8.

Namath returned to start 13 of 14 games in 1972, and though they finished just one game better, at 7-7, the offense improved to No. 2 in the league. The jump from last to second represents the largest in NFL history, and New York's offense saw a 46.5 percent increase in yards that year -- second-most among this group of four teams.

1983-84 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 1983 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were led by quarterback Jack Thompson, who threw 21 interceptions and had a 73.3 passer rating. His offense scored just 241 points all year -- second to only the Philadelphia Eagles for worst in the NFL.

That, coupled with a porous defense, led to a 2-14 record.

For the '84 season, veteran quarterback Steve DeBerg came in and revamped the offense. He completed a higher percentage of passes for more yards, and a fewer percentage of his passes were intercepted than Thompson during the bottom-dwelling '83 season. The main culprit of the offensive improvement was the rushing attack, as James Wilder rushed for 1,544 yards and 13 touchdowns. Tampa's offense saw a 19.0 percent jump in total yards and finished No. 10 in the NFL.

1990-91 Dallas Cowboys

Troy Aikman's rookie season was not a good one by any stretch. The No. 1 overall draft pick in 1989 went winless -- 0-11, to be exact -- in year one en route to a 1-15 season. But he led the league with four fourth-quarter comebacks and six game-winning drives in 1990 while improving his Dallas Cowboys to a 7-9 record.

Still, the Cowboys offense was the worst in the league. They managed 244 points all season, ranking them ahead of only the Cleveland Browns (228) and New England Patriots (181) that season.

1991 brought a new running back and a new offensive coordinator for Aikman and head coach Jimmy Johnson to work with.

Former University of Florida standout Emmitt Smith and new-to-coordinating coach Norv Turner would help turn the worst offense in the league into one of the best in no time. That year, Aikman finished second in the NFL in completion percentage (65.3%), fourth in yards per pass attempt (6.41), fifth in passing yards per game (229.5), and sixth in passer rating (86.7).

He made his first of six Pro Bowls and led the Cowboys to an 11-5 record while improving the offense to No. 9 in the league -- they upped their yardage by 25.0 percent.

2010-11 Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers were beyond dysfunctional at quarterback in 2010; their 2-14 record was a direct result of poor play from the most important position on the roster. The combination of Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore, Brian St. Pierre and Tony Pike threw a combined nine touchdowns and 21 interceptions while compiling a laughable 57.0 passer rating.

Earning the No. 1 overall pick that offseason led to the drafting of quarterback Cam Newton, the one-hit wonder out of Auburn who carried the Tigers to a BCS championship in 2009. They also fired offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson and replaced him with Rob Chudzinski (who is now the Browns head coach).

You shouldn't call 2011 a successful season for the Panthers, who finished 6-10. But they did finish No. 7 in total offense and increased their yardage output more than any of these four teams -- a healthy 50.8 percent increase.

The Next Chapter

Did you notice a pattern from the four teams' turnarounds? Of them, the Buccaneers and Panthers changed quarterbacks, and the Jets got theirs back from injury. The Cowboys and Panthers changed offensive coordinators as well.

Change. It can be a refreshing thing to encounter. Former head coach Ken Whisenhunt's name is like poison to many Cardinals fans. Full disclosure, even typing his name just now raised my blood pressure a bit. He is far too stubborn for his own good, and it cost him and 13 of his 16 coaches their jobs.

Cardinals president Michael Bidwill cleaned house following one of the more up-then-down seasons in recent memory, a 5-11 record after starting 4-0. Gone are over 80 percent of the coaches from last year, including the man responsible for turning Arizona's defense into one of the best in the NFL in just two short years, coordinator Ray Horton. Gone is general manager Rod Graves -- replaced with vice president of player personnel Steve Keim.

Gone are three of the four quarterbacks who threw passes for the team last year. All that remains from that mess is second-year signal-caller Ryan Lindley -- quite possibly the one least expected to be retained.

Enter new head coach Bruce Arians and his mass of 18 coaches and assistants.

Among them are offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, a former Division-I offensive lineman (Michigan) who will work with new offensive line coach Larry Zierlein to fix the front-five; assistant head coach and offensive guru Tom Moore, the man who taught Peyton Manning the offense of which he was the master for 12 years; and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who is charged with replacing Horton and who is tweaking the defense left by his predecessor.

Enter quarterback Carson Palmer, who threw for over 4,000 yards last year without the help of a 1,000-yard receiver. Palmer is one of 12 quarterbacks to amass 4,000-plus passing yards in a season without a single 1,000-yard receiver in NFL history (Aaron Rodgers also did it in 2012) and one of three to do so while making a tight end his leading receiver (Tony Romo, 2011; Philip Rivers, 2010).

Palmer's receiving corps in Arizona is the best with which he has ever worked in the NFL. Together with Arians and his playbook, Palmer and the receivers should enjoy a big season in the desert.

"I think the biggest thing is just [Palmer's] experience level," Arians told ESPN's Merril Hoge in May. "He's tough as nails. As good a deep-ball thrower as I've ever seen -- he still has it. What he did last year with the Raiders, in a crazy situation, I thought was very, very impressive."

Add in a solid stable of running backs that includes free-agent signee Rashard Mendenhall, third-year back Ryan Williams, and rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington, and there should be plenty of fireworks from the Arizona offense in 2013.

Shaun Church has covered the Arizona Cardinals for more than three years on various online publications and considers himself a life-long fan. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, Football Nation, The Boston Metro, and more.

Questions or comments? E-mail Shaun at

You can also follow and mention Shaun on Twitter @Church_NFL

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