Winning a postseason game was once a mirage for the Arizona Cardinals.
For 51 years the franchise went without any playoff success to generate one of the more notorious streaks in sports. That was until one fateful season in 1998 when the Cardinals went on the road to upset the Dallas Cowboys, ending what remains as the longest playoff-win drought in NFL history.
The man who orchestrated that memorable victory, former Cardinals head coach Vincent Tobin, died Monday morning, the team announced. He was 79.
"Our deepest condolences go out to everyone who knew and loved Vince Tobin, and in particular his wife Kathy and their family," Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said in a statement. "As head coach of the Cardinals, his steady leadership was a constant and a big part of the success the team enjoyed during his tenure. His football legacy with us is highlighted by the thrilling 1998 season, return to the postseason, and upset playoff win at Dallas. He will also be remembered for his instrumental role in key decisions like drafting Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman.
"More than that, he was a consummate family man and always a class act who positively impacted everyone he encountered."
Tobin coached the Cardinals from 1996 to 2000, producing an unspectacular 28-43 regular-season record but offering Arizona an indelible campaign during his lone winning season in 1998. The sixth-seeded Cardinals had a tough draw against the Cowboys, a franchise looking to add its fourth Lombardi Trophy of the decade.
Tobin's scrappy Cardinals team never flinched against a squad full of future Pro Football Hall of Famers, and it was his defense that put an emphatic end to the Cowboys' chances.
Arizona intercepted Troy Aikman three times (two of which by HOF Aeneas Williams) and found four sacks of the Cowboys quarterback in the dominant 20-7 win. Emmitt Smith offered little to no impact on the ground with 74 rushing yards and no touchdowns while Michael Irvin was held to four receptions for 32 yards in what would be his final playoff appearance.
Second-year QB Jake Plummer threw for 213 passing yards and two touchdowns for a Cardinals offense that took what the Cowboys defense gave them. Running back Adrian Murrell had a career day with 95 rushing yards off twelve carries while receiving one of Plummer's TD throws.
It was a fitting way to win for Tobin, who served as a defensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts before landing in Arizona. While his inspiring playoff run would end the following week in Minnesota against the top-seeded Vikings, it was a much-needed happening for a franchise that would soon enter successful years in the late-2000s.
Tobin wouldn't see that success first hand, though. After a 2-5 start to the 2000 season, the Cardinals fired Tobin. He'd be hired by the Detroit Lions as a defensive coordinator the following year but lasted only one season.
Although Tobin's tenure in Arizona wasn't one brimming with success and accolades, the former coach helped forge a magical season that restored hope in the desert.