Anybody whom is a constant visitor of this site has problem seen me jump to the defense of our HC, Whisenhunt. I am unashamed to say I am homer. After reading so many critiques of our HC I decided to profile his decisions and our recent history.
In 2006 after the fall of Dennis Green and the ultra famous "they are who we thought they were" tirade the FO looked for a coach that would reinvent the team and shake the image of the perennial doormat. "The same ole Cards" is as tired mantra around the fan base as there is. Since the Cards attempt at a rebirth in 1988 in their move to Tempe, Arizona until 2008 the Arizona Cardinals had only seen the playoffs once, ten years earlier in 1988. In Whisenhunts first season the Cardinals improved from their 5-11 season in 2006, lead by an inspiring rookie year by Matt Leinart, to a respectable 8-8 in 2007. During that time Leinart and Warner were shuffled in and out of the games as Warner showed much greater poise in two minute drills and near the end zone (A side note, Warner inside the red zone was one of the most accurate and deadly passers to play the game). After a season ending collar bone injury to Lienart, Warner took over full time duties and never looked back.
In the following preseason, after the rehabilitation of Leinarts injury, he was given another chance to reclaim the starter mantel from Warner. After a very lack luster performance in his second preseason game against the Oakland Raider Warner was named the starter though with an ultimatum from his HC and his OC that he must protect the ball better, in particular his tendency to fumble the ball when sacked. From there the rest is history.
The beginning of this year was filled with many question marks. Our biggest name and most important piece of the puzzle decided to hang up the cleats. With the retirement of Warner a year early it put a new focus on the QB situation. Many fans, myself included, looked to Leinart to be the answer. After years of sitting, signs of an improved work ethic and maturity and the tutelage of Warner seemed to ordain that Leinart would live up to his first round draft status. But than camp took place and reports emerged that Leinarts safe status was actually being pressured by the new FA Derrick Anderson. It was said that the offense under Leinart seemed stagnate and that under DA it had more life. Soon a debate began by many fans uninspired by Leinart that DA would be the better option. Due to his one probowl season their argument had credibility. Sadly, in hindsight, I was one of these people. DA had the swagtangibles that Leinart seemed to lack.
As the preseason rolled out it seemed that DA had challenged Leinart enough to garner some first team snaps during the games. Whiz claimed it was a "feeling out period" trying to see what he had in his new FA but it now looks like a thin veil to the truth; Whiz saw DA as the better choice to win games. We now know how that decision turned out. Often fans have made the claim that it was Whisenhunt's ego that pushed Leinart out, that he was never "his guy." Whisenhunt has definitely given credibility to that line of thought with his FA acquisitions. Starting with guys like Darren "I can turn around to defend a pass" McFadden, Joey Porter, and Alan Faneca. All Free Agents of his former team, Pittsburgh, who haven't contributed much.
In the interviews that lead up to Whisenhunts hire in 2007 and with the interviews that have taken place since his hire, Whisenhunt has come off as an intelligent and level headed coach. As have been shown from many Kent Somers articles, Whisenhunts attitude that those players who give the team the best chance to win will play regardless of their draft status or seniority won the hearts of the team. Whisenhunt walked the walk when he decided to bench ML in favor of DA. Whisenhunt explained the demotion stating he was "looking for first downs," something that still haunts us today. While Whisenhunts QB decisions have damaged peoples opinions of his ability to evaluate talent it doesn't actually mean he cannot evaluate talent. Under his watch Arizona has had very successful drafts and coupled with Dennis Greens excellent drafts Whisenhunt has created a team with a strong foundation. Though not without weaknesses.
After the retirement of Warner and the exodus of the "over pay me" players the teams weaknesses have been exposed on an embarrassing level. Many experts predicted at best a 7-9 season and at worst a 4-12- season for the Cards due to our turnover. Though many of the fans here remained optimistic about our chances and foresaw a potentially very strong season in a weak NFC West conference. Whisenhunt and Co bungled up this season and for many that is reason enough to fire him. Whisenhunt and the FO didn't address the QB situation well enough. Whether it was the Bidwells cheaping out on FA's like Bulger or McNabb or Whisenhunts misplaced confidence in DA doesn't matter now.
The QB decision by Whisenhunt was a very bad decision; in truth it has ruined this season. Our offense is the worst in the league in time of possession meaning our defense spends a lot of time on the field. (Though I remain optimistic with the D after seeing how they can play when motivated). While this season has been horrendous and has exposed us, we must look to the big picture and see how far we have come. Whisenhunt has changed the mentality of the fans and of the players. It has been a long time since the expectations of the fans have been so high, a byproduct of success. While this season has been a bust we still have a very talented team and have had several successful drafts riddled with talent. This team is still in a position to be very good but is hindered by terrible QB play. If the FO makes smart moves this offseason and lands a quality QB this team will instantly climb from the bottom of the cellar back to the top.
Besides the QB debacle the moves this team has made have paid off. With draft steals like Hightower, LSH, and Breaston, solid contributors like Branch, Ben Patrick, Early Doucet, Rashad Johnson and Will Davis, future stars like Campbell, DRC, Beanie Wells, Daryl Washington and Dan Williams and solid FA acquisitions like Rhodes, Lenon and Faneca we have a very solid core for a team. Our offense line has vastly improved from the beginning of the season and our D has shown glimpses of great ability (when they are not left on the field for 2/3 of every game and have something to play for). Again the QB decision has tainted this season but if it is corrected next season our team has the potential to take back the NFC West title. This team hasn't had this much talent in a long time.
I remain a loyal homer to the Cards with optimism towards the future. I believe Whisenhunt is still the guy and I believe he will get this team back on track. The NFL was right about us having a down season and next season will show us what kind of FO and HC we have. If they can fix this mess than we have found ourselves an HC and FO that will bring us success for years to come. If they don't I fear we will slip back in to mediocrity for a long time.