I love the Cards and have always followed them, but I never really knew the team. I went to their games but I couldn't even name important guys the OC, or even anybody on the depth chart behind the starters. Since I became a member here last year, I have really begun to know this team, the coaching staff and the FO. So with my better knowledge of the team I thought I would hash out my opinion on Whiz and I also hope you will hash out yours. Great debate is the best way to understand an idea and I am looking to understand why Whiz has had success versus other coaches (ie Denny Green)
When we first hired Whisenhunt, I did what everyone else here did, researched him on Wiki (what is life without Google and Wikipedia?). I wasn't a fan of Pitt, but I had always had respect for them because they played great smash mouth football and had a very storied past. So I was excited from that standpoint, any coach coming from a historically successful franchise is hopefully going to have an understanding of why they were successful and hopefully they will be able to translate some form of that success to their new team.
Whiz did grasp why they were successful and he also found a way to make it work in the desert. Since he has been here there has been a total culture change. From the way he deals with players, to whom he has drafted so far, to the personnel he has brought in (who doesn't love John Lott?), and to how the team approaches the game (and probably so much more); the team is incredibly different. I feel we have almost shaken off the image of being a perennial loser. And I would say Whiz's ability to change all of this is the biggest reason he has been able to succeed. The talent we already had on the team seemed to buy in to what Whiz was selling from almost the get-go. Because of who we have picked up in FA, people have jokingly called us "Steelers-West" or my favorite "Steelers-lite." Some of the obvious reasons why we did this was Whiz's experience and knowledge of the players he was getting, but maybe also because they all have that "Steeler mentality" of team first, of working hard, and of competing on every play. They think like winners. Whiz has brought that mentality to the Cards and it has changed our fortunes as a franchise.
Whiz had a plan. That was their motto this off season, don't worry fans/team/world, we have a plan. I think this is a big reason for Whiz's success. I remember reading an article on Whiz after he was hired mentioning how the FO was very impressed with how organized he was and also impressed with his plan of action for the team. He seems to be a very thorough coach who really takes everything into account. He wants to run the ball but we didn't have a running team when he first arrived. We had a team stacked at WR with two QB's duking it out for a starting position. He challenged them and said the best one would start and the one that did was pinpoint accurate and solidified his spot in the HoF (they may even make a movie about Warner...) So, Whiz got all mavericky on us and created one of the best passing teams since the "Greatest Show On Turf." Many of us expected a dedication to the run game, play-action passes, etc. Basically a reincarnate of the Steeler offense. Instead of forcing a mold over the team like some coaches (Mike Martz comes to mind) he adapted to our teams talent, and I think we can all agree, it worked very well.
That brings me to my last point; while Whiz is a great game planner he is also dynamic in his coaching, from play calling to running the team. I know Haley was our OC but I think a lot of our play design came from Whiz. Whiz was known in Steeler Town for coming up with "trick" plays, something he must of learned from the great Bill Cowher. Whisenhunt came into the light as a coach after calling this trick play in Super Bowl XL. I am sure we all remember this play and this play, both of which had Whiz's fingerprints all over them and both came in the playoffs. His play calls like this (sorry, the clip is really bad quality), though it was only preseason, I think makes the point. His ability to be versatile is probably his greatest strength.
I am the head coach of a JV football team in CA. The varsity team has been, since I started working there in 2006, the doormat of the conference. Though I am only the JV coach, I have worked very diligently to change the atmosphere of the team. I have attempted to install some traditions to help give the team pride. Most of which is (unintentionally) sabotaged by the head coach. I don't mean to air out my coaching frustrations, but this experience has really shown me the value and the importance of the teams "culture." I always thought it was about talent, play calling, schemes, etc. But I have come to learn that a teams culture and mentality is the most important part. I also learned how easy it is to fail when the people above you don't have the same priorities. Coaching is no easy task and I imagine especially more so when it involves business and dealing with the FO and owners who are actively involved. I guess when it comes down to it, I have admiration for what Whiz has done and I really hope he continues to succeed.
I am very excited for this season. I think this season will truly tell us what kind of coach Whiz is. We had a substantial turnover of players this season. We are starting a different QB. Our D is basically an entirely new unit with many questions marks. The conference has gotten tougher and we have six very difficult match ups (including the Niners games) that should show us how good our team really is. With some many questions heading into the new season, it will be very interesting to see how Whiz responds.