Regardless of what happens on Sunday between the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers, everyone expects some sort of changes to happen to the front office and/or coaching staff for Arizona. After what will likely be a 5-11 season, the second such season in three years, there has to be.
It might be that Ken Whisenhunt is fired, it may be that only changes on the offensive coaching staff happens, general manager Rod Graves might be fired and defensive coordinator Ray Horton could be the team's head coach, defensive coordinator or another team's head coach.
The rumors that are going around don't help much.
According to Chris Mortenson, while speaking on The Herd, he feels big changes are coming.
"There's going to be changes in Arizona," Mortensen said. "By the way, there's going to be a lot of general manager changes.
"Because of the quarterback situation and just how they have botched it and I know [Whisenhunt] well, I have great respect for him and I believe he will be a head coach again if he's fired," Mortensen explained. "But the quarterback thing is really on both of them and you know that the owners, the Bidwill family, are very frustrated."
SI.com's Don Banks suggests that the Cardinals could go after Andy Reid, who is expected to be fired as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagle. Banks writes,
The Cardinals could choose to pursue Reid as their next head coach, and Reid probably has Arizona on the list of clubs he's most interested in. After all, he would be reunited with quarterback Kevin Kolb, the former Eagle who was dealt to Arizona in 2011, and there is talent on the defensive side of the Cardinals' roster.
But again, Reid's salary level might deter Arizona. Plus, the Cardinals have gone that route before, hiring big-name former playoff-qualifying head coaches a couple times in the relatively recent past, without great results (see Buddy Ryan and Dennis Green).
Adam Schein for NFL.com suggests that Whiz will be gone and Horton will take over:
Whisenhunt is a very good coach. If Arizona had held on to beat Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII, there would be a Ken Whisenhunt statue outside of the Cardinals' stadium. Personally, I wouldn't fire Whisenhunt.
But this season has been an embarrassment. The quarterback situation is between sad and laughable, and Whisenhunt hasn't handled it well. The no-show against the Seattle Seahawks was alarming. They are wasting Larry Fitzgerald and a talented defense.
The educated guess: Whisenhunt is let go, and defensive coordinator Ray Horton takes over as head coach.
Yet another report, this one from Yahoo!'s Jason Cole, says that Whisenhunt will stay.
Word around the league is that Detroit's Jim Schwartz, the Arizona Cardinals' Ken Whisenhunt and Chicago's Lovie Smith are all expected to survive for another season. That expectation is based largely on the conservative approach that all three teams have historically taken with firing coaches, particularly when those coaches have money still owed to them.
What I think is going to be the biggest deal is the money issue. Whisenhunt has another $5+ million dollars owed next year, and Rod Graves is under contract another year. As much as we would like to the think that the Cardinals have changed as an organization, that's a lot of money to eat. This is why promoting Horton makes the most sense, because he would be the least expensive replacement being a first time head coach. That would them make it possible. This is the only scenario I see as happening if Whisenhunt is fired.
Graves' future is less clear, although promoting Steve Keim would also lighten the money burden. Keim would probably be given more money, but retain his current position as well.
Bottom line, unless there are just wholesale offensive coaching changes, the only way I see Whiz/Graves going is if their replacements are internal promotions in Horton and Keim.
The other real option I see? Whisenhunt remains without an extension, but he makes changes to the offensive staff and Keim takes over for Graves. It gives Whiz one last shot to show that injuries were the issue.
How do you see this playing out next week?
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