Does Ken Whisenhunt Deserve to Be on Hot Seat?

Lou RomContributor INovember 15, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 02:    Head coach Ken Wisenhunt of the Arizona Cardinals looks on against the San Francisco 49er during an NFL game at Candlestick Park on January 2, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

After running off four-straight wins to open the season the Arizona Cardinals have crashed back down to earth with five-straight losses.

The downward spiral has led to a renewed quarterback debate, a bit of an identity crisis on offense and local sports talk radio hosts calling for the departure of coach Ken Wisenhunt, who took the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl ever.

Since taking a 9-7 team to the Super Bowl in 2009, Wisenhunt's teams—which were thought to have a nucleus to compete for a long time—have underperformed, making one more playoff run in 2010 but going a combined 17-24 since.

Wisenhunt is not a coach whose name is often brought up when talking about guys who are on the hot seat, but should he be?

Another 8-8 season this year could spell trouble for Wisenhunt, but perhaps Cardinals ownership, and fans, should think back a few years.

Prior to Wisenhunt's arrival, the Cardinals lost 10 games in seven of their previous eight seasons, and there seemed little hope that the teams were improving from year to year.  In fact, in the Cardinals' 19 previous seasons in Arizona, they had made the playoffs just once.

And since Wisenhunt's arrival, the Cardinals have surely had their ups and downs, but they have not been the bumbling Red Birds of years past.

Last season's first half may have reminded old-school Cards fans of the 20 years past after starting off 1-6. But the team salvaged a respectable—if not a playoff season—by finishing 7-2 for a .500 record.

As with any NFL coach, most of Wisenhunt's success rides on his quarterback, whomever that may be. 

Wisenhunt inherited Matt Leinart, the USC standout who turned out to be a bust, from Dennis Green.

Since Kurt Warner's retirement in 2010, Wisenhunt has started five quarterbacks—Leinart, Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton and Kevin Kolb.

None have had the success that Warner had, though, and the Cards have suffered because of it. 

But Arizona has struggled on defense, too; but this year is among the top-10 defensive units in the league.

Look for Wisenhunt to survive the season, unless the Cards go winless from hereon.

He's a smart, reliable coach, who rarely ever loses a game because he was less prepared than his opponent.

Arizona may not make the playoffs this year, but it won't be for lack of effort, or team unity or coaching chops.

They're just getting older, and slower, and have more holes to fill than the team that made the jump to the big game in 2009.

Wisenhunt remains one of the top-10 coaches in the league, and Arizona would be foolish to let him go unless they brought in a young star or a Super Bowl winner like  Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden, neither of which seem eager to get back on the sidelines.