After starting the season 4-0, it seemed as if Ken Whisenhunt was on the verge of hanging onto his job for another year. Yet, the NFL is a week-to-week league that can turn on you at any given moment. Just ask Coach Whisenhunt—this year has been a prime example as four straight wins suddenly turned into eight straight losses.
But does he have anyone to blame but himself? Ever since he arrived in the desert he has been indecisive about one position in general—the quarterback position. When he took over in 2007, he inherited a first-round draft pick in Matt Leinart.
Leinart never played much under Whisenhunt, as he was injured more often than not, but even when he did play early in 2007 the offense stalled and Whisenhunt started putting Kurt Warner in as a situational quarterback. After five games, Leinart was placed on injured reserve with a broken collarbone and he never wrestled the starting job back from Warner.
With Warner under center, the team managed to finish 9-7 in 2008 and 10-6 in 2009. Those two seasons are the only seasons where a Whisenhunt-led team has finished above .500. Without Warner as the starter, the Arizona Cardinals are 20-30 under Whisenhunt.
It's pretty safe to say his 44-48 career record would look a whole lot worse if it wasn't for No. 13's magic. That's not to totally discredit him, considering he believed in Warner well beyond 2007 and tried to keep him around as long as he possibly could, but at age 38 he knew the 12-year veteran had seen enough and was content with hanging it up.
All of the prior quarterback shenanigans between Leinart and Warner leads me to my next question; how come Whisenhunt and the Cardinals organization never looked for Warner's potential replacement before he retired?
I get that Leinart was still on the roster during his last season and the Cards probably thought he would come back for one more year in 2010. Regardless, they were behind the ball in so many different areas. No contingency plan, no skill to correctly evaluate quarterbacks and really no skill to correctly evaluate offensive talent.
I don't want to spend too much time on the "no skill to correctly evaluate offensive talent," but take a moment to read the tweet below and really think about the answer.
@tysonnfl think abt this: before this year what draft pick on O has made any significant impact in Whiz's tenure?— Seth Cox (@sethcoxTSHQ) December 6, 2012
Okay, back to the quarterback talk—since Warner retired, Arizona has manged to start five different quarterbacks from 2010 until now. Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Ryan Lindley have all started at least one game in less than three years.
There's no question five different starters during a 44-game span screams indecisiveness and a lack of vision amongst the position. Just take a look at some of the starters Whisenhunt has allowed to take snaps from under center—Anderson, Hall and Lindley, really?
Anderson was a cast-off from the Cleveland Browns after they decided he only hindered their team by remaining on the roster, Hall was undrafted out of BYU and Lindley was a sixth-round pick out of San Diego State.
I can forgive the Anderson and Hall experiments just because they were such short notice after Warner abruptly retired, but Kolb doesn't get a pass in my book. Kolb was highly touted as a second-round pick in 2007, but he had only made seven career starts before Arizona threw $21 million of guaranteed money his way.
Not to mention they shipped Philadelphia Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick. To me it sounds like general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Andy Reid knew that Kolb was no more than fool's gold.
He dealt with concussion issues as a member of the Eagles and now has dealt with a vast array of injuries as a member of the Cardinals. Since being acquired, Kolb has missed 13 total games. He missed seven games in 2011, and he has missed six more games this season.
Call it what you like—many call it bad luck due to the injuries, many call it poor evaluation and many say Whisenhunt panicked when he acquired Kolb. He knew the market was thin and essentially he was the best thing out there in a poor market, so he did whatever he had to do to get the best player available.
Whatever the reason was, it's simple; Kolb just hasn't worked out, and by the looks of it he won't ever work out.
The only quarterback Whisenhunt has manged to get any production out of is Skelton. Skelton wasn't really ever expected to be the guy, but was thrust into action in 2010 after the Cardinals grew tired of Anderson and Hall.
He actually closed out the 2010 season at 2-2 as the starter and entered 2011 as the backup to Kolb. Kolb ended up starting the first seven games of the season, but was then sidelined with a toe injury, which allowed Skelton to step in once again.
He went 3-1 as the starter while Kolb was out, but as soon as No. 4 was healthy he went right back to the bench. Fortunately for him, it only took 63 snaps before Kolb was back on the bench with another concussion.
In relief duty, Skelton managed to beat the 49ers, and as the starter he defeated the Browns and Seahawks. By season's end he finished with a record of 5-2 as the starter. His record of 7-4 through 11 career starts was the best anyone had managed to do since the departure of Warner.
Finally, it appeared to be enough as he won the job going into 2012, but it didn't last long as Skelton hurt his ankle three quarters into the season. In the fourth quarter of the Cardinals' Week 1 game against the Seahawks, Kolb stepped in and finished off Seattle to regain his title as starting quarterback.
Kolb only managed to last six games total as the injury bug struck for the third time since 2011. Skelton gets the nod once again, but is unable to work his magic and he goes 0-4 against Minnesota, San Francisco, Green Bay and Atlanta.
Insert Lindley, who took over for Skelton after the first quarter of the Atlanta game. The Cardinals had jumped out to a 13-3 first-quarter lead, but Whisenhunt grew impatient of Skelton's errant throws. So, he decides to put in the rookie—what does he do?
He fails to close the game out and the Cards fall, 19-16. He ends up starting the following two games against the Rams and Jets, but like Skelton he doesn't manage to win a start and self-implodes for five turnovers during his time on the field.
I guess his six conversions on 40 third-down attempts didn't impress the coaching staff after all. As the team heads into Week 14, Lindley has been benched again in favor of Skelton.
John Skelton to start for Cardinals this week wp.me/p14QSB-6BfW— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) December 5, 2012
All of this quarterback flip-flopping screams insecurity, indecisiveness and a lack of overall vision for the quarterback position. Whisenhunt's whole head coaching tenure will be looked at as a failure after Warner because he couldn't ever manage to find his replacement.
Ultimately, his impatient nature and inability to find a quarterback will lead him to getting fired at the end of the 2012 season. Rightfully so, his clock has been ticking for some time now—the NFL is definitely the "not for long" league, and if you're aren't winning as a head coach, you won't be around for long.
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