Arizona Cardinals fans are used to offseason shakeups. Disgruntled players leaving for greener pastures and inept coaches being fired were almost just as common as the team’s losses.
After a season that saw the franchise’s first Super Bowl berth, fans thought maybe this would be the year no one left. But before even the Cardinals booked their trip to Tampa, reports started coming out that the Kansas City Chiefs had interest in offensive coordinator Todd Haley becoming their next head coach.
Sure enough, shortly after the Super Bowl, Haley announced that he took the Chiefs job. Not long after his announcement, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast decided to join Haley after the Cardinals dismissed him.
But the despite these two departures, Whisenhunt’s staff is a vision of stability. After the Deniss Green era that seemed like there was a different staff each week (Green demoted offensive coordinator Keith Rowan after six games in 2006), this is surely welcomed by the team’s supporters.
With Haley becoming the top dog in Kansas City, Whisenhunt will return to offensive play calling. It’s something he did in 2007 and also in his last three years in Pittsburgh. The greatest change because of this will most likely be a larger emphasis on the running game; something Whisenhunt has tried to do since arriving in Arizona.
However, Whisenhunt’s return to play calling may be short lived. It is believed that he will be grooming passing game coordinator Mike Miller to take over the job. Miller will be entering his third year with the team. His first two were as wide receivers coach.
Another coach that has helped the staff become stable is assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm. Whisenhunt bringing Grimm along with him in 2007 proved to be a huge coup for the Cardinals. The work he has done with the offensive line, one that had been considered among the worst in the league, has been nothing short of spectacular.
The offensive line protected quarterback Kurt Warner so much in 2008 that he played in all 16 regular season games for the first time since 2001. That’s not to mention how they’ve helped the development in the running game.
On the defensive side, it probably will serve the team well in the long run that it dismissed Pendergast. Whisenhunt kept him on when he was hired out of a sign of respect since Pendergast had been with the team since 2004.
But Pendergast’s play calling during Pittsburgh's final drive of Super Bowl XLIII did him no favors. With the Cardinals on the cusp of bringing home the Lombardi Trophy, Pendergast once again fell back into the prevent defense that Cardinals fans hated so much.
In order to complete the team’s switch to 3-4 defense from the 4-3 defense Pendergast favored, Whisenhunt promoted linebackers coach Bill Davis. Davis will be in his third season with the team and it will be his second go around as a defensive coordinator after his stint with the San Francisco 49ers.
Out of all the coaches, the most pressure may very well be on Davis. Despite Pendergast’s inconsistent play calling, the defense played out of its mind in the playoffs. It’s probably the biggest reason why the Cardinals made it as far as they did. Davis’ job will be to continue that growth.
If Davis can get every last drop of potential out of his defensive unit then the Cardinals will be in prime position to repeat as division champions.
Maybe just as importantly, if Davis can be successful, it will give Arizona a coaching staff that will be stable and built to last.