Going into the 2008 season, the effects of Ken Whisenhunt's decision to place a higher priority on licking Bill Bidwill's boots than actual coaching are beginning to send shockwaves throughout the locker room.
In a radio interview with Michael Irvin on ESPN Radio yesterday, Anquan Boldin made the revelation that Whisenhunt injected himself into the contract-negotiation process.
Now, perhaps that wouldn't be so upsetting to Boldin, except that Whisenhunt admitted to helping craft an absurd contract extension that included NO guaranteed money. Given Boldin's NFL accomplishments, such an offer is insulting.
And Boldin is just one of several unhappy campers on the Cardinals' roster.
Linebacker Karlos Dansby sought a contract extension, but the Cardinals forced him to accept the franchise tag after negotiations broke down. Adrian Wilson, the Cardinals' safety, who is among the league's best, feels that he's being undercompensated and has unsuccessfully sought a new contract.
And top defensive tackle Darnell Dockett has also asked for—and not received—a contract extension.
Kurt Warner, the best QB on Arizona's roster, sought a contract extension as well. However, the Bidwills have built a slick marketing campaign around the underachieving and oft-injured Matt Leinart, and they appear willing to let Warner become a free agent after 2008.
These constitute the three best defensive players and two of the top three offensive players on the Arizona roster.
How can Whisenhunt mollify these grumbling stars and keep them motivated in 2008?
The answer is by showing a commitment to the players first and by showing a commitment to winning. Yet Whisenhunt, thus far, has only shown a commitment to following the meddling Bidwills' marching orders to the letter.
Versus the Ravens, in only one quarter of action, Kurt Warner scored on four of five possessions; and in the only non-scoring possession, Larry Fitzgerald fumbled inside field-goal territory. Basically, Warner was able to score at will against a team that Leinart couldn't gain a first down against.
Yet Whisenhunt kept going back to Matt Leinart—even pulling Warner to use Leinart for the no-huddle, two-minute drill at the end of the first half. The result was a quick three-and-out, and Baltimore scored the game-winning touchdown on the punt return.
In that game's radio broadcast, Bidwill's radio mouthpiece Ron Wolfley practically foamed at the mouth. Rather than show any admiration for Kurt Warner's offense, which was easily scoring against Baltimore, he took Whisenhunt to task for benching his employer's "face of the franchise," Matt Leinart.
Again this summer, Wolfley has waged a radio campaign at KTAR—on behalf of his inept employers, the Bidwills—once again in favor of Matt Leinart.
Why has Whisenhunt sacrificed wins in the name of seasoning the lesser Leinart, a player who didn't even bother to study the playbook last season? Does Whisenhunt's contract contain incentive bonuses based upon developing Matty?
And if so, is Whisenhunt putting his own personal financial gain above the interests of the players—and ahead of winning?
And why is Whisenhunt committed to sacrificing the careers of wide receivers Boldin and Fitzgerald counter to team goals? Both of these two Pro Bowlers averaged one touchdown per game with Warner last year.
Surely, Boldin and Fitzgerald are well aware that, in their first five games last season, Leinart threw only one touchdown to Boldin and none to Fitzgerald.
If Whisenhunt hopes to hold this shaky ship together, he needs to keep his nose out of contract negotiations...and out of the Bidwills' butts.
Winning is the key to preventing malcontention from taking over the locker room.
If the players sense that Whisenhunt is not operating in their interests or in the interests of winning, then this team will experience a shutdown and a meltdown...starting with Boldin and the other leading veterans on the roster.