The Devil's Advocate: Why Ken Whisenhunt Should Share the Blame

Aaron KeelSenior Analyst IIISeptember 30, 2008

A shiver.

That’s what went down my spine when I saw the Jets’ safety Eric Smith’s helmet to helmet hit on Arizona Cardinal receiver Anquan Boldin that left Boldin lying, seemingly, motionless on the ground while players from both teams gathered around forming prayer circles.

For those of us watching live on television thoughts of Kevin Everett, the Buffalo Bills special teamer, who was paralyzed during Week One of last season couldn’t help but invade our brain. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I was that close to tears.

As Boldin was strapped to a board and taken out of the stadium two questions remained.

First and foremost was if Boldin would be okay.

The answer to that was a very thankful yes. All tests came back negative and as of this writing Boldin is back in Arizona recuperating.

The second was how long Smith’s suspension would be and how much he would be fined for his hit.

Commissioner Roger Goodell answered that himself by handing Smith a one game suspension and a $50,000 fine.

For his part Smith denied any malicious intent and said he would try and get in touch with Boldin.

Some have argued that the punishment was too soft with some even going as far as to suggest a season long suspension would be in order.

While I disagree with that kind of punishment I do believe Goodell only got it half right.

The man who should share in the blame with Smith is Boldin’s own head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

The reason is simple, there is no way Boldin or any of the starters for the Cardinals should have been anywhere near that field at that point in the game. The Cardinals were down 21 points and the game for all intents and purposes was over. That when you bring in your backups and finish out the game for two very important reasons.

One is so your backups can get a little game time experience, especially your quarterback.

The other and most important reason is so you don’t needlessly lose any of starters to injury. This holds especially true for Whisenhunt’s team where they have a quarterback in Kurt Warner who has a long history of injury.

By leaving his starters in the game in a no win situation he was asking for something bad to happen and as Boldin will be happy to tell you it did.

Unfortunately, seeing his star receiver taken away in an ambulance didn’t send that message home for Whisenhunt because instead of taking a knee to end the game as a right thinking person might have done he left his starters in there and attempted another pass play.

After the game Whisenhunt had the gall to criticize Smith’s hit on Boldin by saying "I think it's one of the hits that falls into the category of being dangerous to players.”

Dangerous to players?!

Give me a break Ken, if there was anyone who was a danger to players on Sunday it was you.

This may be the defining moment for the Cardinal’s season and Whisenhunt’s tenure with the team. There were reports of player grumbling about the starters still being on the field to pad the statistics and many Arizona fans have voiced their displeasure at that same fact. How the players respond to their coach after this will go a long way in determining how long he stays in Arizona.

Will they still play hard for a coach that they think will leave them out to dry? Not only that but will Boldin, who asked for a new contract in the offseason, demand a trade after this season if he feels the same way?

Only time will tell but it is clear that one play on Sunday may destroy what many thought was a promising season.

And Whisenhunt only has himself to blame.


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