After an impressive 4-0 start to the season, the Arizona Cardinals have crashed back to an unfortunate reality. This is now a 4-4 football team that has looked dazed and confused in recent weeks.
Arizona's offensive line is the worst in football. Kevin Kolb and John Skelton appear to be equally incompetent quarterbacks and the running back position is a glorified game of musical chairs.
Where does head coach Ken Whisenhunt stand through all of this?
How much blame for the teams midseason collapse lies with the man in charge on the sidelines? Should he be back next season?
Let's analyze both sides of the argument for Whisenhunt:
The Case Against Whisenhunt
In Whisenhunt's inaugural season with the Cardinals, he led the team to a surprise Super Bowl berth and eventual loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Arizona followed that up with a divisional-round playoff loss the following year.
However, after losing QB Kurt Warner to retirement, the Cardinals have squandered in mediocrity. Whisenhunt has assembled an elite defense hampered by the constant struggles of an offense that refuses to grow or develop.
Derek Anderson, Matt Leinart, Kolb and Skelton have all taken their crack at the starting job and all have failed. A consistent running game has yet to be implemented and Arizona assembled a record of just 13-19 over the last two seasons.
Starting off 2012 with four wins was impressive, but this team has been exposed as inefficient and nonexplosive. When there is such little offensive output from year to year, the head coach must be held accountable at some point.
The Case for Whsenhunt
For a team with such a beleaguered offense, the Cardinals find ways to compete in football games and remain relevant. Arizona ranks just 27th in total offense this season and yet has been able to beat tough opponents in the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles.
Whisenhunt is not the man who drafts the players on his team, he simply makes the most of what is on his depth chart. With an elite QB in Kurt Warner, he was able to lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl. Three years later, Arizona continues to remain competitive even with average signal callers like Kolb and Skelton taking snaps under center.
How much blame can be given to the head coach when his top two running backs get hurt early in the season?
Or when Kolb finally starts to gain some momentum and is knocked out with a rib injury?
No one wants to hear excuses for a failing NFL franchise, but Whisenhunt is in a tough predicament and has at least already shown that he knows how to succeed in this league.
Not bringing Whisenhunt back in 2013 may only stunt what forward momentum the Cardinals have gained under his leadership.
Despite Arizona's problems and struggles, Whisenhunt is the right man to lead the Cardinals in 2013 and beyond. Bringing in Kolb was clearly a failed experiment, but the responsibility for that mistake cannot lie solely with the head coach.
Whisenhunt led this team to its first Super Bowl appearance ever and has the respect of his players. Offensive balance is clearly needed for Arizona to succeed, but imagine the potential with a decent quarterback and an actual running game.
With the dynamic capabilities of Arizona's defense, the sky is the limit for the Cardinals moving forward. Fans must simply find a way to be patient and allow the team to bring in a competent QB and develop a real rushing attack.
When they do, the talk of Whisenhunt's job security will be nothing more than a hazy memory.