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After getting a mulligan hot on the heels of his worst season by a wide margin as the Cardinals’ head coach, just how much pressure is there on Ken Whisenhunt heading into his fifth season in the desert?
In league circles, Whisenhunt has been compared more than a few times to Bill Cowher, the coach he worked under in Pittsburgh.
While Cowher was highly successful during the vast majority of his 15-year stint as head coach of the Steelers, Cowher did have a few notable speed bumps, but managed to persevere with strong support from team ownership.
After running into his first real speed bump in Arizona after three seasons in which the Cardinals’ record steadily improved under his direction, team sources believe the team’s hierarchy still has Whisenhunt’s back — at least for now.
“The Cowher analogy is a good one,” said one team insider. “It remains to be seen if the Bidwills will be as patient as the Rooneys were.
“There’ll be some heat (from the fan base), but he (Whisenhunt) is just one year removed from getting a four-year contract extension and is not in danger of losing his job by any means.
“But there needs to be some real hope. Six wins (one win better than last season) will be a disappointment. They need to at least hover around .500 and stay in the hunt. There really is no excuse for not being able to contend in a division where the winner was 7-9.”
One thing we hear Whisenhunt absolutely must do is handle the team’s QB situation much better after gambling and losing badly on free-agent addition Derek Anderson, who failed miserably in 2010.
“It was the first real mistake he has made in Arizona,” said the insider, who was asked if he felt Whisenhunt needed to hit a “home run” at the QB position this season.
“At least a ground-rule double,” the insider said. “They don’t need to find a great quarterback. They need to find a competent guy who can complete 60 percent of his passes and manage the offense.”
Whisenhunt also badly needs new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, a fellow descendant of the Steelers coaching pipeline, to provide a big impact right away.
“That’s very important,” the insider said. “Horton is the third coordinator in five seasons. You just can’t be going through coordinators like that.”