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Next Cardinals head coach has a lot of work to do

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By Mark Brown

TEMPE, Ariz. — Pundits like to believe players fire coaches.

After all, it’s the team's won-lost record that determines the fate of coaches, general managers and staff. The formula is essentially the same for each team in every sport.

Coach, if you win, you stay. You lose, you’re out. It’s pretty simple, and rarely does a coach defy this fundamental core principal.

In the case of former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, this theory was tweaked. Because of his inability to define talent at the quarterback position and failure to address any dynamic offensive game plan or philosophy, Whisenhunt fired himself. Plus, ex-general manager Rod Graves’ talent evolution, especially in the draft, was suspect, and Graves, as well, was shown the door.

“This is a tough day for the organization,” team president Michael Bidwell told reporters after the firing of Whisenhunt and Graves. “After the last three seasons, it’s time. This decision came down to wins and losses and it’s time to make a change.”

In effect, Bidwell’s words supported the win-loss theory and the eventual survival of any coach.  In Whisenhunt’s case, he essentially cut his own throat with his inability to address a QB situation that became as dreadful as it was desperate.

Plus, Graves’ inability to judge talent at the RB position led to an Arizona offense was as inept as it was incompetent.

In trying to forge a running game, Graves totally missed on Beanie Wells, whom he selected in the first round (31st overall) in the 2009 draft. Wells has never materialized as a legitimate running threat and missed most of the 2012 season with various injuries. While the NFL is essentially a passing league, teams have augmented the pass with capable, high-profile running attacks in Houston, Minnesota, Tennessee, Buffalo and San Francisco.

Not in Arizona.

The factor that marched Whisenhunt to the guillotine was the confused and comical revolving door with his quarterbacks. After Kurt Warner led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl after the 2008 season, he lasted one more season in the desert. Since Warner hung up his cleats, Whisenhunt failed to find, cultivate and establish a reliable and productive NFL quarterback.

As well, Graves missed on former Heisman Trophy winning QB Matt Leinart, whom Graves drafted 10th overall in the 2006 draft. In the process, the Cardinals went through Derek Anderson, Max Hall, Richard Bartel, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer, in addition to the failed Leinart, in a nearly magical effort to jump-start, with any reliability, a hopeless Arizona offense.

A quick glance just at the 2012 season shows the definitive reason why Whisenhunt is now seeking a job.

Save a 38-10 win over Detroit at home on Dec, 16, the most the Cardinals scored in any one game of the other 15 contests was 23 in a 23-6 win over the Eagles on Sept. 23. In four games, the offense scored six or less points, including a franchise-record-setting 58-0 shutout at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks.

Coming from the offensive side of the ball, Whisenhunt’s failure in generating any sustainable offense is surprising. As offensive coordinator of the Steelers, who defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XL, Whisenhunt was a considered in demand. He interviewed for vacancies in Pittsburgh, Miami and Atlanta as well as Arizona, and then was offered the Cardinals' head-coaching position in 2007.

In effect, Whisenhunt rode Warner’s coattails into Super Bowl XLIII, the franchise’s only appearance in the championship game. But once Warner retired, Whisenhunt’s lack of judgment and cultivation of a dependable QB became evident.

Whomever Bidwell selects as the next Cardinals coach should have a formidable task ahead. The entire offense is in a shambles and a new beginning is more than obvious.

The offense line must restructured, a running game found and a quarterback discovered. The defense is considered reliable but defensive coordinator Ray Horton could leave for a possible head-coaching job of his own.

If Horton accepts another position, the defense then could be another weak pillar in an attempt to get the Cardinals to a level of respectability and production.

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