TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill sounded confident when discussing the decision to relieve head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves of their duties.
Explaining that the decisions were necessary but not easy, he praised the job the two men have done over their time in the Valley.
“Both are really good people, really good families who worked really hard to put this team in a position where it is and get us to our first-ever Super Bowl appearance, get us to back-to-back NFC West championships, and get us to a point where we really stabilized this organization after we opened the new stadium,” he said.
But alas, things went south over the last three seasons, with the Cardinals winning just 18 of 48 games and just four away from the friendly confines of University of Phoenix Stadium.
Bidwill brought that up, and it is the central reason why the move he made had to be made.
Quite simply, the Cardinals were not winning football games.
Bidwill said this was a decision he had made “over the last several weeks” before finally settling on it Sunday night. The Cardinals losing 11 of their last 12 games this season certainly played a role, though it does not appear as if this was at all a rash decision made in the heat of the moment.
It was instead made with the goal of getting the Cardinals back to where Whisenhunt had once taken them, which is the great irony in this entire situation.
The coach’s own success led to his demise.
“When you look at the opportunity we had to go to the Super Bowl and getting there, that’s something that I want to get back to,” Bidwill said. “I want to get back to winning football.
“It’s a lot more fun to be winning football games and having the excitement around this organization and so that’s why I felt it was time to make a change.”
Where the Cardinals go from here will ultimately decide whether this was the right decision. Did Whisenhunt deserve the ax? It’s hard to argue he didn’t. Will it pay off in the end? Only if the next coach leads to improvement.
Now the attention turns to whom Bidwill will tab to take over.
Giving no specific timetable and noting how the holidays and playoffs may delay the search a little, Bidwill brought up current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and former Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid as those who he plans on speaking with about the job. He also alluded to the possibility of other coordinators and college coaches being part of the search.
“I’m looking forward to getting involved in that and jumping into that process and getting moving forward on it right away,” he said.
Of the names discussed, Reid may be the most intriguing.
The deposed Eagles coach compiled a 130-93-1 mark in Philadelphia, won the NFC East seven times and guided the team to Super Bowl XXXIX. He’s a retread, but not in the way most view the term.
And if the coach was being honest when he praised quarterback Kevin Kolb before trading him to Arizona, the biggest knock against the Cardinals is now gone.
After all, in Reid’s mind the team would have a quality QB on the roster to go along with its stout defense and future Hall of Fame wide receiver.
But I digress.
Whether Bidwill goes with the flashy choice in Reid, the popular choice in Horton or someone else, the next coach will have some big shoes to fill.
Because while Whisenhunt’s tenure in Arizona would be little to write home about elsewhere, guiding the Cardinals to competency like he did certainly is. The last three seasons do not erase the previous three, and now that it’s all said and done, he departs as the winningest coach in franchise history.
Indeed, the decision to relieve him of his duties comes with risk as well as disappointment.
But it’s a move that had to be made.