Green: I trust Ken Whisenhunt and you should too
There has been enough talk about the Cardinals and their supposed shortcomings to last, I don't know, at least the rest of the preseason.
From the loss of key personnel to the iffy QB situation, analysts and "experts" have lined up to take their shots at the team that nobody wanted to buy into even as they were making a run to the Super Bowl.
The haters, as they're known in the desert, may ultimately be right; Leinart may stink, the offensive line may be giant turnstiles and the defense may be a total sieve. But I believe the Cardinals will be fine, and my reasoning can be summed up with two words, one name: Ken Whisenhunt.
Since Whisenhunt was named the team's head coach the organization has done nothing but rise. From 8-8 to 9-7 and then 10-6, it is clear Whiz has been building this team to compete not just now, but in the future too.
Whisenhunt and the Cardinals have done this the same way the great teams with sustained success do: draft well, re-sign key players and be willing to make the tough decision and let good (but not great) players leave for bigger bucks and larger markets at just the right time. No matter what happened with the roster, the team was ready to move on and not miss a beat.
Were people worried when Antonio Smith left for Texas? Probably, but those worries subsided when Calais Campbell stepped in and played even better. Were people concerned when Antrel Rolle signed with the Giants? Perhaps, but the team being proactive in trading for Kerry Rhodes, who some would argue is an upgrade from Rolle, shows that the team means business. Were you upset when Karlos Dansby left? Well, I was, but the team nabbed Daryl Washington in the draft and he, while not ready yet, looks like he'll be a quality player for this team, maybe even a star, down the road. I don't even feel the need to mention Anquan Boldin, because the team spent time replacing him over the last few years when they added Steve Breaston and Early Doucet.
As it pertains to the biggest lightning rod of camp, the quarterback position, I'm going to defer to Whisenhunt - a man who is smarter than most of us (the guy has a degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech) - and assume he knows what he's doing.
The way I see it, if he didn't feel Matt Leinart - who has not exactly lit up the scoreboard this preseason - could be the guy to lead this team in the post-Kurt Warner era, the former Heisman Trophy winner wouldn't be on the roster. And, if he was, there would be better competition than what he is getting from Derek Anderson, notwithstanding.
No, the greatest sign that Matt Leinart can be a good QB in the NFL is that Whisenhunt, in his time in Arizona, has never looked to replace him. Sure, he's not Whiz's guy, as he was drafted by Dennis Green. And yeah, Leinart has been benched by the head coach for performance reasons and his work ethic and determination were both questioned. That was then, though, and the latest reports speak of a guy who has worked extremely hard to prove that he belongs in the NFL as the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.
Another thing to keep in mind is that before Whisenhunt arrived Kurt Warner was left for dead, as far as NFL quarterbacks go. He had already been benched for a rookie Leinart and, by all accounts, had nothing left in the tank. He was a turnover machine who just couldn't get the job done anymore. Then Whisenhunt comes along and all of a sudden Warner is an MVP-caliber QB again. The coach gets the most out of his players, and if he can resurrect Kurt Warner's career I'd say there's an excellent chance he can get something out of the former first-round pick.
Finally, don't you think that if Whisenhunt had little faith in his current starter the team would have addressed the position, either through the draft or free agency, sooner than this season? The team, while a contender, was one hit to Kurt Warner away from being Matt Leinart's team. Ken Whisenhunt knew that, and apparently it didn't concern him. Even now the only other options are an erratic QB from Cleveland and a fifth-round draft pick from Fordham, neither of whom would be likely to lead the Cardinals to the playoffs. So, if Matt Leinart can't either, it would appear the Cards are set to go into the season without a capable QB. It's not like it's an important position, right? Ken Whisenhunt is smarter than that.
While he's proven to be nothing short of a miracle worker, Ken Whisenhunt has done a great job when it comes to thinking ahead when it comes to his roster and the changes it undergoes. Not being ready for Kurt Warner's retirement? Please. That just doesn't make sense for a coach who has done a great job of planning for departures at key positions, always having someone ready to step in - unless, of course, that someone was already on the roster.
Adam can be reached with your questions and comments by e-mail here, and you can follow him on Twitter @theAdamGreen