O-line is Grimm: Change on staff should begin up front
"I'm sure there will be some things around here that I need to clean up," Whiz said.
Whisenhunt could have been discussing a variety of things, as he now has to go about putting the 2011 season to bed while preparing for 2012, with minicamps, OTAs, a draft and training camp in between.
However, he could also be talking about his coaching staff, and while rumors of Todd Haley's potential return to the desert swirl, there's at least one more coaching staff change that could be considered:
Parting with Russ Grimm.
Brought to Arizona by Coach Whiz in 2007, Grimm spent time as the offensive line coach before being given an associate head coach title, too. Known for being an offensive line guru, Grimm's Arizona units have consistently ranked among the worst in the NFL.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, just one member of the starting offensive line graded out with a positive number in 2011, giving affirmation to what those of us who watched the games already knew.
The line was bad, is bad, and will likely continue to be bad.
Of the five, the site ranks Levi Brown as the worst, followed by Brandon Keith, Rex Hadnot and Daryn Colledge. Congratulations go out to Lyle Sendlein, as the center was the least-awful of the bunch.
It's possible, though, that Grimm is a great coach who is being undone by a lack of talent. Brown and Keith easily made the worst set of tackles in the league, Hadnot and Colledge weren't/aren't good enough to carry a line, and Sendlein is decent, but nothing special.
Or, perhaps, maybe Grimm is just overrated as a line coach. After all, Levi Brown was the fifth pick in the draft and Colledge a member of the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, so you have to think they have some measure of talent. And, Grimm must have seen something in Hadnot, Sendlein and Keith, otherwise they wouldn't be starting in the first place.
Assuming there is talent to mold, Grimm's job is to shape it into something good - if not simply competent. As ProFootballFocus has mentioned, Brown has stepped up his play over the last couple months. Has coaching finally clicked, or was it impending free agency?
Either way, the Cardinals have ranked no better than 24th in the league for rushing yards per game under Grimm's watch, and twice have finished last in the NFL. And, unfortunately for all involved, the line isn't sacrificing rushing for the ability to throw, not with pass block rankings of 29, 23, 31 and 27 the last four years, according to ProFootballFocus.
Then again, you don't need in-depth stats to know Cards QBs have taken a beating the last few years, and were sacked 54 times this season, while being hit another 19 times due to poor line play. They were also responsible for 20 penalties this season.
In other words, if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. If a line can't run block, pass block or avoid penalties then it's probably a bad line, and while the players involved have changed since 2007, one constant has remained.
Not long ago Grimm was one of the league's hot head coaching candidates. A Hall of Famer who is one of the best linemen to ever play the game, he often interviewed for jobs across the NFL. Not anymore, as Grimm's name is rarely mentioned when new jobs open up. There may be a reason for that.
Coach Whisenhunt is a loyal guy, one who believes in his system to a fault. Does the same apply to his staff? Whiz brought Grimm with him from Pittsburgh after both were spurned by the Steelers, and together the two have experience success in the desert. The head coach has proven himself, though, and now holds the franchise record for wins.
Grimm, on the other hand, doesn't have a pro bowler or a unit that paved the way for a great offense. No, he has an offensive line that is no better than when he took over, and is possibly even worse.
Coach Whisenhunt says there are some things to clean up? He should start with the mess up front.