Updated Oct 31, 2011 - 3:38 pm
Hubris is becoming Ken Whisenhunt's downfall
We've seen it lead to the demise of one excellent coach in the Valley, and I fear we're watching it happen again today.
Indeed, Ken Whisenhunt appears to be going down the same road already traveled by Mike D'Antoni, one that leads a once highly-regarded coach out of town simply because he was too stubborn to do what was best for the team and, ultimately, him.
Before D'Antoni's time in Phoenix ended he was supposedly asked to actually devote practice time to defense and work to develop a bench. Having won 232 regular season games over the previous four seasons, Mike felt like he knew what he was doing and that his system worked. Many thought his "system" was Steve Nash, but it didn't matter. He took being asked to change personally and decided he no longer wanted to coach in Phoenix because of it.
He hasn't found success since.
Fast forward to today and you'll see similar patterns with Whisenhunt.
Coach Whiz is arguably the most successful head coach the Cardinals have ever had, but none of that matters now as the team has followed a 5-11 season with a 1-6 start. The idea that Kurt Warner was the sole reason for Whisenhunt's success seems to have some merit, as Arizona changed from playoff contender to "Same Old Cardinals" the day No. 13 retired.
But there's more to it than that. In fact, the signs were visible as early as the 2010 preseason.
The day Whisenhunt decided he was done with Matt Leinart was the day the clock on his time in Arizona started ticking away. Leinart may very well be the worst quarterback in history, but Whisenhunt decided to not let the man prove it on the field and instead demoted the presumed starter during the preseason, which infuriated the former Heisman Trophy winner. The decision to go with Derek Anderson was 100 percent Whisenhunt thinking he could make someone who had completed 44.5 percent of his passes the previous season a legitimate QB. He would succeed where everyone else had failed. And why wouldn't he feel that way, his system worked for Kurt Warner.
Wrong, but it wasn't the coach's fault. The system works, we were told, and it was all about players making mistakes.
Once thought to be a brilliant coach who adapted his system to the talent he had, Whisenhunt is proving to be a guy who would instead prefer to force the talent to fit his system. Bad idea.
But that would all be fixed if the team could find a real quarterback, which they did this past summer. However, six weeks into the regular season there is already talk about Kevin Kolb's footwork being a mess and the QB being slow to pick up the system, issues we heard Leinart had, too. It's a little understandable for Kolb, given the lack of an offseason, but if that's the case why throw so much at the QB so soon?
The same is happening with the defense now, which is on its third coordinator in four seasons.
Problem is the defense still can't stop anyone, and star players like Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson are struggling to make any sort of positive impact. While Wilson's decline could be attributed to age, the guess here is Dockett's is more because he's simply being used incorrectly. In this system. Which Whisenhunt wanted.
This is Coach Whisenhunt's fifth season at the helm and thus far he's compiled a 33-38 record. Of course, he's just 6-17 since Warner retired, with the losses coming by an average of 14 points a game. The team has barely been competitive at times, something that is inexcusable in today's NFL and shocking given how talented this team was just a couple years ago. And many of their issues -- especially on the offensive line -- have been around since the day the coach was hired.
ESPN's Ron Jaworski said last week, as far as the Cardinals' struggles are concerned, that "it's either poor coaching or dumb players."
It's likely a combination of both, which ultimately falls back on the head coach.
Unfortunately like D'Antoni, Whisenhunt is a smart guy, one who should be able to see what the problems are and work to fix them. Clearly D'Antoni needed to improve the team's depth and defense, and it's obvious Whisenhunt needs to adapt the system to the players he has until he gets the players he really needs.
That hasn't appeared to be an option, and so far it has cost the Cardinals some games. A little more stubbornness from the coach, though, and it will likely cost him his job, too.
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