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O-line is Grimm: Change on staff should begin up front

A guest on Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Tuesday,
Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he will use
the next few weeks to make some key decisions.

“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.