Ken Whisenhunt was out of a head coaching job for exactly 379 days.
The Arizona Cardinals fired Whisenhunt on New Year’s Eve 2012 after six years on the job. Tuesday, at a news conference in Nashville, he was named the head coach of the Tennessee Titans.
Undoubtedly Whisenhunt had success in the desert, leading the Cardinals to two straight NFC West divisional titles and their only trip to the Super Bowl. But following Kurt Warner’s retirement in 2010, things went downhill for Whisenhunt and the Cardinals, who struggled over the next three seasons and failed to groom a quarterback to fill Warner’s shoes.
One of the candidates to take Warner’s job was Matt Leinart.
The former Heisman Trophy winner and 2006 first-round draft pick of the Cardinals completed 78.6 percent of his passes during the 2010 preseason, but was passed over by Whisenhunt for the starting job, which went to Derek Anderson, who had signed as a free agent prior to the season. Leinart was cut, and signed with the Houston Texans.
Three years later, Leinart is a free agent and dabbling in the media. Monday, on Fox Sports Live, the 30-year-old shared his thoughts on Tennessee’s coaching hire.
“I don’t think it’s a great fit, and I don’t think it’s great timing, and here’s why,” Leinart said. “You look at his tenure in Arizona — only two years, he had success, and in those two years, Kurt Warner ran that football team — I was a part of it.
“Every single Monday, Kurt Warner would come in an implement 20-to-30 new plays which he would say ‘I want these in my game plan.’ We became a spread offense and we became Kurt Warner’s offense. Then Kurt Warner retires, they go 5-11 twice and they go 8-8.”
Leinart’s thirty-second clock expired at that point, but he concluded with this: “The Tennessee Titans do not have a quarterback right now.”
When asked by host Charissa Thompson if Whisenhunt or Warner should have received the credit for the Cardinals’ two-year run as a playoff team, Leinart responded again.
“Kurt Warner was fantastic,” he said.
Certainly, Leinart was clear that it was Warner, not Whisenhunt, that was the key to Arizona’s success. The numbers certainly support that claim.
The Cardinals went 24-18 under Whisenhunt when Warner started games and 21-33 when others were under center.
Tennessee doesn’t currently have a franchise-type quarterback on its roster. Jake Locker, a 2011 first-round pick, has been mostly ineffective when healthy. In three seasons, he’s only been able to start 18 games, going 8-10. Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick is also under contract for 2014.