Examining the Landscape of Ken Whisenhunt's Cardinals

The story of Whisenhunt's Cardinals started 2007 in Pittsburgh. Say what you will, but the Steelers know how to pick head coaches. Following the retirement of Bill Cowher, the Steelers first round of interviews included their OC Ken Whisenhunt. The Steelers, who committed to a thorough coaching search, apparently moved too slowly on Whisenhunt, who accepted the Cardinals job a week before the Steelers hired Tomlin. The Steelers final choice was between OL Coach Russ Grimm and Tomlin, a lightly regarded DC Coordinator candidate from the Vikings. For the Steelers, the rest as they say, is history. It is interesting to note, that despite the urge to do so, the Steelers stuck to their plan and refused to speed the process to find their next coach. This despite many hot candidates on the 2007 coaching carousel signing elsewhere.

The initial plan in Arizona was for Whisenhunt to build around 2006 10th overall pick and Heisman Trophy winning QB Matt Leinart, and to develop him in the same fashion as Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Whisenhunt quickly got to work in Arizona. Surprisingly, his choice for coordinators did not come from people he had worked with before. Todd Haley was the WR Coach for the Cowboys and Clancy Pendergast was a holdover from Denny Green's previous staff. He did however, reach out to spurned Steelers Head Coach candidate Russ Grimm, and hired him away from the Steelers by adding the Assistant Head Coach tag to his title. There were three other key names from that 2007 staff. WR Coach Mike Miller, who followed Whisenhunt from Pittsburgh, Special Teams Coach Kevin Spencer, who served with Whisenhunt in the same capacity with the Steelers, Cardinals, and now the Chargers, and Secondary Coach Teryl Austin, who joined the staff from the Seattle Seahawks, and was with the Cardinals until being hired as the Florida Gators defensive coordinator. Austin has widely been mentioned as a potential defensive coordinator candidate.

Draft Day 2007 - In an attempt to bulk up the lines, the Cardinals selected OT Levi Jones from Penn State in the first round, bypassing RB Adrian Peterson. In the second round, they traded up to select NT Alan Branch, Michigan, bypassing the next pick, LB Paul Posluszny.

The 2007 Season - The Cardinals went 8-8, and 3-3 in the division. The division won by the declining Seattle Seahawks at 10-6, two years after their Super Bowl run. Mike Nolan's 49er squad and Scott Linehan's Rams both finishing behind the Cardinals. Interestingly enough, Whisenhunt's Cardinals beat the Tomlin led Steelers squad.

January 8th, 2008 - Mike Holmgren announces he will retire after the season, setting the table for the division controlling Seahawks to start the season under a lame duck coach.

Draft Day 2008 - In a very productive draft, the Cards selected CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out of Tennessee State in the first round, and DE Calais Campbell, Miami in the 2nd.

2008 the Cinderella Season - The 2008 season marked the beginning of the NFC West being regarded as the weakest division in football. The Cardinals took full advantage, going 6-0 in the division, while going just 3-7 outside the division. Holmgren's Seahawks were listless in his final season at the helm, while Nolan and Linehan were both fired mid-season by the 49ers and Rams respectively. The Cardinals reeled at the end of the season, losing 4 of their last 6 games. Still, the Cardinals 9-7 record was good for the NFC West Division Title.

2008 playoffs - After disposing of the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card round, the Cardinals shocked the world by upsetting John Fox's heavily favored Panthers (For you Chargers fans out there, note that for this weekends matchup against Fox's Broncos) who had beaten the Cardinals earlier in the season. In the most unlikely of circumstances, the 4th seeded Cardinals ended up hosting the NFC Championship game against the 6th seeded Philadelphia Eagles, who had beaten them earlier in the year as well. After beating Andy Reid and the Donovan McNabb lead Eagles, the Cardinals were Super Bowl bound.

Super Bowl XLIII - In a rematch of the Steelers coaching contenders, Mike Tomlin had the last laugh, as the Steelers won 27-23, weathering a 16 point fourth quarter comeback that ended in a fumble.

Significant Staff Changes occurred during the off season -

•Billy Davis has replaced Clancy Pendergast as Defensive Coordinator.
•Russ Grimm has been appointed Running Game Coordinator and retains his title of Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach.
•Todd Haley has left the Offensive Coordinator position to join the Kansas City Chiefs as their Head coach.
•John McNulty has replaced Mike Miller as Receivers Coach.
•Chris Miller has been appointed Quarterbacks coach.
•Mike Miller has been promoted from Receivers Coach to Passing Game Coordinator.
•Curtis Modkins (who currently serves as our RB Coach) has replaced Maurice Carthon as Running Backs coach.
•Matt Raich has replaced Billy Davis as Linebackers coach.

2009 Draft Day - In what was admittedly a talent thin draft, the Cardinals selected RB Beanie Wells, Ohio State in the 1st round, and LB/DE Cody Brown, Connecticut in the 2nd. Brown never played a single regular season down for the Cards, going on IR his first season prior to getting released the following year.

2009 Season - Competing against a resurgent effort by the Mike Singletary led 49ers, who swept the Cardinals in the regular season, the Cardinals went 10-6 with a 4-2 mark. Dominant enough to win the NFC West, but only good enough to earn the 4th seed once again.

2009 playoffs - After winning a 51-45 barn burner against the Packers in the wild card round, the Cardinals season ended in New Orleans, getting blown out by the Saints 45-14 in the divisional round. This was the end of Kurt Warner's career, and the last time the Cardinals made the playoffs.

2010 Offseason - Enter Pete Carroll as Head Coach of the Seahawks. Given Warner's retirement, the Cardinals coaching staff evidently felt confident enough in Matt Leinart to carry the Cardinals into the future, signing only Derek Anderson as a journeyman backup. Many players also became disillusioned with Whisenhunt, who took on an even larger role in the front office. After watching LB Carlos Dansby and DB Antrelle Rolle depart via free agency, the Cardinals then traded disgruntled WR Anquan Boldin and a 5th round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for 3rd and 4th round selections. RB Coach Curtis Modkins left to accept the Offensive Coordinator position in Buffalo. Defensive Backs Coach Teryl Austin left to accept the defensive coordinator position with the Florida Gators.

2010 Draft Day - Even though numerous, quality offensive linemen were available, the Cardinals instead chose to focus on shoring up their porous defense, selecting DT Dan Williams, Tennessee in the 1st round, over OT Roger Saffold, and selecting All Pro ILB Daryl Washington, TCU in the 2nd round.

2010 Pre-season - After sitting behind Kurt Warner for 3 seasons, and being in the league for 4 overall, Leinart decisively lost the starting job in training camp. He was released prior to the start of the season, leaving only Derek Anderson, 5th round pick John Skelton, and UDFA Max Hall.

2010 Season - With a 3-2 start before the bye week, the Cardinals were seemingly winning by habit. Then the wheels came all the way off. Coming out of the Bye week, the Cardinals lost 9 of the last 11 games to finish at 5-11. Even worse was watching the Seahawks claim the division with a 7-9 record.

2011 Offseason - Enter Jim Harbaugh as Head Coach of the 49ers. Desperately needing a QB, Whisenhunt and the Cardinals sent Pro Bowl CB Cromartie and a 2nd round 2012 pick to the Eagles for QB Kevin Kolb. Despite an obviously putrid offensive line, the Cardinals made no moves to improve their situation through acquisitions or coaching changes. Russ Grimm came under fire, but kept his job, this even though the defensive coordinator lost his job for similar performance standards, and was replaced by Ray Horton.

2011 Draft Day - To replace the departed Cromartie, the Cardinals selected CB Patrick Peterson, LSU, 5th overall in the 1st round, and RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech, in the 2nd. In light of glaringly obvious issues with the offensive line, the Cardinals refused to use even one of their 8 draft picks to select a single offensive lineman.

2011 Season - After winning the opener, the Cardinals proceeded to go on a 6 game losing streak. Despite winning 7 of their final 9 games and posting a 4-2 division record, the Cardinals were never a threat to win the division against the 13-3 49ers, and finished the season 8-8. The NFC West finally sheds the "Weakest Division in the NFL" label with the 49ers 13-3 record.

2012 Offseason - With his job clearly in jeopardy, Whisenhunt made QB Coach Chris Miller the sacrificial lamb. Moving John McNulty back to QB Coach from WR Coach, and hiring Frank Reich as WR Coach, ignored were many calling for Russ Grimm to go.

2012 Draft Day - The Cardinals finally replaced Anquan Boldin, selecting WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame in the 1st round. Their 2nd round selection went to Philadelphia in the Kevin Kolb trade. In the 4th, 5th, and 7th rounds, under the category "Far too little, Far too late" the Cardinals finally started selecting offensive linemen to try and keep Kolb from getting murdered.

2012 Season - After a shocking 4-0 start, with wins over the Seahawks, Patriots, and Eagles, expectations began to rise for the Cardinals. This probably made losing 11 of their final 12 games all the more crushing. Posting a 1-5 division record, worst in Whisenhunt's tenure, it was no surprise when he and his entire staff was fired after the end of the season. The 49ers and Seahawks, through different approaches, became two of the most dominant teams in the NFL, and both made the playoffs. The defensively talented Rams also trended upwards, leaving the Cardinals in 4th place. NFC West is now considered by many to be one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.

2013 Off Season - Whisenhunt was hired as the Offensive Coordinator of the San Diego Chargers.

Russ Grimm failed to land a coaching job last year.

Former Cardinals Offensive Coordinator Mike Miller, who started with Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh, was named Offensive Coordinator of the Montreal Allouttes. Due to problems with the offense, he has since been demoted to offensive consultant/learner.

Former QB Coach McNulty was serving the same capacity this season with the Buccaneers, his fate has yet to be decided.

Kevin Spence followed Whisenhunt to the Chargers, as did Frank Reich and Chad Grimm.

Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton had the same position with the Browns this year, he took with him Defensive Backs Coach Louie Cioffi.

Love to hear your thoughts on this. :)

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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