I will give the Arizona Cardinals some credit. They were pretty quick when they hired one of the top candidates in the NFL this past weekend; offering Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt a 4-year contract to be their head coach.
However, as excited as Cardinals fans are sure to be about the hiring, my gut is telling me he’s going to wind up being another coach doomed to fail in Arizona.
And, this isn’t a knock on Whisenhunt. The guy has plenty of ability to be a head coach in the NFL. In three years as Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator, he helped Bill Cowher win a Super Bowl with a 2nd-year quarterback running the offense. He is known as an innovative play caller able to get the most out of the talent surrounding him. And, I think that is a trait that will help him as a head coach. And, his recent signing of former Steeler’s assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm won’t hurt either.
My prediction of failure has more to do with the Cardinals, a team that has one winning season since the late 1980s. The last coach to take this team to the playoffs was Vince Tobin, a guy who eventually finished his career with a 28-43 overall record.
And, it’s not like the Cardinals haven’t hired quality coaches in the past. Joe Bugel helped the Redskins win two Super Bowls as an assistant coach before the Cardinals hired him. Buddy Ryan helped the Bears to a Super Bowl Win and took the Eagles to three playoff appearances as head coach.
The guy Whisenhunt is replacing, Dennis Green, came to the Cardinals after 10 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. In those 10 seasons, he compiled a 97-62 overall record, which included 8 playoff appearances and two trips to the NFC Championship game. However, even though he inherited a Cardinals team that was loaded with young talent, Green only managed 21 wins in 4 seasons with the team.
The Cardinals also finished in the bottom half of the league for both offense and defense in 2006, despite having a lot of young talent, including some of the best receivers in the NFC.
Quite honestly, looking at the talent on the Cardinals over the past couple of years, I have to think Whisenhunt would have been better accepting the job as Oakland Raiders head coach last season. The Raiders are another team that has problems winning. But, if Whisenhunt did post a losing record, at least he could have blamed Al Davis. With the Cardinals, there’s really no excuse for it. They have good enough players to win, they just can’t. And, that’s why you don’t see former Cardinal’s coaches resurfacing as another team’s head coach.
That being said, Whisenhunt was definitely the best guy for the job and I hope he has success in Arizona. Unfortunately, I just don’t think the best guy is going to be good enough to turn their fortunes around.