Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

31 Dec 2012

Cardinals Fire Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves

OK, hard to argue with this one, I guess, although these aren't the first guys I would have fired this morning. Who wants to go run a team without a quarterback! Can I see a show of hands?

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 31 Dec 2012

32 comments, Last at 03 Jan 2013, 11:48am by wr


by Thok :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 2:51pm

Hard to have a quarterback if you don't have an offensive line.

by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 2:52pm

That, too.

by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 2:51pm

They pretty much deserve this. While in a lot of ways Whiz
was a good coach, he gave a pretty conclusive demonstration
that he was clueless w.r.t. developing young quarterbacks.
Not realizing that Leinart should have been cut until the LAST preseason game? And not figuring this out in time to
draft a replacement? Graves of course has to bear
responsibility for the QB situation as well.

by Spielman :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 9:33pm

"Graves of course has to bear responsibility for the QB situation as well."

Big time. The Cardinals major QB moves (that I can think of) since he took over:
Drafting Josh McCown. Not a major success, but as a third rounder who sometimes wasn't horrible, not that bad.
Dumping Jake Plummer in favor of picking up Jeff Blake. Disastrous.
Bringing in Shaun King to compete with Josh McCown. Total failure.
Signing Kurt Warner to compete with Josh McCown. Worked.
Signing Kurt Warner to a three year contract after his first year in Arizona. Worked.
Drafting Matt Leinart at #10 immediately after giving starter's money to Kurt Warner. A major, major mistake.
Signing Derek Anderson to compete with Matt Leinart. Did not work at all.
Trading for Kevin Kolb. Hasn't worked.

And besides that, the lower-tier young guys they've brought in have all been failures. John Navarre, Max Hall, Ryan Lindley looks awful. Certainly some of that goes onto the coaches, but this across 11 seasons and three coaches. He's been horrible at getting talent at quarterback.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 2:02pm

You're missing a major one... outright cutting Leinart during the 2010 preseason. I remain convinced Leinart must have been fooling around with somebody's wife or daughter given he'd put up decent stats that preseason while Anderson and Skelton had been horrible. Leinart would have had at least some trade value, yet they cut him and got zero in return while setting the table for a season where Anderson and Skelton looked just as bad in the real games as they had in the preseason.

by Spielman :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 5:02pm

Yeah, I was thinking of that decision in terms of being a Whisenhunt decision rather than a Graves decision, but good call, that one also needs to be considered.

Certainly, the whole job of handling the Leinart situation was so bad that everybody involved deserves blame.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 5:39pm

If they'd just benched him, I'd put on Whisenhunt. But releasing him and getting nothing in return has to be put at Graves' doorstep. I keep hoping the whole story on that one comes out someday. It totally smacked of something happening out-of-the-blue and the team just wanting him gone that instant no matter what.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 9:57am

Maybe he was ticked that he didn't get invited to the hot tub parties.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 2:53pm

Whisenhunt's tenure now just seems like an aberration from the standard Cardinals dysfunction. Difficult not to see them backsliding to losing seasons again. All just seems to add further to the legacy of Kurt Warner.

Looking back through their history, only Don Coryell seemed to have any success which was back in the mid-70s and they must have challenged the Cowboys.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 8:11pm

I think this comment nails it. To lose for a few years happens. Even for several years. To screw it up for decades takes serious incompetence. I can't see the Cards achieving much above mediocre - and rarely achieving that - until Bidwell no longer owns the Cards. Given that it's currently really hard to lose money with an NFL franchise, this won't happen until he kicks the bucket. His kids will have to sell the team to pay the inheritance tax, similar to what happened with the Rams when Georgia Frontiere died.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:01pm

The Cards will have the 5th or 6th pick in the draft. The only teams ahead of them who could looking for a QB are the Chiefs (definitely) and the Jaguars (possibly). Even though the OL certainly needs help, is there any way they don't draft one? 6th overall doesn't seem to be too early for Matt Barkley or Geno Smith.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:23pm

Given the potential free agent and draft classes, are the Cardinals better trying to draft a quarterback and fix their line elsewhere or pick up a free agent quarterback and fix their line through the draft? Genuine question, as I don't know a thing (or care a whit) about college football.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 9:23am

Draft QB. Always draft QB.

1. A line isn't fixed by one single pick. QB position obviously is (ignoring for a second the supporting cast-variable).

2. Fixing a line actually means fixing a line - you can easily win with an average line. However if you want to win a "fix" of the QB position isn't going to cut it. Basically you are going to need an "elite" QB. The best way, far and away, to get such a guy is through the draft.

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 10:40am

Is there a QB with that potential available in this year's draft though? I know as a principle getting any position through the draft rather than FA is a better idea, but I'm asking specifically about 2013 and which players are available from each pool.

If the Cardinals can use their first-round pick on a known quantity at, say, left tackle (where good free agents are also rare and which is a massive weakness for them) or a speculative pick at quarterback (where the draft talent's apparently unconvincing and there might be some decent veterans available - Smith, Flynn, even Henne would be an upgrade), are they still not better hypothetically securing their tackle spot for the next decade rather than throwing out yet another rookie quarterback behind this train wreck of an offensive line?

by speedegg :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:05pm

Not sure if it's Whisenhunt or more Graves. I get that Whiz was responsible for the QB mess, but I think Graves bears more of the burden. Their drafts were consistent and bad.

by Will :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:43pm

Had Kevin Kolb stayed healthy, the Cardinals would have been in the playoff hunt despite one of the worst (if not the worst) set of tackles this league has ever seen. Whiz should be criticized for selecting Skelton over Kolb at the start of the season, but he did have a very good to elite level defense as well.

The Cardinals have a lot of pieces to be a very good team, but have an average at best QB in Kolb (and atrocious backups) as well as gaping holes at the most important line positions, which doomed them.


by Dean :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 2:46pm

agreed. Choosing Skelton over Kolb is enough to warrant his firing even without any other bad decisions.

by Rick S (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:51pm

I think Whiz is solid, but not spectacular and will get another shot... anyone who takes the cards to within seconds of winning a SB IS A GOOD COACH. As for him developing young QBs, don't forget he helped develop Rothlesburger in Pitt. Graves either ignored the OL or seriously Mis-evaluated talent at both QB & the OL...

by Mash Wilson :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 8:47pm

Roethlisberger needed no development, and in fact didn't really develop from where he started. He was an aberration, a quarterback that entered the league already as good as he would ever be. Well, lots of guys enter the league and never improve, but they're almost all the JaMarcus Russells and Akili Smiths of the world. Roethlisberger entered the league a Pro Bowl-caliber player, held that level a few years and then began an injury decline.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 10:10pm

The guy got the worst run franchise in the sport sans the Lions to the Superbowl. The front office is cheap and bleeds your talent away year after year. It is hard to GM or coach under those circumstances. I think a solid GM would have no problem hiring Whisenhunt as the guy generally produced a good defense. Its hard to say about their offense. I was generally horrible without Warner but once again a good GM can get you a QB better than the dreadful mess Whisenhunt had. If Norv Turner can get job after job, you have to think he coaches again.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 11:08am

More correctly, Kurt Warner got the worst run franchise in the sport to the Super Bowl.

That he's done that with two of the NFL's more downtrodden teams and neither team has sniffed it since says a lot about Kurt Warner.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 2:08pm

Amen to that.

by Gus (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 7:26pm

Couldn't take any coach seriously that thought Skelton was worth a starting gig. Probably deserved.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 2:22pm

If Skelton had just gotten one or even two chances, then I'd be much more forgiving. But the crazy thing is that they kept giving him shots like they expected him to wake up one morning a totally different player. In 2010, he started four games and completed 47% of his passes. Most guys aren't with a team the next year after a performance like that, yet in 2011 he got 7 more starts, improving to 54% and going 5-2 as a starter...but with 11 TDs vs 14 INTs, meaning they were winning despite him more than because of him. Those two seasons set the stage for him being the starter to start this year. Absolutely nuts.

by DavidL :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 9:50pm

Reports going around that the job all but belongs to Andy Reid.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 11:42pm

I think he's the first choice. However, I think Reid will have his choice of jobs.

by BJR :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 9:37am

There are certainly worse situations for a coach to walk into than in Arizona, particularly an offensive-minded coach like Reid. They have a good defence that can be left alone, and he has a HOF calibre WR to build his offence around. An offence that can hardly perform any worse than it did this season.

OTOH the rest of the division is absolutely loaded, so taking this team to the playoffs in the next couple of seasons seems a distant prospect.

by Dean :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 2:48pm

I disagree. This might be the single worst job in the league. Why? Bill Bidwell. As long as Bidwell owns the team, it doesn't matter who the coach is. They will not have any sustained success as long as he's in charge.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 9:54am

Completely agree. I live in St Louis. I moved here in 1987, just after I graduated college. It was the Cards last season here. While the Cards were well-liked., Bidwell was absolutely despised. He was considered a cheap (expletive deleted) then. Most local fans considered him the reason Coryell left.

I wrote earlier that the only way the Cards will get better is for Bidwell to kick the bucket. His kids won't be able to afford the team with the inheritance tax. I believe the team is the family's main source of income. They are worse than the Brown family. I don't see the Cards being anything but mediocre at best until they get a new owner.

by BJR :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 10:28am

Ok, fair enough. I don't profess to know anything about the ownership situation, just commenting on the state of the team.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 2:44pm

And just think -- Donovan McNabb lives right next door in Scottsdale! Imagine the possibilities!

by wr (not verified) :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 11:48am

Re ownership: Bill Bidwill has relinquished day-to-day control to his son, so there's at least the possiblity that there could be improvement on that front (after all, Jim
Irsay for all his quirks is a huge improvement over his father).

Re QB : If the price was reasonable (say a 3rd), I'd go after Flynn, and use the draft on OL, since this is supposed
to be a strong group of OL prospects this year, and weak year for QBs.

Coach: The bobbleheads now say Reid will be in KC. If true, I think they should hire Ray Horton (at least maintain continuity on the D), and try to get Norv Turner
in as OC.

IMO Whiz's unpardonable sin with QBs was swapping them
more often (non injury swaps, that is) than most people
change their clothes. This kills any chance for a young QB to develop - not that I think there was much upside to the
guys they had.