Buddy Nix, Doug Whaley and Russ Brandon are working on their tan and interviewing ex-Arizona coaches in The Valley of the Sun. Russ Grimm, Ken Whisenhunt and Ray Horton are the trio to be questioned and tested like aliens from Mars. For the record, I want nothing to do with Grimm or Whisenhunt (Retreads who had success for only two years in a crappy division and only when they had a future HOF at QB. Plus, a OL coach?). However, I am slightly intrigued by Horton (Defense forced turnovers and he isn't a retread).
Even with my reservations, I wanted to find out more about the three, starting with the former head coach. So, we are joined by Tyler Nickel from SB Nation's Revenge of the Birds to talk about Ken Whisenhunt. We go into detail about the Cards' QB problems, Whisenhunt as a game manager, and if he deserves to be a head coach. I'll have The Grimm and Horton Q&A in the next day or so.
1) What are the pros/cons of Ken Whisenhunt as a head coach?
Ken Whisenhunt is a mastermind when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. He, despite what many think, has a big hand in the plays that are run, even if he wasn't the one calling them in games for the past couple of seasons. That was Mike Miller's job. Also, Whisenhunt likes to draft based on the best player available, not for need. I see this as a positive, but drafting by that logic left the team depleted along their offensive line when they could have drastically used upgrades at most of those spots. His drafting is usually a hit or miss, nothing in between. Beanie Wells has virtually been a bust, as has Levi Brown who was Whisenhunt's first first-round selection. Then you have guys like Patrick Peterson, who is on the verge of being a star at cornerback. The only exception to this rule is Dan Williams, who has been steady as the team's defensive tackle
The cons are that he does not know how to evaluate the quarterback position whatsoever and is often stubborn with his players. He did not know who to play at the quarterback position and that is why the team was stuck with Ryan Lindley and John Skelton throughout the season.
If someone, regardless of their role with the team, lands in Whisenhunt's doghouse, they are going to be there a while. That much was seen this past weekend after Beanie Wells spouted off to the media and was benched for the entire game. Don't get on Whiz's bad side.
Lastly, get to know the Steelers' roster. Every offseason, Whiz likes to grab one of their free agents, which are often retreads at that point.
2) From an outsider POV, you could easily say that once Kurt Warner left, that pretty much sealed it for Ken being successful there. Do you think Whisenhunt knows offense or was he just lucky to get a guy like Warner?
I think it is a little bit of both. We have to remember that Warner was here for a couple of seasons before Whisenhunt was brought on and could not manage to get off the bench. Despite Warner being a future Hall of Fame QB, Whisenhunt was still able to teach him some things about the position. The two of them combined formed a formidable team.
3) How much do you blame Whisenhunt for the QB play in Arizona since Warner retired? You guys gave up a lot for Kevin Kolb and he was terrible there.
I blame Whisenhunt 100% for the QB play since Warner left. He did not have a plan installed from day one, which is why the team cut Matt Leinart, moved to Derek Anderson and Max Hall and ended that season 5-11. This season, they went 5-11 as well. Both times, the rookie project quarterback was forced to start due to injury and a lack of preparation. Kevin Kolb is still here and he hasn't really been terrible, it's just that he has not been able to stay healthy. That is purely bad luck, so I can't fault Whisenhunt for that completely. Still, there should have been a better backup plan behind him.
4) Besides the offense, how much dis Whisenhunt have a hand on the defensive side of the ball, if any?
Whisenhunt really only chooses players on defense via the draft, but that is about it. Ray Horton is our guru on defense, who I will get to in a second.
What is his personality like?
Whisenhunt is an even-keeled guy. He never gets too emotional, one way or the other. He can be described as a player's coach in that the guys tend to like him, but sometimes it gets a bit annoying as to how laid back he is. I would personally have liked to seen a little more fire in his eyes.
6) Did he ever butt heads with the GM/owners? Did he push for Kolb?
No, he and Rod Graves, the team's former GM got along famously. The same can be said with him and the Bidwills. I am sure he pushed for Kolb because he knew the team needed a quarterback. Basically, he likes players that are going to do their jobs and not ask questions. If they follow the scheme he has installed, then his team is going to win games (provided there is a decent QB involved). If you are a drama queen or melodramatic, you won't see the football field under Coach Whiz. I am not sure if Stevie Johnson still pulls his shenanigans, but expect those to come to an end under Whisenhunt.
7) Why did the running game struggle there?
A lack of talent at the position and an awful offensive line. Not much more than that.
8) If you were the Bills, would you hire him as your next head coach?
Yes, I absolutely would. He brought the Cardinals from the doldrums to the Super Bowl and he is a good coach. I definitely have mixed emotions about him being fired, as he is the best coach in Cardinals franchise history.