Arizona Cardinal head coach Ken Whisenhunt has a last name made for the media and fans. You can play with it to make cute, punny phrases with the word ‘whiz,' and he has been called fun things like "the Whis-ard of AZ." And to be perfectly honest, he has been magical, much like a wizard.
When he came to Arizona to coach the Cardinals, we all know how bad they were. There was just enough talent to create a little hope, but also enough ineptitude from the front office, coaching, and players to overtake that hope regularly between weeks four and eight in the season. There were quarterbacks galore (even one who became a successful punter in the league), coaching changes, turnovers, bad drafts picks, odd injuries, unlucky injuries, and coaching meltdowns (Thank you, Denny Green, at least, for a very entertaining memory from a horrifically painful loss).
Whisenhunt arrives and improves the team's record each of the first three seasons. He raises a former MVP quarterback from the grave, who then leads the team to two divisional titles, four playoff victories and an almost Super Bowl victory.
It seemed that he could do wrong. Fans across the state and throughout the newly-chartered Red Bird Nation shouted proudly, "In Whiz we trust!" The players were all on board, and why not? He had led them to the playoffs and a Super Bowl. There was never any reason to question him.
This season has been different, as we all know. Adversity has led to questioning.
The quarterback saga is well documented. Matt Leinart, the heir apparent to Kurt Warner was demoted during the preseason and questioned why, wondering how a guy given only 13 passing attempts could be benched and the other guy hadn't done anything spectacular. He was very open in his disappointment, and proposed that it had more to do with non-football things.
Fans have been fed up with the quarterback play, having to deal with either the inconsistent Derek Anderson or the overmatched, but spirited Max Hall.
The running back position has cast doubt upon Whisenhunt's magic. Beanie Wells complained of wanting the ball more and talked of not understanding what the coaching staff was doing offensively.
More recently, Tim Hightower was on the radio claiming that his abilities are best suited to getting more carries throughout the game and that it's hard to be effective with only a few touches. So we have not one, but two running backs that are not pleased with their touches.
Even Seattle coach Pete Carroll publicly said that he didn't know why the Cardinals do not run the ball more with the backs they have.
Coach Whisenhunt, after the miserable 36-18 loss to the Seattle, defended the effort of his players, yet one of the players came out the next day to state the opposite.
Personnel moves have not worked out as planned. Alan Faneca has done nothing to improve the offensive line play. Moving Levi Brown (2009 Pro Bowl alternate playing right tackle) to left tackle has been abysmal. Brandon Keith at right tackle has looked like what he is -- a seventh round pick.
Jerry Porter, outside of one game, has looked old, slow, and useless. While paying Karlos Dansby what he sought was really out of the question, the Arizona defense sorely misses his playmaking skills, particularly in the ability to cover opposing tight ends in the open field.
The Anquan Boldin trade has had a negative impact on the receiving corps (although this is also due to shoddy quarterback play and piss-poor pass protection).
Only the signing of Paris Lenon and the acquisition of Kerry Rhodes have paid any dividends.
So to review, Whisenhunt has made questionable quarterback moves, has upset two running backs because of playcalling, has made personnel moves that have backfired, and has players refuting his comments in the media.
Now, to be fair, he would say he wants running backs and quarterbacks with the competitive fire to want to produce more, and that he wants players to speak up and be accountable for poor play. This is true, but the sum of all of these things point to some unrest and unhappiness.
I know most fans are not alarmists and are not calling for Whisenhunt to be fired. Most of us understood that this season would be a season of transition. Even still, most of us felt that the Cardinals should still be the favorites to win their division. Even before this last weekend, I felt that Arizona had the inside track to win it, but they needed to beat Seattle.
Now it seems that the team is just not very good.
Is there still time to turn things around? Yes. Does Whisenhunt deserve some leeway after the success he has had? Absolutely. But is he magic? It appears that he is not, at least not now. He is not bulletproof; he is seemingly fallible.
However, now is the time for him to show his team and us, the fans, his mettle. Can he hold things together and move forward and keep his team competing?
Let us hope so. He needs to break out the book of spells and his magic wand and get something working again because if not, based on the past few months, it does not appear that it will take much to have things completely fall apart for him.
And that would eventually lead to one last trick-disappearing.