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Ken Whisenhunt Facing Critical Juncture With NFL Offseason And 2011 Draft

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt had some strong words in his weekly press conference, this one being the final one of the season. It probably could be summed up in one quote referring to players achieving less than their potential: "Their goodwill is all used up." With the 2011 NFL Draft, free agency, and a possible work stoppage looming, he has some important decisions to make. However, it is hard to determine how much he is including himself in his criticisms.

All season, he used the phrases "disappointing" and "frustrated," combined with things like "we know that the system works" and "we have to keep doing what we're doing." He honestly sounded like a crazy man, considering the performance of the team. After all, it has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

He did pass a lot of the blame to the players, saying "some of our best players didn't play at their best" and that they "had a number of players this year that didn't play as well as they could, maybe as well as they have in the past." This is true. The harshest assessment of his players was saying there were "guys thinking they were a little bit better than they actually were."

In his defense, he does appear to have learned something about being a head coach. He stated, "sometimes you get emotionally attached to players and what they have done for you in the past." I agree that the human side of any job is difficult because they are human and you create connections and relationships. However, as the leader of an organization, it is essential that you be able to either raise the level of performance or make necessary changes.

I imagine that he refers specifically to the play of guys like Joey Porter and Derek Anderson. At the start of the year Whiz was always very quick to point out the success that Anderson had in 2007 with Cleveland. Porter was a guy he saw make plays in Pittsburgh and remembered that production. Gerald Hayes would be another in this category, along with Adrian Wilson (despite his selection to the Pro Bowl) and maybe even Darnell Dockett (although part of his issues was his shoulder injury).

But in the end, as a leader, Whisenhunt has to be able to say to a player that he hasn't been performing at the level the staff expects. He seemed to have no issue doing this with Matt Leinart. He has to be able to communicate candidly from the first day of mini-camp to last team meetings that you must perform at a certain level or you will look elsewhere.

He hopefully has learned this and that emotional connections are natural, but cannot drive personnel decisions.

However, he bristled at the idea that his doing the play-calling was taking away his attention from the "big picture." He cited, rightfully so, the ten wins in 2009. He was honest when he said that he did not believe that is it is a problem.

Most fans don't have an issue with the fact that he is calling plays. The issues most seem to have with the play-calling are the plays being called. Averaging less than 20 rushes a game is fine when you have a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback. It is not okay when you start an undrafted rookie (Max Hall), a fifth-round long-term project (John Skelton) and a guy (Derek Anderson) who was beat out by a guy (Brady Quinn) who can't beat out a guy (Tim Tebow) that many are convinced will never be a good quarterback. You have to run the ball in this case and stick to it, especially when Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, if given consistent carries, could each reach 1000 yards rushing in a season.

It seems that Whisenhunt fell in love with the success from 2008-09 and wanted to replicate it. No quarterback was going to be able to match what Warner did with the offense.

The point is that he has mishandled several things this year. It started with the quarterback situation (yes, Leinart is guilty as well) and continued with Beanie Wells (yes, he also handled things poorly) and Tim Hightower.

His stubborn insistence to pass the ball with bad or undeveloped quarterbacks added to it and now the Steve Breaston situation is uncomfortable.

No one here is calling for his job. He has earned goodwill with what he accomplished in his first three seasons. How he reacts to this adversity in the offseason with the draft, free agency and roster decisions, along with how schemes and philosophies may be changed will determine if he is capable of righting a ship or if he is simply the right guy to take a boat that has been started in the right direction before him.

So when he speaks of "goodwill," he must also know that, while his is not used up, he has certainly used some of it up.