Arizona Cardinals: Ken Whisenhunt

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Welcome to #CardsMailbag, a weekly installment that allows you to ask Josh Weinfuss questions throughout the week via Twitter @joshweinfuss. He'll answer them every week during the offseason. Make sure to use the hashtag #CardsMailbag

Anyone who was around the Arizona Cardinals on a daily basis last season knew their relationship with strength coach John Lott wasn't going to last much longer than last season.

In a statement released Friday, the Cardinals said: "Coach Arians let John know this morning that he's making a change and going in a different direction in that role. Everyone at the team is certainly grateful to John for his contributions and wish him nothing but the best moving forward. The search for a replacement is underway."

All it took was a look at Lott's T-shirt.

When Arians took over last January, he made T-shirts for all the players and coaches, mainly for offseason condition, with three words on the back: "Trust, Loyalty, Respect." They were the tenets upon which Arians built his coaching philosophy.

Everyone wore them -- except Lott.

He continued to wear his shirt from the days of Ken Whisenhunt, with the phrase "Get your mind right" on the back. It was clear there was a disconnect but for whatever reason, Arians couldn't part ways with Lott last season when he let the remaining coaching staff go.

Lott was best known for his role as the spotter on the bench press at the NFL combine. He had done it for 16 straight years before he missed 2013's combine. Lott was back this year.
This time last year, Ken Whisenhunt was still sulking in the aftermath of getting fired by the Arizona Cardinals after six seasons. He was at the NFL combine in Indianapolis as a the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers.

A year later, Whisenhunt is back at the combine wearing his third team hat in as many Februarys, this time as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans.

Whisenhunt took the podium at the combine Thursday and was asked if he can learn from his tenure in Arizona.

"I think you do that every year, not necessarily the six years that I was in Arizona," Whisenhunt said. "I was very grateful to have had an opportunity there. The fans were fantastic with me. [Cardinals president] Michael [Bidwell] gave me the opportunity in this league as a head coach and I’m very grateful for that.

"Sure, you learn things as you go through it. We did a lot of good things there and obviously, as happens in this league, if you lose your job, it’s because things didn’t go as well. You work to try to correct those things if you get another opportunity. I’m looking forward to having that opportunity."

Looking back on three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' third exhibition game of the 2013 preseason, a 24-7 defeat at home against the San Diego Chargers on Saturday night:

1. Whisenhunt homecoming. Former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt returned to University of Phoenix Stadium as the Chargers' offensive coordinator. His quarterback, Philip Rivers, averaged only 3.9 yards per attempt and threw one interception with no touchdown passes. However, the Chargers' first-team offense put together a 92-yard touchdown drive and generally outperformed the Cardinals' starting offense on this night. Both teams' running games were effective early. That provided some consolation for the Cardinals until the team lost running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and rookie first-round guard Jonathan Cooper (ankle) to injuries of unknown severity. Cooper rode a cart off the field and wasn't putting any weight on his left leg after the injury. Another player flew into his left leg from the side and behind, causing Cooper's left ankle to roll inside out. A serious injury to Cooper would undermine the team's efforts to upgrade the line. That seemed particularly true on this night, when the Chargers' Dwight Freeney dominated against Cardinals left tackle Levi Brown.

2. Williams at running back.Third-year running back Ryan Williams returned to practice late in the week and made his 2013 preseason debut late in the third quarter. Williams, troubled by knee issues lingering from a 2011 injury, gained 5 yards on his first play. He was the fourth running back to get carries in this game, after Mendenhall, Alfonso Smith and Stepfan Taylor. Rookie Andre Ellington was shaken up returning a kick right before Williams went into the game. Ellington then went back into the game on offense, replacing Williams. Williams returned when Ryan Lindley took over at quarterback in the final five minutes. He carried one more time and gained 5 yards. He ran well on his two carries. Time could be running out for Williams. Three other recent high draft choices for Arizona -- Cooper, tight end Rob Housler (ankle) and nose tackle Dan Williams (knee) -- left this game with injuries. Rookie seventh-round tight end D.C. Jefferson also left with an injury. This was a brutal night for Arizona.

3. Red-zone offense. The Cardinals wanted to focus on this area after settling for four field goals and a 12-7 victory in their most recent preseason game. They scored one touchdown in two red-zone possessions against San Diego. Housler dropped an accurate pass from Carson Palmer in the end zone, killing the first opportunity. Receiver Michael Floyd made an impressive leaping grab in the back of the end zone to score on the other red-zone possession. This was progress, in a way, but the shaky pass protection and injuries likely prevented Arizona from enjoying it.

Three things: Chargers-Cardinals

August, 24, 2013
Three things to watch for Saturday in the Arizona Cardinals' third exhibition of the 2013 season, set for 10 p.m. ET at home against the San Diego Chargers:

1. Whisenhunt homecoming. Former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt returns to University of Phoenix Stadium as offensive coordinator for the Chargers. Will his offense upstage the one his successor, Bruce Arians, has installed with the Cardinals? While this is a silly question in the bigger picture, it's an item of interest in the short term given how little time has passed since Whisenhunt's dismissal in January. Personal subplots abound. Whisenhunt and Arians worked together in Pittsburgh, where Arians succeeded Whisenhunt as the Steelers' offensive coordinator. The history between Whisenhunt, Arians and the Cardinals adds appeal to this matchup.

2. Williams at running back. Third-year running back Ryan Williams returned to practice late in the week and could play against San Diego. He appears to be fighting for a roster spot two years after the team drafted him 38th overall. The Cardinals are averaging 3.0 yards per carry during the preseason. Williams has not played in a game of any kind since Oct. 4, 2012. He has not been the same since suffering a torn patella tendon during the 2011 preseason. Whether Williams plays and how he performs is a leading storyline for Arizona. Either way, Rashard Mendenhall is the starter.

3. Red zone offense. Arians was ticked off after his team settled for four field goals during a 12-7 victory against the Dallas Cowboys at home last week. Finishing drives with touchdowns instead of field goals is always a priority. It's a heightened priority this week. Arizona will be looking for sharper play from quarterback Carson Palmer. Establishing at least the threat of a running game would help, too.