Whisenhunt's QB mark in Arizona revisited

January, 18, 2013
1/18/13
3:30
PM ET
Sure, there was a spike in injuries, but bad quarterback play and evaluation doomed Ken Whisenhunt's tenure as Arizona Cardinals head coach. There is no way around it.

"Every quarterback he acquired and developed seemed to get worse, not better," was how I put it when the Cardinals announced Bruce Arians' hiring Thursday night.

That was a little harsh, in retrospect, and so I've rephrased it.

Semantics? Perhaps. But the way we characterize what happened matters. Outcomes too frequently influence our analysis of process.

The quarterback situation in Arizona provides a good case in point.

When the Cardinals were a Super Bowl team, Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Todd Haley got credit for the roles they played in reviving Kurt Warner's career. Whisenhunt got credit for naming Warner the starter back when the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a far-fetched dream for the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback -- back when Cardinals fans booed Warner.

Once Warner retired, however, his achievements in Arizona became the measuring stick for future Cardinals quarterbacks -- independent of the role Whisenhunt or anyone else played in helping Warner set the bar so high.

It's now easy to say Whisenhunt won because he had a potential Hall of Fame quarterback. But Warner wasn't Hall of Fame material after throwing 23 touchdowns with 18 interceptions over the three-year period before Whisenhunt's arrival.

Warner deserves much of the credit for his revival, of course. But the credit Whisenhunt and the coaching staff received at the time should be valid now as well.

Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall and Ryan Lindley left the Cardinals no better and arguably worse than when they arrived, in my view.

They deserve much of the blame, but Whisenhunt thought he could win with some of them.

Kevin Kolb arguably made strides under Whisenhunt and quarterbacks coach John McNulty from 2011 to 2012. His touchdown-to-interception ratio improved from 9-8 to 8-3, but his passer rating rose only marginally (81.1 to 86.1). His Total QBR score rose marginally (34.4 to 38.0).

Injuries at running back and the offensive line complicated efforts to evaluate Kolb.

In the end, Kolb failed to meet expectations, the quarterback situation deteriorated to an unacceptable level and people lost their jobs.

That is the bottom line, but it's not the whole story.

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