Cards fire Ken Whisenhunt, Graves

Updated: January 8, 2013, 6:04 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals have fired coach Ken Whisenhunt after six seasons that included the long-suffering franchise's only Super Bowl appearance.

The team also ousted general manager Rod Graves, who had been with the franchise for 16 years. He'd been general manager since 2007.

Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said Monday that the team has reached out to Andy Reid, just fired as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Bidwill also said Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton is a candidate for the head coaching job and would be the first to be interviewed.

The housecleaning by Bidwill, son of team owner Bill Bidwill, followed a season that saw the team start 4-0 but lose 11 of its last 12 to finish 5-11.

The 50-year-old Whisenhunt had more wins than any other coach in Cardinals history, going 45-51, 4-2 in the playoffs. He had a year worth about $5.5 million left on his contract.

Of the team's three winning seasons the past 28 years, two came with Whisenhunt as coach.

The termination was announced in a brief midday news release, with Michael Bidwill scheduling a 5:30 p.m. ET news conference.

Those dismissed included assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm, offensive coordinator Mike Miller, offensive quality control coach Chad Grimm, quarterbacks coach John McNulty, wide receivers coach Frank Reich and running backs coach Tommie Robinson. Tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens was the only coach on the offensive staff not fired.

None of the defensive coaches were dismissed.

Horton also is expected to interview for some of the many NFL head coaching vacancies. Despite its overall lack of success, the team finished among the league leaders in several defensive categories.

In a statement released by the team, Whisenhunt thanked the Bidwills for the opportunity.

"I'm very proud of what we as a team and as an organization achieved during that time," he said. "Collectively we accomplished some very special and unprecedented things. That's a testament to the dedication, hard work and talent of so many coaches, players and people throughout the organization.

"But we all understand this business and when you don't win enough games changes are made. That doesn't mean it's easy but you definitely don't have to look far to find people that have it much worse."

Whisenhunt is interested in the San Diego Chargers' head coaching vacancy, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The Chargers fired Norv Turner on Monday.

Whisenhunt's six seasons were tied for the longest tenure for a coach in the Cardinals' long, largely unsuccessful history.

In his second year with the team, the Cardinals finished the regular season 9-7, then mounted a stunning run to the Super Bowl, beating Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia along the way. They lost a thriller to Pittsburgh 27-23 in the Super Bowl in Tampa.

The following season, Arizona won a franchise-record 10 games in the regular season and defeated Green Bay 51-45 in overtime in one of the most exciting playoff games of all time. But the New Orleans Saints pounded the Cardinals 45-14 the following week, and quarterback Kurt Warner decided to retire.

Things were never the same again as Whisenhunt went with an assortment of quarterbacks but could never find the offensive magic that Warner created.

The Cardinals went 5-11 in 2010, but after a 1-6 start regrouped to finish 8-8 in 2011.

Arizona started 2012 at 4-0 but it was a fool's gold record. The Cardinals lost nine straight and 11 of their last 12 to finish 5-11 for the second time in three seasons.

Quarterback was again the main issue. Most of the success came with Kevin Kolb at the position, but he went down with what turned out to be a season-ending rib injury in Week 6 and, with John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and, in the finale, Brian Hoyer, at the position, and with a woeful running game, Arizona's was the worst offense in the NFL.

Offense was supposed to be Whisenhunt's specialty.

The Georgia Tech graduate with a degree in engineering played nine seasons as an NFL tight end.

Whisenhunt worked his way through the coaching ranks to become tight ends coach for the Steelers in 2001 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2004. After three seasons in that job, he was hired in Arizona to replace Dennis Green, who was fired after three losing seasons.

Graves joined the franchise as assistant to the president in 1997. He became vice president for football operations in 2003 and general manager in 2007.

"Working with talented others to build and enhance our brand over the past 16 years has been an awesome and totally enriching experience," he said in a statement released through the team. "It has been the opportunity that others only dream of. Every day I came to work I viewed it as the ultimate privilege and never once lost sight of that."

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.