Even if the coach Ken Whisenhunt does not yet know what his Cardinals team is all about, the rest of the NFL and just about anybody else who watches football closely can tell him. The Cardinals are a bad football team. Can there be any other conclusion after today’s 41-10 thumping in San Diego?
Like the game in Atlanta two weeks ago, a similar but less ugly 41-7 defeat, it was another inept, spiritless loss by a once-competitive team that owes its 2-2 record to almost nothing it can be happy about. And even in the moribund West, the Cardinals may be no better than third. The 49ers are a dangerous adversary despite an 0-4 start. And the one team you could always count on to make the blues go away, the St. Louis Rams, are seemingly on the rise behind their rookie quarterback, Sam Bradford.
The Cardinals’ whipping boy, quarterback Derek Anderson, is only a part of a legion of problems Whisenhunt again witnessed today. The defense was atrocious. The offensive line could not pass protect. Even the usually reliable punter, Ben Graham, shanked one. And the one glowing spot of regular season, the kickoff returns of LaRod Stephens-Howling, was bottled up. And where was the energy? Left perhaps the night before in San Diego night life.
Many Cardinals fans finally got their wish. The rookie backup quarterback, Max Hall, played more than half the game and may start next week at home against the defending Super Bowl champs, the New Orleans Saints. He at least seems to have the one thing the much more gifted Anderson doesn’t. A heavy dose of confidence. Perhaps with Hall, a short passing game using more rollouts and a dedicated running game, the offense can, with ball control, keep the struggling defense on the sidelines for good stretches of time. It seems the only hope.
This to date is not only a team failure. It is an organizational debacle. It is obvious the Cardinals were ill-prepared to enter the post-Warner era. To end up not even halfway through the season with a second quarterback controversy and facing the prospect of starting a rookie quarterback, an undrafted free agent at that, well, it is mind-boggling.
Not only that but to have inadequate replacements for departed stars like linebacker Karlos Dansby and wide receiver Anquan Boldin smells of a GM strapped to a tightening budget. And one wonders too if budget matters is the reason Whisenhunt for the second straight season has no offensive coordinator. If there ever was a year to have a coordinator, 2010 was it. A new quarterback suddenly thrust into the starting role halfway through preseason with two rookies behind him? It is too much to ask of a head coach. Whisenhunt it appears has spread himself too thin.
So how did the Cardinals reach the nadir of athletic futility so soon after a 10-6 record and playoff season? The answer as almost everyone knows by now is this. No Kurt Warner. Only now after four games is it clear that Warner was almost everything to them. His uncanny passing ability shadowed the team’s many deficiencies even in the glory years of 2008 and 2009 and led Cardinals fans, and maybe coaches as well, to over-estimate the team’s abilities.