Our pro football team continues to reap the misfortune of bad decisions by its coach and front office. With the loss in San Francisco yesterday, the Cardinals have won only 8 of their last 26 games over two seasons. And, if there is even a dim light on the horizon, it is lost in all the fog.
Here is a list of those bad decisions.
(1) A failure to recognize after the 2009 playoff season that success was built on the arm of one unique player, quarterback Kurt Warner, and a strong supporting cast. When Warner retired and other top talent like wide receiver Anquan Boldin and linebacker Karlos Dansby departed, the Cardinals chose not to replace them with equally talented players. The loss of Warner exposed coach, Ken Whisenhunt, for what he really is. A lightweight offensive mind.
(2) Last season’s quarterback fiasco, and the mind-numbing release of the team’s 2006 No. 1 draft pick, Matt Leinart. While Leinart was no Warner, he was head and shoulders above what they were left with, Derek Anderson. That decision so angered fans that Whisenhunt’s 3-year honeymoon came to an abrupt end.
(3) The colossal blunder last August in over-paying All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. That $120 million contract pays Fitzgerald $20 million this year alone and prevented this small-market team from up-grading other positions. In Sunday’s game with the 49ers, Fitzgerald caught three passes, each worth $417,000. To pay that much for a player who is such a small part of the offense (5% yesterday) is absolutely crazy.
(4) Misjudgment of the abilities of untested quarterback Kevin Kolb, who the Cardinals got in a preseason panic from the Philadelphia Eagles at a stiff price — draft picks and their All-Pro corner, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Money paid this season to Fitzgerald and Kolb amount to roughly one-third of the team’s payroll.
(5) Whisenhunt’s decision to stick with an offensive system that places too much emphasis on what is now its weakest position, quarterback. While the system did well with Warner, the current quarterbacks are not nearly as talented. To ask inferior quarterbacks to carry the load is insanity. And yet Cardinals quarterbacks this season are throwing at almost the same percentage as in 2009 with Warner, 62% of the time. The previous season, with Derek Anderson, they threw even more — 66%. What kind of sense does that make?
The solution? You can not undo Fitzgerald’s contract. Finding another quarterback is out of the question. So why not scrap or modify the offense? Play conservatively, run more even if it’s inconsistent and upsets Fitzgerald. Punt often if needed, play for field position and rely on a defense that is playing fairly well at this point. Maybe then you have a chance against the NFL’s elite like San Francisco.
But don’t look for changes. One of Whisenhunt’s most salient traits is stubborness. He will likely continue with the program of pounding square pegs into round holes. That and to heap more blame on quarterback play even though the system is not best suited for the talent at hand.