View Full Version : Whisenhunt's mission as new boss in Arizona: Run it

tony hipchest
05-15-2007, 01:57 PM
http://www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/10181745People tell me not to expect much from the Arizona Cardinals because ... well, because they're the Arizona Cardinals, forever stuck in the quicksand of the NFL.

But I do expect something from the Cardinals, and I'll tell you why: Ken Whisenhunt. If the first-year head coach can do for his team what he did for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004, the Cards have a shot at the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

You heard me: The playoffs, and no, I haven't touched the Kool-aid.

I just think back to what happened to Whisenhunt shortly after he was named the Steelers' offensive coordinator. At his first meeting with then-head coach Bill Cowher, he was told the Steelers were returning to what they did best -- namely, running the ball -- and was instructed to devise plays to improve the league's 31st-ranked attack.

So Whisenhunt did, and when the 2004 season ended Pittsburgh was second in the NFL in rushing. The Steelers not only ran for nearly 1,000 yards more than the previous season, they won more, too. A lot more. They were a league-best 15-1.

That is why I hold out hope for this year's Cardinals. Look, there's talent everywhere. Only now the emphasis is in the right place. When Whisenhunt looks at his offense, it's not quarterback Matt Leinart and wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin who have his attention. It's his running backs and offensive line.

Whisenhunt knows Leinart & Co. will be fine. He also knows they'll be harder to defend if Arizona can run the ball, because that's what happened in Pittsburgh. In 2004 the Steelers averaged nearly 11 fewer passes per game, yet their touchdowns were up. So was their passing efficiency -- from 76.4 to 93.2.

Some of that had to do with then-rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But most of it had to do with a running game that jumped from 3.3 yards per carry to 4.0, improving its per-game output by 61 yards. If Arizona -- which last year ranked 30th in rushing, with a league-worst average of 3.2 yards a carry -- can achieve similar results, then maybe, just maybe, the Cardinals win more than they lose. Trust me, that's an achievement.

"The situations are similar in terms of the emphasis on the run," Whisenhunt said Monday, "but the big difference in Pittsburgh was that we had an offensive line that had been together. So there will be an adjustment period in terms of guys meshing on double teams and zone blocks."

OK, I understand. But Whisenhunt is ahead of the game there. He has the same offensive line coach in Arizona he had in Pittsburgh, and if there's going to be an adjustment period, I want my guys adjusting under the direction of Russ Grimm.

It's Grimm, and not Levi Brown or Alan Branch who was Arizona's biggest offseason acquisition. Grimm is an outstanding teacher Cowher valued so highly he made him his assistant head coach, the only assistant with that designation in Cowher's 15 years with the Steelers.

Grimm was expected to succeed Cowher but lost out to Minnesota assistant Mike Tomlin, and lucky for Whisenhunt. With Grimm out in Pittsburgh, he could be in at Arizona, where he and his head coach try to recreate what they manufactured three years earlier.

"There's no coaching of the coaches," said Whisenhunt. "He understands what we want to get done with the run. If you look back to 2004, we made a commitment to the run, and that's what we need to do here. And if we do, we have a chance."

They have a chance because they also have Edgerrin James as their lead back. Once an All-Pro, James wilted last season because there was no emphasis on the run. Instead, it was on Leinart and a passing game that comprised 78 percent of the team's offense.

Result: James did not produce a 100-yard rushing performance until the 12th game.

That won't happen again because Whisenhunt won't allow it to happen. Remember, this is a head coach who passed on the opportunity to draft All-American running back Adrian Peterson because he knows he can win with Edgerrin James -- and that he can't win without an offensive tackle.

So he drafted Levi Brown.

At the weekend mini-camp, Brown was the backup right tackle, but let's see how long that lasts. Whisenhunt seems sold on Brown, former Steeler Oliver Ross and Mike Gandy as his tackles -? and maybe that's because he has Grimm coaching them, I don't know.

What I do know is that Ken Whisenhunt will try to recreate here what he did in his first year on the job in Pittsburgh, and that's good enough for me. Then he had Jerome Bettis, Duce Staley and Verron Haynes as his backs. Now he has Edge, J.J. Arrington and Marcel Shipp.

The challenge is the same, but now the curve is steeper. Remember, the Cards are stuck in a desert, with one winning season the past 22 years. The Steelers went to the playoffs four of the past six seasons and won Super Bowl XL. Big difference.

"It's a different deal, but I don't think it's more difficult," said Whisenhunt. "I think the guys on the offensive line are excited about running the football, about having a more physical game. What I learned in Pittsburgh is that you have to be able to run the ball and you have to be able to stop the run. And we did. We might not be as successful, but we're going to make the same commitment."

tony hipchest
05-15-2007, 02:12 PM
wow. 1st he announces hes gonna design plays for anquan boldin similar to what a. randle el ran and now hes announcing a power run mentality? doesnt he know hes putting his team at a disadvantage by releasing all this info to the press? i dont think ive ever seen a team discuss such things.

everybody knows the cardinals cant run the ball so it must be a "smokescreen" or they must really be convinced they can actually pull off running the ball. :rolleyes:

-this post brought to you by Mocking Sarcasm.

05-15-2007, 02:26 PM
Tony he might just have a point. I caught some highlights of there new practice method for running the ball;


The Duke
05-15-2007, 03:57 PM
Would be nice to see Whiz winning games with the Cards, but just not against the steelers

Livinginthe past
05-15-2007, 04:00 PM
Tony he might just have a point. I caught some highlights of there new practice method for running the ball;


That Duce Staley at the back?

05-15-2007, 06:41 PM
He looks different without the grey sweats

05-15-2007, 06:44 PM
i actually think that the cards could be able to run the ball this yr.. they got some linemen in the draft and FA and grimm is a good coach... just have to wait and see.. and i don't that he would take 1 of his best wr's out of a pass play just to throw the ball to.. i mean if they see that the will double team fitz and who else is there to throw it to?

05-15-2007, 08:57 PM
That Duce Staley at the back?

Looks just like him.