Black Monday rolls unmerrily along, as the Arizona Cardinals have fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves. The moves come after the Cardinals started hot in 2012 with four straight wins but finished 5-11.
"Coaching the Cardinals has been an incredible and rewarding experience and I will always be grateful to Mr. [Bill] Bidwill, Michael [Bidwill] and Rod [Graves] for giving me that opportunity back in 2007," Whisenhunt said in a Monday statement.
"I’m very proud of what we as a team and as an organization achieved during that time. 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.
"I want to especially thank Cardinals fans who treated my family and me so well and made our time in Arizona so special. While this chapter ends for us, we are hopeful that the ones ahead of us will be as enriching as this one has been."
Whisenhunt, the former offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, leaves the organization with a 45-51 mark in the regular season, and a 4-2 postseason mark, over six years. He led the team to a berth in Super Bowl XLIII and a close loss to his old team at the end of the 2008 campaign, but after the 2009 retirement of quarterback Kurt Warner, both Whisenhunt and Graves were doomed by their inability to find an adequate replacement for the future Hall-of-Famer.
The real killer was the decision – engineered by Whisenhunt and supported by Graves – to give former Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Kevin Kolb a six-year, $63.5 million contract in July of 2011 after trading a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rogers-Cromartie for Kolb's services. In two seasons, Kolb has been more injury-prone than anything else, starting just 14 of a possible 32 games. Arizona was 13-19 record over the last two seasons. In Kolb's stead, Whisenhunt tried a number of unspectacular options – John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and to end the 2012 season, former New England Patriots backup Brian Hoyer.
Graves joined the Cardinals organization in 1997 and led the team's personnel department from 2003 through 2012.
"I am very grateful to Michael Bidwill, to his family, to the players and to the staff of the Arizona Cardinals for the opportunity to serve the organization," Graves said in his own statement. "Working with talented others to build and enhance our brand over the past 16 years has been an awesome and totally enriching experience. 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. My time with the Cardinals has ended but the organization and the people in it will always have a special place within me."