Ken Whisenhunt (Getty)
Coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn't had any down time in the weeks since Super Bowl XLIII, thanks to the need to make over his coaching staff. Whisenhunt had to replace both coordinators and a quarterbacks coach, and since he likes to promote from within, that created even more openings.
In the end, Whisenhunt feels like he was able to maintain continuity in important staff positions while also maintaining a good chemistry among coaches.
The defensive changes are simple. Whisenhunt fired coordinator Clancy Pendergast soon after the season ended. It was a surprise to many outsiders, but Pendergast was always on loose ground.
He and Whisenhunt didn't know each other before Whisenhunt took the job, so it wasn't a surprise that Whisenhunt eventually wanted to hire his own man.
He did that, promoting Bill Davis from linebackers coach. Quality control coach Matt Raich moves in the linebackers job.
Under Davis, the Cardinals will implement more traditional elements of the 3-4 scheme, which Whisenhunt prefers.
The biggest changes came on offense, where Whisenhunt had to replace coordinator Todd Haley, who left to become the Chiefs head coach.
Haley was more than just an overseer. He worked daily with the quarterbacks and also spent considerable time with receivers.
Whisenhunt ended up splitting the job between two people. Assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm will coordinate the run game while receivers coach Mike Miller was promoted to passing game coordinator.
Whisenhunt will call plays, but Miller and Grimm will have a large input into game planning. John McNulty, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Rutgers, will coach receivers, and former NFL quarterback Chris Miller was hired to coach quarterbacks, replacing Jeff Rutledge, who was fired.
--RB Edgerrin James reiterated his desire to be released from the last year of his contract, but it doesn't appear the Cardinals are going to do it soon.
GM Rod Graves said the club would make decisions in the best interest of the team and declined further comment. Translated, that means the club will release James after it finds a replacement. Or at least a backup to Tim Hightower, the only running back under contract.
--DE Antonio Smith, due to become an unrestricted free agent, would prefer to stay in Arizona.
"This is all I know," said Smith, who has played with the Cardinals for all four of his NFL seasons.
The Cardinals would like to have him back, but at the right price. Smith should command some considerable attention on the free agent market after the way he played in the last two months of the season.
--GM Rod Graves would like to reach a contract agreement with QB Kurt Warner before free agency starts. Graves said the two sides are "closer but not close" to a deal.
--New QB coach Chris Miller played with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt with the Falcons. Miller spent some time helping the Cardinals coaches in the 2007 training camp. He was a head high school coach in Oregon but hasn't coached in the NFL before.
--Whisenhunt will call plays in 2009 but would like to eventually relinquish those duties to an assistant, most likely passing game coordinator Mike Miller.
"I'm a big believer in developing coaches, "Whisenhunt said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "With losing Todd (Haley) and with other changes on our staff, it's been a pretty hectic two weeks. You're trying to fit together the right pieces so the chemistry of your staff stays intact. I think that's one of the big reasons for our consistency and success, the cohesion of our coaches." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt on the restructuring of his coaching staff.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: LB Karlos Dansby: Tendered at $9.678M.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--RB J.J. Arrington found a role as the team's third-down back and as the single back in spread formations. For the right price, the Cardinals would like him back.
--LB Monty Beisel is an excellent backup who can play inside and out. He could return for $1 million or so a year.
--DE Bertrand Berry will be 34 next season, but he led the team in tackles. He played for $1 million last season and likely would return for that.
--G Elton Brown has been a backup for most of his four seasons. He has ability but has difficulty controlling his weight. He likely will sign elsewhere.
--CB Ralph Brown is a solid nickel and dime corner. A 10-year veteran, he's a great influence on younger players. Could return for a reasonable price.
--P Ben Graham was great at pinning teams inside the 20 but his hang time was lacking. Club is likely to bring him back.
--CB Eric Green went from starter to backup to inactive. Coaches didn't like his attitude and he is as good as gone.
--OLB Clark Haggans played very well until suffering a foot injury late in the year. Cards should be able to re-sign him for $1 million or so.
--G/C Scott Peters suffered a severe knee injury in camp. He likely won't return.
--QB Brian St. Pierre was the third quarterback all season but he has some ability. He likely will return.
--DE Antonio Smith is a solid starter and no one plays harder. He will get a big deal in free agency and the Cardinals aren't likely to match since they have Calais Campbell ready to take over.
--FB Terrelle Smith is still an effective blocker and he is anxious to stay in Arizona. He might be expendable, however, because the club has Tim Castille.
--TE Jerame Tuman showed his age this season, was cut in December and then brought back because of injuries. He won't return.
--QB Kurt Warner is a high priority in free agency and the Cardinals are hopeful of re-signing him to a two-year deal.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--TE Leonard Pope is a decent player but he has trouble picking up nuances of the offense. Might get a low tender.
--NT Gabe Watson played through knee difficulties. A solid player.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--CB Michael Adams is only about 5-8 but he's competitive and a special teams standout.
--FB Tim Castille is a decent special teamer who must improve his blocking.
--TE Ben Patrick has the talent to be a solid starter.
--TE Stephen Spach was the starter before suffering a torn ACL in the playoffs.
--C Pat Ross was the backup all year but will find it hard to press for playing time.
--C Lyle Sendlein started all 16 games and might be due for a longer-term deal.
--LB Pago Togafau is under-size but played on a lot of special teams.
--T Elliot Vallejo has good size and decent feet. This is a key off-season for him.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: None.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.
PLAYERS LOST: None.