The Cardinals started cleaning house in a major way on Monday.
After a season which saw them lose 11 of their last 12 games, and end up 5-11, the team fired both general manager Rod Graves and head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Six assistant coaches were also let go on Monday: Russ Grimm (Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line), Mike Miller (Offensive Coordinator), Chad Grimm (Offensive Quality Control), John McNulty (Quarterbacks), Frank Reich (Wide Receivers) and Tommie Robinson (Running Backs).
The Cardinals were dead last in the league in total offense this season, which had to have had a major influence on the firings.
When you have a season go the way the Cardinals season did, everyone’s going to want things to change, whether it’s the fans, the front office or the players. No one wants a repeat of what just took place over the last 16 weeks or so next season.
There’s no question that the Cardinals will look different and play different next season, as a lot of new personnel and players will filter their way to Arizona.
Is all this change good and necessary for the team?
The majority of the players left in the locker room on clean out day maintained the feeling that these kinds of moves are necessary for the advancement of the organization.
“Anytime you’re losing there are gonna be a lot of changes,” defensive tackle Nick Eason said. “Whether it’s coaches, whether it’s players, everyone knows that.”
Eason, who’s played in two Super Bowls in his career, said he’s “disappointed” by the way the season went for the Cardinals, because he knows the team has the talent to be much better than 5-11 and sitting home yet again for the playoffs.
Running back Beanie Wells shares the same kind of sentiments as Eason.
“It sucks, it sucks,” running back Beanie Wells said. “Anytime you get the opportunity to start off like we did, we definitely expected to make it a far better season and beyond than where we’re at today.”
Guard Daryn Colledge – the only offensive lineman to play in all 16 games – chose to take a more rosier approach to the way the season ended and the change the team has seen and will continue to see as the offseason continues.
“We have a chance to go into the offseason [and] use this as motivation,” Colledge said. “The guys that will be back will train even harder.”
The writing was on the wall for Rod Graves and Ken Whisenhunt as the Cardinals’ season finally came to an end on Sunday in San Francisco, Calif., against the 49ers.
Graves had been with the Cardinals for 16 years, first as Assistant to the President, then Vice President of Football Operations, then General Manager.
Whisenhunt had been the team’s head coach since 2007 – the same year Graves was appointed GM. Whisenhunt had the most wins of any Cardinals head coach, going 45-51, 4-2 as head coach. That included a Super Bowl appearance in 2009.
Below are official statements from both Graves and Whisenhunt.
“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.
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.”
“Coaching the Cardinals has been an incredible and rewarding experience and I will always be grateful to Mr. Bidwill, Michael and Rod for giving me that opportunity back in 2007.
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.”