Note: This column appears in the 10/4 issue of the Glendale Star, and 10/5 issue of the Peoria Times
If someone were to say to me, “Hey Mike, what have you learned since you moved to Arizona?” I would first tell them that I didn’t come here to learn -- I came here to get a better tan. Then I would explain that I’ve learned two main things since arriving in Arizona.
First and foremost I’ve learned that -- and I hope this doesn’t come across as a vast generalization -- everyone in this state drives like an absolute maniac. I’ve honestly never experienced anything like this in my life. It’s comical to me that the NY/NJ area gets a bad rep for their drivers, when the locals here would make a New York City cab driver fear for his life. Everybody here drives 50 miles over the speed limit and tailgates like a mo' fo', which is made even more intimidating when you consider that 99% of the vehicles on the road here are pick-up trucks with tires the size of Ferris wheels. I’m not even entirely sure if any of the vehicles in Arizona come with turn signals, because I’ve never seen anybody use one. The second I pull out of my driveway in the morning, a monster-sized pick-up truck is riding my bumper, and I end up hunched over the steering wheel like an 80-year old woman, praying for the street to turn into two lanes. I’m thinking of building a giant steel cage around my car, just to be safe.
Secondly -- and probably more importantly when it comes to the purpose of this column -- I’ve learned that Ken Wisenhunt can coach his butt off.
If there was any lingering skepticism as to the offseason hiring of Whisenhunt heading into this past Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, it is officially gone at this point. I used to hear that having Bill Parcells as your head coach was good for at least three wins on its own (and at least 16 condescending post game press conferences to boot!), and I don’t know if that’s true. But one thing’s for sure -- Ken Whisenhunt is the reason the Cardinals beat the Steelers.
On Sunday, Whisenhunt exposed the offensive deficiencies of the offense he once coached, and outcoached the man who was hired in his stead. Not only that, but through the first four games of the 2007 season, Ken Whisenhunt has given the Arizona Cardinals an identity, and it’s one that has much less to do with Matt Leinart than it does with Darnell Dockett.
A team that was perceived by many (see: me) to be above average offensively and nonexistent defensively has redefined their mission (former mission: 4-12), and somehow managed to make a moot point of the fact that a confused and underachieving kid is battling the shell of a former MVP for snaps. Or that the teams’ best offensive weapon is wearing street clothes.
None of that matters. Not when Ken Whisenhunt has magically turned the Cardinals into a defense that opposing teams can simply not run on. Not when the Cardinals’ special teams -- the Cardinals have special teams? Who knew?! -- are making Devin Hester take notice. Not when the Cardinals are sustaining drives by running the ball. And if this identity of a great defense, solid special teams play, and a smash mouth offense sounds familiar, it’s probably because 99.9% of the teams who embrace it and execute it are successful. I know, weird. And it all starts with the head coach.
What the hell is on my leg? I thought we were playing the Cardinals?
By the way, funny that on the same day the underdog Cardinals moved to 2-2, the supremely talented Chargers fell to 1-3. I wonder what the difference was…
Wait, I stopped wondering. It’s this guy. So as you watch the Chargers self-destruct, and enjoy the Dennis Green Coors Light commercials, thank your lucky stars that Ken Whisenhunt is here. He has given Cardinals fans reason to come to the stadium.
In fact, I may even go myself, as soon as my cage is finished.
Arizona's version? "Tailgating: Because five car lengths is for bitches."