Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Penalties serve as an indictment of Whisenhunt

Note: This column appears in the 8/21 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 8/22 issue of the Peoria Times

I think Ken Whisnhunt is a good head football coach. Why? I am not really sure. That is what I like to call my “thesis.” Please read on.

Whisenhunt has forgotten more football than I will ever know, so I am not really one to say anything about the technical aspect of his job. (On the other hand, he probably couldn’t write a weekly, quasi-humorous, sometimes-sports-related column for a community newspaper. -Awkward pause- Okay, he probably could do that, actually.) But I am a football fan, and it is my right to stand firm on the foundation of baseless opinions. With that mind, I still must have reasons for believing he is a good coach, as arbitrary and juvenile as those reasons may seem.

For example…

I think Ken Whisenhunt looks the part. He’s young and in shape, which shows me that he’s a) not old, and b) physically capable of kicking some tail if necessary. He, at least sometimes, has a mustache, which simply cannot be understated. When a guy with a mustache is talking, you listen. Case closed. Maybe even more important than that -- if you could imagine -- is the fact that he’s been successful. He’s earned a Super Bowl ring as a coordinator, and has helped a previously stagnant organization make major strides as a head coach.

I appreciate how a former offensive coordinator has overseen and orchestrated a defensive renaissance. I like how he always at least looks like he’s got a plan. I like how he admits when he made a mistake. I like the way he stands with his arms folded on the sidelines, keeping his cool while expletives fly around in his brain. To be honest, I sort of have a strictly-football-related crush on the man.

But there is a flaw with the Arizona Cardinals -- one that falls squarely on the shoulders of Whisenhunt -- that is glaring, and could cost the team its season. This flaw is also so bizarre in that it seems to contradict everything that Whisenhunt otherwise represents.

Penalties.

It’s the same old story. The Cardinals led the entire NFL in penalties last season with 137. It seemed like they added 137 more in their first preseason game against the Saints. This is definitely as issue, and a big one.


Jim, Dale, listen -- I am literally going to kill both of you if you don't stop throwing those stupid flags. Like, with a gun.

This is very bad for several reasons. For one, there is nothing more frustrating than watching your team have big plays negated by penalties. (Unless you’re a jaded Raiders fan, as this situation is called “Sunday.”) Furthermore, the nature of the Cardinals’ penalties -- false starts, unsportsmanlike conducts -- are strictly disciplinary.

Darnell Dockett loses his cool. Adrian Wilson takes a cheap shot. Leonard Pope doesn’t know the snap count. It’s getting pretty old, and the last thing that the Arizona Cardinals need to deal with in their quest for respectability is dumb penalties.

Whisenhunt himself has most definitely recognized the problem, and has made some not-so-veiled threats that certain guys could be losing playing time if it persists. But the thing is, it has persisted. For a while now. On Whisenhunt’s watch. What gives?

How has the same man whose disciplinary aura I’ve come to admire and respect allowed this to happen? Is it all just a fa├žade?

If their last preseason game is any indication, maybe not. The Cards racked up just three penalties en route to a solid victory against the Chiefs. Maybe Ken Whisenhunt has made his point, but whether that kind of disciplined play can sustain itself remains to be seen.

In the meantime, as far as my unabashed, strictly-football-related crush is concerned, I recommend a thicker mustache. It certainly can’t hurt.


The 1946 New York Knights? Zero penalties.

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