TEMPE, AZ (AP) – The Arizona Cardinals have fired coach Ken Whisenhunt after six seasons that included the long-suffering franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance.
The team also ousted general manager Rod Graves, who had been with the franchise for 16 years. He’d been general manager since 2007.
The housecleaning by Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, son of team owner Bill Bidwill, followed a season that saw the team start 4-0 but lose 11 of its last 12 to finish 5-11.
The 50-year-old Whisenhunt had more wins than any other coach in Cardinals history, going 45-51, 4-2 in the playoffs. He had a year worth about $5.5 million left on his contract.
Of the team’s three winning seasons the past 28 years, two came with Whisenhunt as coach.
The termination was announced in a brief midday news release, with Michael Bidwill scheduling a 3:30 p.m. MST news conference.
Those dismissed included assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm, offensive coordinator Mike Miller, offensive quality control coach Chad Grimm, quarterbacks coach John McNulty, wide receivers coach Frank Reich and running backs coach Tommie Robinson. Tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens was the only coach on the offensive staff not fired.
None of the defensive coaches were dismissed.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is expected to interview for some of the many NFL head coaching vacancies. Despite its overall lack of success, the team finished among the league leaders in several defensive categories.
Whisenhunt’s six seasons were tied for the longest tenure for a coach in the Cardinals’ long, largely unsuccessful history.
In his second year with the team, the Cardinals finished the regular season 9-7, then mounted a stunning run to the Super Bowl, beating Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia along the way. They lost a thriller to Pittsburgh 27-23 in the Super Bowl in Tampa.
The following season, Arizona won a franchise-record 10 games in the regular season and defeated Green Bay 51-45 in overtime in one of the most exciting playoff games of all time. But the New Orleans Saints pounded the Cardinals 45-14 the following week, and quarterback Kurt Warner decided to retire.
Things were never the same again as Whisenhunt went with an assortment of quarterbacks but could never find the offensive magic that Warner created.
The Cardinals went 5-11 in 2010, but after a 1-6 start regrouped to finish 8-8 in 2011.
Arizona started 2012 at 4-0 but it was a fool’s gold record. The Cardinals lost nine straight and 11 of their last 12 to finish 5-11 for the second time in three seasons.
Quarterback was again the main issue. Most of the success came with Kevin Kolb at the position, but he went down with what turned out to be a season-ending rib injury in Week 6 and, with John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and, in the finale, Brian Hoyer, at the position, and with a woeful running game, Arizona’s was the worst offense in the NFL.
Offense was supposed to be Whisenhunt’s specialty.
The Georgia Tech graduate with a degree in engineering played nine seasons as an NFL tight end.
Whisenhunt worked his way through the coaching ranks to become tight ends coach for the Steelers in 2001 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2004. After three seasons in that job, he was hired in Arizona to replace Dennis Green, who was fired after three losing seasons.
Graves joined the franchise as assistant to the president in 1997. He became vice president for football operations in 2003 and general manager in 2007.
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