MORGAN"> MORGAN">

Hot seat? Whisenhunt knows it's all about wins

Fair or not, Whisenhunt hot-seat talk stems from lack of recent success; only one way to change that.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Does Ken Whisenhunt deserve to be on the hot seat?


In a logical, rational world, no. Whisenhunt has already taken the Cardinals to the playoffs twice and the Super Bowl once. In the Cardinals' 19 previous seasons in Arizona, they had made the playoffs just once.


The sixth-year coach has a 4-2 postseason record, has had just one losing season in his previous five years in charge and stayed the course last season after a 1-6 start, helping the Cards flip the script for a 7-2 finish and an 8-8 record.


"How we finished the second half of last year happened partly because he was so cool," said veteran linebacker Clark Haggans, who has played for Whisenhunt for five seasons here and was also on the Steelers team on which Whisenhunt was an assistant.


"There was no panic button. It was just, 'We have to do it better, and we will.'"


Unfortunately for Whisenhunt, the NFL isn't a logical, rational world.


"It's a what-have-you-done-for-me-now kind of league," Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein said.


On some level, Whisenhunt understands this.


"People want to see victories," he said. "That's how they measure it."


At the same time, he doesn't understand why talk has turned to his job security during the offseason.


"There weren't questions when we finished winning seven of our last nine," he said. "We haven't played a game since, and I don't think we've gotten worse as a team, so I just don't understand where that's coming from."


Here's where: The Cardinals haven't been to the playoffs in two seasons. In the instant-gratification world of the NFL, that's more than enough to spark speculation.


For proof, Haggans points to a recent example.


"Look at the Giants," he said. "Before Tom Coughlin won the Super Bowl, they wanted to fire him. They wanted to fire him during the season they won the Super Bowl! This business is brutal."


There's also the matter of quarterback Kevin Kolb. Whisenhunt lobbied hard to bring him here, and the Cards gave up a lot to get him and spent a lot of money to sign him. Whisenhunt's fortunes are tied to Kolb's performance. If Kolb can't turn the corner after a disastrous first season, it will reflect poorly on the coach.


Sendlein said Whisenhunt has the full support and confidence of his players. And for now, Whisenhunt has that same support from team president Michael Bidwill, who was nothing but positive in his public comments about Whisenhunt during last season's horrid start.


Sendlein said Whisenhunt has the full support and confidence of his players. And for now, Whisenhunt has that same support from team president Michael Bidwill, who was nothing but positive in his public comments about Whisenhunt during last season's horrid start.


But how long will that last if the Cards get off to another rocky start, particularly with the latter half of their schedule stacked with five roads games and six games against team that finished .500 or better last season?


"A fast start is important for any team," Sendlein said. "But how we start won't affect how he acts. He never brings that stuff into our focus on Sunday. He doesn't bring any of the outside flack in."


That even-keeled, open-minded approach will be one of Whisenhunt's greatest allies in his quest to solidify his longevity and his status as one the game's best coaches. So, too may be his unwillingness to deviate from the plan in which he believes.


"I'm a little bit old-school. I resist change with a lot of things because I feel like I've been around some pretty good coaches that have had a lot of success in this league, and I like to try to (stick) to that formula," Whisenhunt said.


It's not that he hasn't changed or adapted as his head coaching career has progressed. He's made subtle changes in how he talks to players as well as subtle tweaks in practices and in games.


But "I tried to be consistent, day in day out, with our belief that we were going to be successful," he said of last season's turnaround. "You'd like to think that that had an impact. I don't know if it did."


The 2012 season will tell. And there's only one way Whisenhunt's impact will be measured.


"This job is about winning," he said. "I want to win and the fans want to win, and we're committed to doing that. All the other things, I can't control. All you do is keep your head down and you work."


Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter