Is Whisenhunt status shaky as bad season worsens?

The Arizona Cardinals offense has been bad this season, but

never worse than it was on Sunday.

Its performance in the 7-6 loss to the New York Jets was among

the worst in the team’s history, and that’s saying something for a

franchise that’s had a lot of bad Sundays.

The team had five first downs, tied for fewest in franchise

history, was 0 for 15 on third-down conversions and gained 137

yards, 40 of them on a fake punt. The Cardinals gained 22 yards in

the second half.

Still, coach Ken Whisenhunt stayed with rookie quarterback Ryan

Lindley, refusing to reinsert John Skelton, benched by the coach

three games ago.

Now the Arizona losing streak has reached eight games, matching

the franchise’s longest in 68 years.

Exceedingly popular among fans for bringing the Cardinals to the

Super Bowl in the 2008 season, and to the NFC West crown the

following year, Whisenhunt finds himself the subject of the fans’

wrath. Speculation is mounting that he might not return for the

final year of his contract.

He said Monday that he has too much else on his mind to be

concerned about his job status.

”It takes enough energy focused in trying to win, to turn it

back around,” Whisenhunt said. ”You can’t worry about things you

can’t control.”

Team President Michael Bidwill, the owner’s son, has not spoken

publicly about the situation.

Whisenhunt is among the highest-paid coaches in the NFL, due to

make $5.7 million next year, and the Bidwill family is not known

for tossing around that kind of money, although the ownership has

proven to be far more generous recent seasons, especially since the

University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006.

Arizona has sold out every home game since then, but the fan

base is shaky and that string is in serious doubt, if not for the

next home game against Detroit, then certainly for next year.

The team’s offensive woes this season have stemmed in large part

from injuries, particularly to left tackle Levi Brown, quarterback

Kevin Kolb and, most recently, center Lyle Sendlein, who was sorely

missed against the Jets.

Yet with the defense playing so well, it’s particularly

maddening to fans to watch the offense stagnate.

Lindley completed 10 of 31 passes for 72 yards with one

interception and, obviously, no touchdowns. Twenty-three of those

yards came on a pass to Larry Fitzgerald the second play of the

game. Fitzgerald never caught another pass all day.

On Monday, Whisenhunt wouldn’t commit to staying with Lindley in

next Sunday’s game at Seattle, against one of the NFL’s best

defenses in one of the league’s toughest environments for a

visiting team.

”We’ve got to look at it with the players today and understand

why we had the breakdowns we did,” he said, ”why we weren’t

successful on some of these plays, and then we will decide from

that point.”

The best scenario would be the return of Kolb, who was the

quarterback when the team got off to a 4-0 start but who went down

with a rib injury that has sidelined him for six games. Kolb has

practiced on a limited basis the past two weeks but the injury, to

cartilage at the top of his rib cage, is particularly iffy.

Asked if there was any realistic chance of Kolb playing in

Seattle, Whisenhunt said, ”the only way we will know is when he

can do it in practice.”

”He is making progress,” Whisenhunt said. ”Until we can get

out there and see that he can make the throws and be able to do

those kinds of things, then we’ll know.”

Skelton, who beat out Kolb for the starting job in the preseason

only to go down with an ankle injury in the opener, said he hopes

Whisenhunt hasn’t lost confidence in him. Skelton said he was ready

to come into the game whenever the coach told him to on Sunday. As

things got worse on the field, his desire to play grew, he


”Every bit of my being I wanted to play, that was going into

the week, too. It’s not just on Sunday,” Skelton said. ”I think

anyone in the locker room wants to play. No one wants to sit on the

sideline. When you see things going the way they did, it kind of

makes you champ at the bit a little more.”

Whisenhunt said he thought about switching quarterbacks, but

decided Lindley gave the team the best chance of winning. Others

watching the game found that conclusion hard to understand.

The team that did switch quarterbacks, the Jets, mounted the

game’s only touchdown drive with backup Greg McElroy at the


Whisenhunt said he understands the fans’ ire about the

quarterback decision.

”But we didn’t help Ryan out very much yesterday,” the coach

said. ”We had a lot of areas where we had problems. We are looking

for the right combination to be more effective offensively. We

talked about on the sideline, we talked about what was going on in

the game, and we felt it was a combination of a number of things,

not just the quarterback.”

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