Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves have each agreed to new contracts through the 2013 season, the team announced Thursday. Whisenhunt’s deal, which NFL.com reported was worth more than $5 million per season, also has a team option for the 2014 season.
“It speaks volumes to what we are trying to get done,” Whisenhunt said before heading to his evening interviews with potential draftees. “In the three years Rod and I have worked together we have come a long way in terms of building a team. If you look at where the roster was when we started and where it is now … three years later, we are at a point where we feel good about our system.”
Said Graves, “We have a good infrastructure of how we want to work and how we want to build our football team, and it shows the commitment (president) Michael Bidwill has to make sure we stay a playoff contender.”
Whisenhunt becomes the first coach since the franchise moved to Arizona to receive a contract extension, no surprise given the many milestones the Cards have reached under his watch. In three seasons, Whisenhunt has compiled a 27-21 win-loss record, two NFC West titles and a Super Bowl appearance. The Cardinals are 4-2 in the playoffs.
The Cardinals have had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1975-76 and won back-to-back division titles for the first time since 1975-76, winning 13 of 18 NFC West games. In 2009, the Cardinals won 10 games for the first time since 1976 -- with six of those wins coming on the road, the most since 1963.
Graves, who has been with the Cards since 1997, was given his last contract extension the day Dennis Green was fired in 2007. Graves was promoted to vice president of football operations in 2003 and named general manager in 2007, a few weeks before he and Bidwill hired Whisenhunt. Graves serves on the NFL’s General Managers Advisory Committee.
Of the 22 starters for the Cards at the end of the 2009 season, 13 were draft choices during Graves’ tenure and one – center
“The outstanding work of these two individuals has been a vital part of the organization’s accomplishments,” Bidwill said in a statement released by the team. “Rod and his staff have done an exceptional job in evaluating talent and building a roster that will produce sustained success. Obviously Ken Whisenhunt’s achievements as a head coach speak for themselves.
“What the team has accomplished in his three seasons as head coach is a testament to the talent and hard work of Ken and his assistant coaches. We couldn’t be more excited that both Rod and Ken will continue to lead the team for the foreseeable future and build upon the foundation that they helped to establish.”
Whisenhunt said he didn’t really worry about whether a new deal would get done soon, noting that it was only when he was asked about it that he thought about the subject. Once he had the extension, he thought instead of being originally hired by Bidwill in 2007.
“It’s not always easy to give a guy a chance who has never had a head coaching job before,” Whisenhunt said. “I am pleased with what we have done as an organization and as a team since then.”
Whisenhunt’s original contract ran through the 2010 season, although the team held an option for 2011. Graves’ contract was due to expire in a few months.
Thinking of the long process the franchise has gone through since he first arrived, Graves joked, “It beats the alternative.”
“Three years ago, there weren’t as many people wearing Cardinal gear, there weren’t as many fans as there are now, and to me that’s what makes it gratifying what we have done,” Whisenhunt said. “Expectations are high now – people were upset we didn’t go back to the Super Bowl – and that’s the way it should be.”