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Whisenhunt Reflects On Playcalling

Posted Oct 9, 2009

Notebook: Cardinals should be fully healthy for Texans' game

Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who went back to playcalling this season after the departure of Todd Haley, says he understands the second-guessing that comes with the job.
 
 
Ken Whisenhunt has long said that playcalling is one of the things he most enjoyed about coaching, with the Cardinals’ coach often adding that it’s as close as he can still get to playing the game.

When he surrendered the playcalling duties for good to former offensive coordinator Todd Haley, he admitted it was difficult, and when Haley left to coach Kansas City, he embraced taking the duty back.

But Whisenhunt, who called plays in Pittsburgh before coming to Arizona, knows it’s a job that comes under scrutiny, especially when his team is 1-2.

“It’s something people have opinions about and they are ready to express those opinions,” Whisenhunt said. “I understand that. It’s one gimmick play or one 80-yard touchdown pass or one 50-yard touchdown run from, ‘Hey, that was a good call.’

“I would compare it to playing quarterback in this league. A lot of times you get credit for things you don’t deserve credit for and a lot of times you get blamed for things that aren’t necessarily your fault. As a playcaller you do have to accept responsibility for the plays you call. But you could call a bad play and someone could make a guy miss and you go in for a touchdown. Or you could call a good play, like the one against Washington.”

The Washington play was a two-point conversion attempt in 2007 that featured a pass from Anquan Boldin to Larry Fitzgerald that fell incomplete. Whisenhunt said the play was sound schematically but it wasn’t executed correctly.

“It was certainly under fire for being a bad call because it wasn’t executed right,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s part of it. I still think the enjoyment you get when you make a call that you have schemed and you’ve worked on and you’ve seen it work, is very fulfilling.”

Whisenhunt, who called the plays for the bulk of 2007 before slowly ceding them to Haley, acknowledged it was difficult that year balancing the calling of plays with other head coaching duties. It still isn’t easy, he said, but he is more comfortable in the role than back then.

Asked to give himself a grade as a playcaller this season, Whisenhunt was pragmatic.

“Much like whether you’re good or not (as a team), it’s tied in with your record,” Whisenhunt said. “Our record is 1-2 and I haven’t done a good enough job calling plays. The way I would evaluate myself, and it’s not really anything the media or the public can speculate about, is what our plans have been like. And I think our gameplans and the way we have attacked the opponent have been very good.”

Whisenhunt said he still enjoys the process, although it is hard when the team falls behind like the Cards did against the Colts and he was trying to “find plays that work.”

“It’s always difficult after those games because you always think, ‘What could I have done differently’ as far as calls,” he said.

“Hopefully,” Whisenhunt added, “I will call the good ones this week.”

COUNTING ON A HEALTHY 53

Cornerback Bryant McFadden was added to the injury report Friday with an ankle injury (he is still listed as probable) and five guys – DE Kenny Iwebema (ankle), WR Steve Breaston (knee), DE Darnell Dockett (ankle), G Reggie Wells (thumb) and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (finger) – were officially listed as questionable, but Whisenhunt said he expected to have all 53 players on the roster available for the game against Houston.

It would be the first time that’s happened this season. The Cardinals can only have 45 players active on game day.

“There is always anxiety when you are making those (inactive) choices, whether you’re having tough choices because everybody is healthy or whether you are making choices because of injuries,” Whisenhunt said. “When you have starters that are nicked, that gives you a little indigestion.

“But there are also weeks like this where you have everyone available and you are making decisions knowing someone who may potentially help you win the game may not be active. But I’d rather have it this way. No question about it.”

GAME SELLS OUT, SO NO BLACKOUT

The Cardinals officially sold out their game against the Texans Sunday, making the team 37-for-37 for sellouts at University of Phoenix Stadium and ensuring that the game will be telecast on local television. CBS (Ch. 5) will air the game.
 
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