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The Perception Problem


Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt talks to quarterback Kurt Warner during Thursday night's 48-20 loss in Philadelphia.

Ken Whisenhunt looked a little weary Friday. It had been a long week.

After two difficult games in four days before his team landed in Arizona about 5:15 a.m., the Cardinals coach was holding a press conference on virtually no sleep to talk about the disastrous loss just hours before in Philadelphia. Eventually, the talk came around to the Cards again failing to win back East and,


Darren Urban

in the bigger picture, the view of the team from the outside. The two losses to the Giants and the Eagles have seemed to convince many Arizona?s impending NFC West championship ? at 7-5, they clinch if the 49ers lose in Buffalo Sunday ? is without substance, given the weakness of the rest of the division.

?There are a lot of perceptions about the Cardinals,? Whisenhunt said. ?We?ve changed a number of those perceptions this year. I believe we will have the opportunity to change that one.

?We didn?t do anything to change it last night. The only way we are going to change those perceptions is to go into those types of situations and be successful.?

There is no spinning the Cards? showing Thanksgiving night. They played poorly. It was there for everyone to see, as if the 48-20 score didn?t drive it home.

Yet the season did not end.

The NFL has a unique set of circumstances because of its setup, a notion I have discussed with my reporter peers more than a few times. The one-game-a-week scheduling fuels the emotion for each matchup. The buildup for every game is probably overdone. A win never means quite as much as it is painted to deliver; a loss is never quite as crushing.

Something Whisenhunt said Friday resonated with me. I brought up Anquan Boldin?s statements after the game, how Boldin took the blame for the loss, and asked how as a coach you might have to make sure a player doesn?t get too down or take a loss too personally.

It is tough after such a game on a player who worn down physically and likely mentally a little and then is answering questions. ?Your emotions take over,? Whisenhunt said.

That doesn?t surprise me (and fans are the same way, judging by those I have heard from). Whisenhunt said a number of players were in the same state of mind as Boldin after the game.

?Because of that I am encouraged about our football team,? Whisenhunt said. ?They weren?t happy, they weren?t going to accept it. A good many of them expressed that to me. I didn?t sense they were discouraged or down, the biggest thing they were disappointed and hurt because they let our fans and their teammates down.

?That to me shows signs of coming together as a football team. There is accountability there and that?s important.?

The Cardinals aren't playing their best football right now, but having covered the team for almost a decade, I have seen bad football. This doesn't qualify.

Look, we all know what this team faces over the next six weeks or so. Despite those who think otherwise, I?m not blind to the Cardinals? issues or try to spin away from them. They have to find a way to run the ball. They have to be much more consistent on defense. At some point, they have to knock off a good team on the road ? preferably in the East. The Cards will get another crack at such a mountain in late December when they travel to New England.

It isn?t unfair to doubt them as a contender.

Whisenhunt is a smart man. He too knows what the Cards are facing, what their shortcomings are, what they must accomplish -- even if his public thoughts aren?t always what the fans want to hear. That isn?t propaganda; that?s the reality most coaches in the NFL live within.

Whisenhunt acknowledged the Cardinals are going to have to travel East in the playoffs and win on the road to accomplish any of their bigger dreams. But that?s something else Whisenhunt reminded everyone Friday ? the Cardinals are going to make the playoffs, and that?s one of the hardest parts of the equation.

Usually, that?s a practical impossibility by this time of year.

The Cardinals were not good in Philadelphia, but Whisenhunt mentioned at one point Friday that after watching the film, everything wasn?t negative. He was then asked for specifics, and he started by saying the Cards were flagged only once for a penalty.

?Another positive was we got in at 5:15 this morning when a lot of the stores were opening and we stopped the bus coming back and got some of our Friday shopping in,? Whisenhunt deadpanned, drawing laughs.

?You always,? Whisenhunt added with a smile, ?look for positives.?

It?s not easy to do right now. But consider the alternative.

Contact Darren Urban at Posted 11/28/08.

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