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It wasn’t Ken Whisenhunt’s good lucks or charming personality that got him the head coaching gig in Arizona two years ago; it was his play-calling as the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. Whisenhunt kept those chores for himself in his first year at the Cardinals’ helm, but last year he ceded the duties to Todd Haley. And now that Haley has a head coaching job of his own in Kansas City, Whisenhunt has indicated he’ll go back to calling the plays.
The Whisenator will have help; Russ Grimm, who followed him from Pittsburgh, will coordinate the running game and receivers coach Mike Miller will do the same for the passing game. And the plan is for Whisenhunt to groom one or maybe both to take play-calling off his plate somewhere down the road.
“I don’t think there is going to be anything different as far as how they work together or the way our offensive plans are put together,” Whisenhunt said in a published report. “I’m very please with where we are right now as a staff.”
So for the time being, it will be Whisenhunt in Kurt Warner’s ear.
Not that the Cardinals’ numbers were dramatically different from 2007 to 2008 despite the change in play-callers. Under Haley the Cards threw 65% of the time, Arizona running backs ranked 27th in fantasy scoring while wide receivers ranked first and the quarterback ranked second; tight ends ranked dead last in fantasy scoring.
The previous year, Arizona threw 60% of the time, running backs ranked 27th, wideouts ranked second, quarterbacks ranked fourth, and tight ends ranked 25th.
In other words, don’t expect a huge shift in philosophy.
That said, the Cardinals did draft Chris Wells in hopes of upgrading that running game. While it’s unlikely the rookie brings enough to the table to swing Whisenhunt’s play-calling back to the run-first—63% of the time—mentality he had with the Jerome Bettis-era Steelers, something closer to the 47%:53% run/pass ratio Whisenhunt had in his final (non-Bettis) year in Pittsburgh doesn’t seem out of the question.
And before you hit the panic button on Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, or Anquan Boldin, note that Steeler quarterbacks ranked ninth in fantasy scoring and wideouts eighth; running backs held onto their top-10 perch, clocking in at nine. In other words, he’s more than willing to adapt to the talent at hand. Moreover, he doesn’t have a Steelers-like defense to allow him to grind out yards on the ground.
If Wells picks up the pro game quickly, an improved Cardinals ground game may siphon off a few of Warner’s 15 TD passes from inside the five—so it’s worth noting that eight of those went to Fitzy. But essentially these are still the same Cardinals fantasy owners have grown to love, and Whisenhunt won’t turn his back on his bread and butter.