Nothing after seven Cardinal games shakes my initial opinion — not the 0-4 preseason, not the 1-2 start.
The Cardinals made a good hire. Ken Whisenhunt is a good football coach. If given the time, resources and room to blossom (which, too often, is too much to ask around here) he will finally nudge this franchise back on the same lap as the rest of the NFL.
I still think it won’t happen this year (that 5-11 prediction is eerily on the beam after Week 3), but the wins are coming. And Whisenhunt did exactly the right thing after Sunday’s painful 26-23 loss to the Ravens. He stood solidly behind Matt Leinart as his quarterback, even after Kurt Warner was brilliant in the hurry-up offense and nearly stole a game on the road.
It’s the right move for several reasons:
• Leinart has played better at home, and the Steelers visit this week. If he falters — the Steelers play a gambling defense similar to the Ravens — the hurry-up with Warner is a nice change-of-pace option. And it keeps Pittsburgh from keying on just one QB this week.
• Beating the 3-0 Steelers is a tall order and completes a rough first quarter of the schedule. After that, the Cardinals go to St. Louis (0-3 and now without Steven Jackson) and host Carolina (2-1). If you are going to make the switch, give Warner a better chance for immediate success.
• You can only switch horses once, so you don’t play that Card too quickly. If you go to Warner and he struggles against the Steelers or gets hurt — a real possibility, given his track record and mobility issues — then what? “Hey Mattie! You’re our boy!”
Warner is a pro’s pro, but he’s dying to play. He’s looked good all through training camp. He could be a real weapon as a “relief pitcher” in the old Don Strock/Doug Flutie mold. And if Leinart doesn’t force Whisenhunt’s hand by imploding, the 1-2 punch — for now — wouldn’t be the worst thing.
The Devil’s in the details
I don’t know if there was a better way for the Sun Devils to beat Oregon State. The win showcased both the glaring weaknesses early that need work and the obvious strengths that could carry this team to a major bowl. No 4-0 team should be less impressed with how it got there, but still encouraged by the flashes of lightning.
Rudy Carpenter had a great game Saturday — throwing for 361 yards and four bombs, not counting the one he dropped during a colorful postgame radio interview. Watch those audibles, Rudy.
• All three Cardinal games have been decided by a field goal in the final seconds. And for the third time, Arizona asked its defense to make a play at the end. In the opener, a 49ers team that had 100 yards of total offense drove the length of the field to win on the final drive. Against Seattle, the defense forced the game-winning fumble. And Sunday, Baltimore backup Kyle Boller — who is no Warner, folks — pushed the team downfield far enough to ruin a great comeback.
• I can guarantee you this — Michigan won’t be scheduling Wofford College any time soon. The Spartanburg, S.C., liberal arts school beat Appalachian State 42-31 on Saturday, as the Terriers showed the Mountaineers what it felt to be a Wolverine earlier this month.
• After the Eagles hung 56 points on the Lions Sunday, do we have to prepare to see more of those hideous powder blue-and-gold uniforms? That’s one game that NFL Films should de-colorize.
• To NFL pundits everywhere: OK if we play the rest of the season and playoffs and, you know, see what happens before crowning the Patriots as champions?
• Fantasy draftniks, how are those “must-have” running backs doing so far? LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and Steven Jackson have one 100-yard game between them. Meanwhile, the guys who went against the grain and took quarterbacks like Jon Kitna and Carson Palmer are cashing in.
• How bad is Brian Griese, if Bears coaches won’t play him instead of Rex Grossman?
• With the help of fans jumping on the playoff bandwagon, the Diamondbacks sold 124,576 single-game tickets during the final 20 games of the home schedule. With the team’s vow to donate $5 a ticket to children’s charities (including the United Way), the final tote was a tidy $622,880.