The promotion of Mike Miller

Posted by Darren Urban on February 16, 2011 – 10:30 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt will be talking to the media later today about his restructured coaching staff now that the Cards are done moving around pieces, but the news Mike Miller has been promoted to offensive coordinator — I’m sure — comes as a relief to many fans.

What does it mean?

Again, Whisenhunt will be talking about this, but I don’t know exactly how much is going to change, or significantly change. Miller was already taking turns calling plays on Sundays. Whether or not Russ Grimm remains “running game coordinator” or not probably doesn’t matter either. He’s still going to have significant say in building that game plan; I remember a couple of years ago standing in an Indianapolis hotel lobby with Grimm after we had both arrived at the scouting combine and the news had been released that “running game coordinator” had been added to his title. Grimm just kind of smiled and said it wasn’t a big deal, because his role wasn’t really changing. I expect the same now.

I also don’t really think (and I know I’m gonna hear about this from some of you) that Whisenhunt calling plays — when he was calling plays — really affected him as a head coach during games. You know what did affect him on game days? Quarterback play (among other things). And it’s going to directly impact Mike Miller too.

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Whiz talks change

Posted by Darren Urban on January 3, 2011 – 11:42 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt just had his season-ending presser. Change is coming, he said — “When you go 5-11 … it has to be that way” — but he was short on specifics. Not a shock. Whisenhunt isn’t going to call people out publicly. Never has been his style.

–Very interesting comment from Whisenhunt about how “sometimes you get emotionally attached to players and what they have done for you in the past.”

“You may have a tendency to overlook certain things … When you win games, sometimes you let things slip a little bit, ‘OK, he didn’t make this play, he’ll make it the next time.’ That builds up over time and you start evaluating players based on what you remember them doing a year or two or three or four ago and maybe not candidly assessing where they are right now. That’s an easy trap to fall into … and you have to work past that.

So be more cold-hearted? “There’s a fine line there.”

As for players who underachieved this season, that has to change. “Their goodwill is used up.” And as for the “star” players, “Some of our best players didn’t play at their best.”

Let the speculation begin on which players about whom he is speaking.

I know this, that safety Adrian Wilson said while some players cared, some didn’t. He said sometimes, it was “hidden” to many. Asked if he could still see it, Wilson said “I’ve been here 10 years. I’ve seen a lot of bull(bleep).”

— There is a story out there saying WR coach John McNulty was the front-runner for the University of Miami offensive coordinator job. Whisenhunt said McNulty said he has not been contacted about the position. It’s just a rumor for now.

— Speaking of the coaching staff, Whisenhunt said he wasn’t saying anything less than 24 hours removed from the last game. “We have started the process already of evaluating and we are going to evaluate everything (including coaches). I know there will be changes, I don’t know what that will encompass, but we are going to work to make sure we don’t have another season like this.”

Something to keep in mind: With the labor uncertainty and the possibility the offseason could be lost, Whisenhunt said teams must be careful about new coaches and new schemes because there’s a chance there will only be three weeks or so to implement anything new, rather than a whole offseason. That’s a factor right now.

— Passing game coordinator Mike Miller could end up as the playcaller next season. But Whisenhunt, asked if he thought his own playcalling made it hard for him to manage the big picture, noted the 10 wins the Cards had in 2009 when he was calling plays. “What you have to be careful about is basing it off of one season (this season). I don’t feel like it does (hurt us).”

— Whisenhunt didn’t change his thoughts on the handling of the quarterback situation, after being asked directly about having regrets or second-guessing on the situation. “I think we were fair and honest about the process.”

He was asked if he felt Matt Leinart would have provided more wins.

“That’s a question I don’t think can ever be answered,” Whisenhunt said. “I did what I felt was in the best interest of our team at the time. It was based on performance, it was based on the reaction of the team to the players and who was in there and the confidence our team had in the position being able to execute. That’s what it was all about. It was based on the work in the offseason and the work in OTAs and training camp. That’s the way you have to evaluate players. Who knows? It’s a question that can’t be answered, but I am sure it is a popular topic.”

— LB Clark Haggans (sports hernia) and CB Michael Adams (shoulder) are the two players scheduled for offseason surgery for now.

Here’s a shot of Wilson and Kerry Rhodes wrapping things up. More later today on the homepage.

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Injuries, illness and stepping away

Posted by Darren Urban on December 23, 2010 – 2:00 pm

Linebacker Joey Porter (tricep) and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring) improved a bit and coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was encouraged by their efforts. “Whether that means they play Saturday, that’ll be tough,” Whisenhunt said. The players seem matter-of-fact about their situations — “Can’t do nothing about it,” Porter said — although with only two games left, there has to be optimism they can at least return for the San Francisco game, because otherwise, the team might just find another option and put them on injured reserve.

— Quarterback Derek Anderson and tight end Stephen Spach also were absent today because they were ill. But in the spirit of the season, Whisenhunt, while talking about Anderson, deadpanned “it wasn’t reported like Tom Brady was, when he was out with the flu, but it’s a similar situation.”

— Whisenhunt touched on the notion of giving some playcalling duties to passing game coordinator Mike Miller, saying it is a natural progression that will only continue to grow for Miller.

“There are a lot of things going on on game day you have to be on top of, and fortunately we have a number of good coaches on the staff to help with that,” Whisenhunt said. “I get a lot of personal satisfaction when you call good plays or call a game with good success. That’s part of what I have done successfully for a number of years and it’s hard to step away from that.”

— The next-to-last Big Red Rage is tonight. Adrian Wilson’s guest is kicker Jay Feely for the broadcast, which is live at 6 p.m. at Majerle’s Sports Grill at Chandler Fashion Center (give yourself time withe the traffic, if you plan on going). It will be aired live on Sports 620 KTAR (and also streamed live right here).

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Play-calling now Miller time (sometimes)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 20, 2010 – 8:52 pm

As both Mike Jurecki and Kent Somers reported today (man, where was I?), passing game coordinator Mike Miller has been calling some of the plays, with coach Ken Whisenhunt still calling some. I had heard a few weeks ago Miller had been involved in calling some stuff; I don’t know how it splits up or whether Miller’s involvement has grown.

Whisenhunt didn’t make a big deal about it because, obviously, playcalling has been a source of, let’s call it consternation, for many fans. Miller (pictured below with ESPN’s Suzy Kolber) is being brought into the job like Whiz did with Todd Haley (after Bill Cowher did it with Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh). It was always the plan to let Miller get to this point; Whisenhunt said he eventually wanted to do so when Miller was promoted after Haley left following the Super Bowl appearance.

I remember too that Haley got some chances to call some plays later in 2007, but that it stayed under the radar until Whisenhunt talked about it in the offseason prior to 2008 (It was important for Haley for people to know he was calling plays. Sometimes, that news didn’t travel quite as quickly as he would have liked).

The first thing I think of is this: No matter who is calling plays, you still need a good quarterback, something for which the Cards are searching. The other is the fact that Whisenhunt is going to be the driving offensive mind as coach. No matter who is coordinating the offense and/or calling plays, it’s still going to be Whiz’s philosophy. It’s his team.

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Friday before the Bucs

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2010 – 4:55 pm

At first, John Skelton thought I was joking. He came off the field Friday and I asked him if he had a minute, and he never thought the request was serious. But it was. He’s a popular guy these days with many fans and with the quarterback roller-coaster the Cards have been on.

Still, the fifth-round quarterback with the big arm and Fordham pedigree seems far removed from playing anytime soon, with fellow rookie Max Hall getting his chance and veteran Derek Anderson sitting in the No. 2 spot.

“Before the season started, (QB coach) Chris Miller and (passing game coordinator) Mike Miller each told me to prepare like I was going to be the starter,” Skelton said. “Pay attention like I was going to play, and that’s what I have been doing since the beginning.

“I really don’t listen to what the fans say or the media says. I am just trying to keep my head down and keep working.”

And what if he did have to play this season? I suppose it wouldn’t be a surprise if I said Skelton wouldn’t be worried if he did (and even though coaches have seen him as a long-term project and not 2010-ready).

“I think as far as mentally knowing everything, I think I’d be fine,” Skelton said. “But it’s the same thing Max faced when he first went in, your first go-round with no experience, so … we’ll see what happens if I ever do get that call.”

I don’t think he will. Not this season, barring disaster. No offense to John, but I’m kinda hoping that doesn’t happen.

— So Beanie is the starter. What will it mean? Well, if Beanie gets real hot early, he could be in the 30-carry range assuming the Cards have success. If there is a normal rhythm to the offense/game, Tim Hightower is still going to be a solid part of the game plan.

— By the way, for those complaining that Wells’ stats are skewed because of eight men in the box defensively when he goes in the game, he wasn’t using that as an excuse. “We’re running the ball successfully with the 8-man boxes, so I don’t see it as a big issue,” Beanie said.

— I find it interesting that, given the Cards’ offensive woes, they are tied with the Buccaneers – Sunday’s opponent – for 29th in the NFL with 16.3 points per game. And neither of these teams have a losing record.

— The Bucs don’t have a lot of sacks, so maybe that can bode well for Max Hall this week. Then again, the Bucs are so porous with the run defense, teams aren’t throwing against them much. Can Beanie ball make that work?

— It comes down to turnovers, in all likelihood. The Cards can’t give the ball away. That’s why they lost in Seattle, regardless of how poorly Hall played. Beanie needs to hold on to the ball. This is his moment to shine, I think.

— I have no idea why, especially since a) the passing game is struggling and b) there seems to be this probability the Cards work the run game. But I have this feeling Fitz has his first 100-yard game Sunday (and if it turns out to be Steve Breaston instead, I’m OK with that).

— Darnell Dockett was fined $15,000 for his fourth-quarter late hit in Seattle (the one that extended a late drive and basically nailed the Cards’ coffin). There were no fines levied on the the Seahawks who looked like they might have hit Hall with a helmet-to-helmet shot.

Well, the Cardinals haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2008. They have shifted the running back depth chart. Hall should be in a better place now that he’s at home. The defense is coming around (and playing an offense that isn’t exactly the Greatest Show on Turf, although they are the best team in the NFC). Plus, the Cards have got the black unis for Halloween. Just don’t let things get any more scary than they need to — right Beanie?

Until Sunday …

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Hall gets zinged

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2010 – 1:41 pm

Last night, coach Ken Whisenhunt preached caution with rookie quarterback Max Hall. It seems the coaches — with some help from the media relations staff — did their best to get that message with Hall. Hall was asked to do a TV interview during the game (after he was out) and was hesitant to do it. But he was assured it was OK, and he did one. Moments later, quarterbacks coach Chris Miller came over and told Hall he needed to call upstairs to passing game coordinator Mike Miller right away.

Miller told Hall he had played well, but then told him angrily and in no uncertain terms Hall shouldn’t have been doing an interview, as it was a selfish act and not about the team. It was going to cost Hall a $1,000 fine, Miller told him, and that Hall needed to go back and talk to Chris Miller and arrange exactly how that was going to happen. Hall freaked out — “I was like a deer in the headlights,” he said — until he went back to Chris Miller, who couldn’t keep himself from laughing.

Hall said he hoped next year, when he wasn’t a rookie anymore, he might be able to repay the prank. For now, it was a sack he had to endure.

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Final draft thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2010 – 3:26 pm

Well, I don’t think anything could have prepared anyone for today’s final day of the draft Cardinals-wise. Heck, when the O’Brien Schofield story came down — stud pass rusher who just ripped up his knee three months ago — I was just happy there was something interesting to write about. Then the Cardinals traded cornerback Bryant McFadden. Then they took a quarterback. Then we’re in the press room trying to find stats on CB Jorrick Calvin, not realizing at first he didn’t play in 2009. Even the last pick, Stanford tight end Jim Dray, had his own backstory — in 2007 covering a punt, he tore the ACL, MCL, LCL meniscus and hamstring in his left leg. Yikes.

Stories galore. But before I rush off to coach my son’s basketball game (yes, thank you NFL for hustling through this last day), some kibbles and bits I didn’t get to elsewhere:

— Calvin is intriguing. Coach Ken Whisenhunt even said the fact he didn’t play in 2009 probably helped the Cards wait until the sixth round to get him. You like the idea he took responsibility — “I had to live with the consequences,” Calvin said when he didn’t turn in an assignment and was flunked. “It was all my fault.” — and Whiz and Rod Graves sounded sure they knew what they were getting. It helped that Troy assistant coach Maurea Crain took part in training camp last year as part of the NFL’s minority coach intern program. They reached out to Crain and got all the info they needed on Calvin.

— That said, I wonder like everyone about cornerback depth. I do think Greg Toler was going to end up as the starter, so that part doesn’t concern me when it comes to the McFadden trade. And knowing McFadden was supposed to make almost $5 M catches your eye. Will they sign a vet? I think they will consider it. And this may end up being a situation where they nab a guy when final cuts come at the end of training camp too, a la Jeremy Bridges last year.

— The Cards sent both Mike Miller and Chris Miller from the coaching staff to work out QB John Skelton about 10 days ago. I was hearing his name connected with this team since the combine. I think they’ve liked him for a while. And he them. “In the back of my mind I always thought I would be a Cardinal.”

— I can’t see Brian St. Pierre signing now, though. I think the Cards get an undrafted rookie arm, but between Skelton and the work needed for both Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson, I don’t know how many reps a fourth QB would even get. And I don’t see anyone beating out the two vets and a draft pick for a roster spot either.

— Dray, on his injuries: “I knew coming back from a big knee injury like that, my way to get back on the field wasn’t going to be running double move routes or deep routes because my knee wasn’t up to that level. I knew I would have to come in right away and try to get back on the field blocking.”

— After listening to Schofield this morning, it’s tough not to feel good about the pick and what he’ll do to return to his pass-rushing ways. You look at the numbers — 12 sacks, 24 tackles for loss — and you can understand why the Cards took a chance. And coming back from ACLs isn’t the same as it used to be. I remember covering Kyle Vanden Bosch back in 2001-2003 when he blew out his knee twice and look how he turned out after he left. It takes so much less time to recover too. Whisenhunt pointed out that when he played in the 1980s, you put a guy in a cast for six weeks after tearing an ACL, and then going from there. Schofield was walking around the combine without a limp about a month after his injury.

OK, that’s all for now. I’ve gotta go. I’m sure there will be much more to talk about soon. I’ll monitor the comments on the blog, but otherwise, I’m off until Monday.

Unless the Cards make another trade … or news of their undrafted guys leak … who am I kidding. I’ll probably write again tomorrow.

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