"When the Cardinals are ashes, then you have my permission to cry."
That isn't really what Bane said in the film The Dark Knight Rises, but it sure seems to be how Cardinals fans feel head coach Ken Whisenhunt is treating them. That, or I just saw way too many commercials for the movie's Blu Ray release during the Cards game Sunday.
It's not to say Whisenhunt is a bad guy, because he's not. By all accounts he has done plenty to help the community during his time in the Valley. But like Batman's main foil in the latest film, he's very stubborn and set in his ways.
That attitude has caused much success including two division titles -- their first since coming to Arizona -- a Super Bowl appearance -- the first in franchise history -- and the emergence of one of the most prolific quarterback and wide receiver combos in franchise and league history in Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald.
That same attitude, however, has led to a former Heisman winner and first round pick losing his mojo and becoming no more effective than Stoney Case (look it up if you aren't old enough to remember him, Cards fans). He took the same receiver he helped make a star and turned him into a guy with really cool dreads and very few touchdowns. He's the reason we wondered what was so funny to Derek Anderson, how moxy qualified Max Hall to be anything other than a short guy with a good attitude, made John Skelton a bigger joke than Red Skelton ever had in his act (maybe that was what Anderson was laughing about) and proved to be "Lindsane" thinking a sixth-round rookie could be the answer under center.
He's provided the one thing that Cardinals fans have longed for over the years, hope, and has taken it away just as fast. A theme the Gotham City villain had thoughts on as well.
"I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope... I will feed its people hope to poison their souls. I will let them believe they can survive so that you can watch them clamoring over each other to 'stay in the sun.'"
Whisenhunt obviously isn't doing this consciously. As a matter of fact, it has been an unfortunate byproduct of his inability to adapt to certain situations and make necessary changes. But the bottom line is, for fans, the effect is the same.
Franchise-record winning streaks followed by franchise-defining losing streaks give fans hope and then teach them great despair in the span of a calendar year. (Although, thanks to many Sundays spent at Sun Devil Stadium, they fight to stay out of the sun now.)
While the answer in the film was to rid the city of the man causing this phenomenon, for the Cardinals franchise, there seems to be a few different paths to salvation.
The first would be to set up a structure in which Whisenhunt can change his ways. One where his "guys" on the coaching staff (Russ Grimm and Mike Miller to name a couple) are asked to leave. Replacing them with experienced or creative coaches (paging Kurt Warner) more capable of shaping and molding the positions they oversee.
One where Ray Horton is handsomely rewarded for turning the team's defense, once a joke, into its strength. And finally one where deciding on who the team's quarterback of the future will be is more than a gut feeling that changes every four weeks. It would also require focusing on an offensive line that has been more neglected than the city of Detroit in the draft and free agency and finding an offensive identity.
The other option is starting completely over with a new staff and vision. Something that could be just as difficult as the first option.
What it comes down to is if the franchise and its fans don't want to see their beloved Cardinals who had finally found a way to be successful in Arizona reduced to ashes, something has to change.
The question is, what will it be?