If there is a certainty surrounding Sunday’s Packers vs. Cardinals NFC wild card first round football clash, it’s that Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt will emerge from the fray either a sheer genius or a gridiron dunce.
He’s sandwiched there because of his decision last Sunday — in the Cards’ 33-7 regular season ending loss to the Packers — to play most of his reserves after the first quarter and go with a vanilla game plan.
Apparently Whisenhunt reasoned nothing much was at stake in the game, so the best strategy was to allow his players to just go through the motions.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy obviously reasoned differently, and had his charges playing as if the game was the Super Bowl.
What resulted was the Packers manhandling the Cards, giving Whisenhunt his most lopsided home loss in his three seasons at Arizona.
The Cards also lost a chunk of dignity.
Most disturbing about the defeat: it didn’t appear as if the Cardinals were putting up much of a fight and would rather have been somewhere else.
Half-hearted football doesn’t set well with Cardinals fans, who were exposed to that type of lackluster play when the team first arrived in Arizona from St. Louis.
More fuel was thrown on the strategy fire in the days following Arizona’s loss when some in the Cardinals camp suggested McCarthy left his starters in the game to help pad their statistics.
Specifically, the stats of quarterback Aaron Rodgers who was throwing on most every down on the first drive of the second half, even though the Packers led 26-0.
McCarthy didn’t pull his star signal caller from the game until Rodgers had passed Bret Favre for second place on the Packers’ all-time single season passing yardage list.
Just how much Green Bay’s rout of the Cards means depends on who’s asked.
I don’t pretend to know much about professional football players or coaches, but from where this old high school football coach stands, the Packers are clutching a psychological edge hold card.
It seems to me, it’s tough for players to go in and take on a foe that only a week earlier humiliated you in front of a home crowd. A stinging loss gives players a lot to think about — and question — during the practice week.
Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings is of my mindset. He’s been quoted as saying, “We definitely feel like we have momentum, to come here to win in this fashion. I forgot what the score was — a lot to a little.”
Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett believes the results meant nothing.
He’s said the game “kind of really didn’t mean anything.”
So, who is correct, Jennings or Dockett? We won’t know until late Sunday evening when the game results splash across television screens.
We do know, however, if the Cards rebound from last week’s loss to beat the Packers, Whisenhunt will be mentioned in the same breath with Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and George Halas.
If the Packers again dominate Arizona, Whisenhunt’s decision to rest his starters and downplay the final regular season game will go down as one of the most ill thought out strategies in professional football playoff history.
Hence, Whisenhunt’s coaching wisdom will be questioned despite his turning the Cards from laughingstocks to NFC champs since his arrival in 2007.