Whisenhunt An Open Book With Media

Ken Whisenhunt answered Cardinals beat writers questions and the journalists who cover the San Francisco 49ers. He answers questions about Bryant Johnson, the quarterback competition, why he's optimistic about 2008 and much more.

RE: As you guys start the season coming off .500 last year what kind of goals do you have as the regular season starts?

"To improve on last year. I think and once again I was asked that question earlier. I don't think that it's so much the record. I mean that's the easy thing to say. You wanted improvement on the record, but I think you've got to be a better road team. A lot of games we had close finishes that we didn't come out on top of. That's the one thing that we really want to do in that situation and be a less penalized team number one. Number two, play better on the road and number three have a chance and win in those close games in the end that we didn't do last year."

RE: In what ways did you see improvement during the preseason? What gave you reason for optimism?

"I think we are much further along with the team in the system. We are in the second year of the system and I think our players are more comfortable with how we operate. What our expectations are and I think also that our players believe because we finished 8-8, which was the best record a lot of these guys have ever had as Cardinals. I believe we can win doing it that way, so their confidence is up a little bit and we've got…we did do a better job of playing games on the road in the preseason even though I know it was preseason that we won two games on the road. Our penalties were down in a couple games and in a couple they weren't. I think some of the things that we addressed in free agency and in the draft have given us a little better depth, so our competition at positions this summer were more intense, so I think that gives you a better chance also to have a better football team."

RE: When you are deciding who your quarterback is going to be, do you give any thought to the future and how you've got one quarterback who is pretty young, the other one towards the end of his career. Does that enter into your equation or your thinking at all?

"No. I think that it's my job to put the players in there who give us the best chance to win. I think it's our obligation to our ownership, to our fans and even to our team to do that. You are obviously cognizant of your quarterback situation from the standpoint of having a young one that you're going to develop. This team, this organization hasn't won enough games where we can patiently wait on any position. We want to win games now and that is what everything is geared towards."

RE: What are your thoughts on losing Bryant Johnson to a team you face twice a year?

"Disappointed because I like Bryant Johnson. I thought he did a very good job for us last year and would love to still have him on this football team. So, I know it's difficult to have to play him from that standpoint because I think he is a good football player and I think he brought a lot to the team other than just being a good football player. So, from that standpoint, we miss Bryant as well."

RE: Are you talking about his role in the locker room? That sort of thing.

"Yes. His personality. His sense of humor and certainly the way he bonded with his teammates."

RE: You obviously have two guys there who don't need a whole lot of help, but did Bryant Johnson help them on the field produce more than they might have?

"I think he did. I think that last year we had injuries both to Larry [Fitzgerald] and Anquan [Boldin] and he stepped up and did a very good job in both roles when he needed to do it, and then also as our third receiver he had a couple of big catches. He had a catch in the second San Francisco game last year for us. He had a big catch in the Pittsburgh game last year for us. So I can remember some big plays and significant contributions as well."

RE: Is there any part of you that is sort of happy for him that he's getting a chance to play a bigger role than he probably ever would have gotten with the two guys in Arizona in front of him?

"Yes. I'm happy for him as long as he doesn't hurt us too badly, I'm very happy for him. I would have loved to of had him here. We were trying to do that. We were strapped a little bit because we were trying to get it worked out with Larry [Fitzgerald] and we never had a chance to address Bryant before he got the opportunity in San Francisco, but I am happy for him."

RE: Ken, Kurt [Warner] finished awfully strong last year after Matt [Leinart] was hurt. You guys finished strong as a team yet you went back to Matt as your No. 1 early in the spring. What kind of went into the decision to go back to Kurt now? How difficult of a decision was that for you and the organization in general?

"Well it was difficult because we felt both quarterbacks did a very good job of competing and they made that a tough decision on me. That's what you want. We had a number of tough decisions on our football team this year and to me that is an indication that we are improving as a football team, but Matt was our starter. When he got hurt last year, and he was making progress we thought, so I thought it was only fair that he should start out that way. But when it came down to it after everything, you certainly have to factor in Kurt's side and the fact that he played very well for us. Especially, after having been injured and still playing with his ligaments in his left elbow. After everything had been processed. After going through four preseason games and sitting down and just looking at everything, it was a very tough decision and it finally came down to who I felt gave us the best chance to win against San Francisco this week and that was Kurt in my opinion."

RE: Without Bryant Johnson there this year, do you have a different offensive philosophy this year? Can you afford to rely as heavily on the passing game as you have in the past?

"Well, I felt like we had some young guys step up for us. That was one of the big competitions we had in training camp. Steve Breaston had an excellent spring and a very good preseason, and Jeremy Urban did that as well. This business is about the next guy stepping up. Some of the more successful teams that I've been with, that's what happens. You work hard to train all of your guys and when somebody gets their opportunity to step up, if you are going to be a good team, that is what they have to do. We feel very good about Steve and Jeremy Urban and our receivers carrying that load, and I don't think it is going to change our offensive philosophy at all."

RE: Have you seen much of J.T. O'Sullivan in your scouting and kind of what are your early impressions of him?

"Very efficient. I watched all his plays in preseason and he looks like he has very good command of that offense. Makes good decisions and gets the ball out quickly. So I know as far as operating that offense that he'll do a good job especially when you are playing the first game of the season and you don't really have anything on tape because I know there are some things that they haven't shown in the preseason that they are going to do. It always concerns you when you have a quarterback that seems to operate as efficiently as he does." RE: Overall, when you watch the 49ers on film, what do you see? What do you make of this team? How do you think they are set up for this season? "Well you never know when you go into a season and I'm sure everybody feels like they are set up pretty good heading into a season. Everybody starts off 0-0, but I see a team that plays hard. They have a very good special teams unit. Their offense made some big plays in the preseason and their defense I thought was improving last year and I don't see any difference this year as far as playing physical, playing smart. They do a good job of playing their techniques. [Patrick] Willis runs around and makes a lot of plays, so it's going to be a good challenge for us. Really a tough test." RE: That play last year when he ran down Sean Morey, what did you think of that play? "You know I thought it was a huge play. Ultimately…You can't say it was the game-winner, but if he had not caught Sean, the game would have been over right there. So it did make that difference, even though he did miss the field goal. I was stunned that he had the ability to make that play, especially as a rookie. I guess I shouldn't say I was surprised, but he is definitely a guy that you have to account for and he's a good young player, and I'm sure the 49ers are excited about his future with them. I'm not excited about having to play against him two times this year, that's for sure."

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