Whisenhunt Talks Hangover, Christmas, Etc.

Ken Whisenhunt denies he's found the cure for the Super Bowl hangover, but he does admit that his team is showing many signs of maturity despite not showing up with their A-game. Whisenhunt talks these topics and more when he fielded questions at a recent press conference.

(On how much it means to be NFC West Champions again since most teams that lose in the Super Bowl struggle the next season)

Ken Whisenhunt: "It means a lot to us. As much as we heard about that coming into the season, about teams that had lost in the Super Bowl and the failure to have success, we were getting beat up by that a lot. For us to be able to come out and not start as well as we would have liked and still overcome that. It means a lot to me personally and certainly our team and it is a credit to the hard work our guys have put in."

(On how much last season has affected this season)

"There is no question. I think the biggest effect was obviously having success in the playoffs and that kind of gave you the confidence that we could do it. I think last year going 9-7 was certainly a boost. I think we went 8-8 the first year and I it gave us a little confidence rolling into last year. Winning the division, going 6-0 in the division kind of set the table for use. I think what really probably put us over the top was going against the teams we did in the playoffs and beating them, gave us the confidence that we could do it consistently. That I'm sure helped us."

(On where he was the last time the Cardinals repeated as division champions in 1975)

"I was probably in about third or fourth grade."

(On if he found a cure for the ‘Super Bowl hangover')

"No, I have not. I don't know that I have found a cure. I hope I can see if I can do after we win a Super Bowl because that losing the Super Bowl thing is kind of tough. But I really think that every team is different and there's no doubt in my mind that going into the playoffs last year when everybody was saying that we were the worst playoff team in the history and that we weren't going to be able to do anything in the playoffs.

I really think that helped develop a mental toughness with our team that allowed us to get through this season with some wins. When people were telling us you have no chance to win this year because you lost the Super Bowl, I think we looked back at happened in the playoffs when what happened in the playoffs when everybody said you couldn't do anything in the playoffs and we were able to do it and I'm sure that helped us. I think that we have hopefully just made strides as a team becoming mentally, a tougher squad."

(On how he keeps the team focused on Sunday's game when they have clinched a playoff spot and with the holidays)

"I think it's a division opponent and you always know what can happen in division games. It's kind of like rivalry weekend in college football, you saw how many upsets or how many games happened that weekend so you know going against the Rams that they're going to fired up, we're going to be fired up. It's going to be a good game. The distractions of Christmas are something that you fight every year. Once again, I think that our team has gotten a little better at handling distractions. Hopefully, we'll be able to stay focused and play well. But we know that this is not going to be an easy game by any stretch because they're playing hard and they've got some good football players."

(On if he thinks winning games when they're not playing their ‘A-game' is a sign of maturity)

"You certainly like to think that. I think during the course of an NFL season if you're going to win games if you're going to win more than your share of games you have to win some like that. If you look at New Orleans against Washington this year, they didn't play their best and they found a way to win even though they had some luck involved. If you look at Indianapolis, they're, what 13-0, 14-0, and they've won a lot of close games at the end. I think that's a nature of this business and certainly we had a number of games our first year that we lost by less than a touchdown or less than four points and I think that's helped us understand that we can win some close games and we've gotten a little more confidence in that. And we've been able to pull some games out when we didn't play our best and I think part of that is growing up as a team."

(On how the atmosphere regarding Cardinals football has changed in the past two years)

"I'm sure that there's still people out there that doubt what we've done or what we're doing. I think that's probably a function of having not had success for so long, but there's a great excitement with our fan base and in this city and that was in large part because of winning the division last year and doing well in the playoffs and that's exciting. Ever since I've been here we've had great support from our fans and that's made a huge difference for us. Especially giving us home field advantage. I think that there's certainly a lot more excitement about our football team, but I think some of that comes when you have some high-profile players like (WR) Larry Fitzgerald and (QB) Kurt Warner and (DE) Darnell Dockett and (SS) Adrian Wilson and people can identify with that and that helps people in general identify with your team."

(On if people recognize out his public)

"You know what, some places they do, but not as much as if I were a Kurt Warner or Larry Fitzgerald that's for sure."

(On if the future of Cardinal football is more balanced like it has been lately)

"I hope so. That's what we've been trying to achieve for three years now and we've gone through some battles where we were 32nd in the league in rushing. I think we've tried to tailor our game certainly when got here to fit our personnel. Part of that involved throwing the football because we have an outstanding quarterback and we've got a great receiver corps, but I think we all recognize that we have to have some balance in the run game in order to be successful over the long-haul. We attained that a little bit last year in the playoffs and that helped us. We're a work in progress as far as trying to get that done. We obviously run the football a little bit better over the second half of the season and that's important especially going into the playoffs."

(On RB Beanie Wells development)

"We've had great success in our three years here, especially with our younger players, of forcing them to earn their play time. We did it last year with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He didn't start until later in the season when he earned it and that's kind of been the mantra of our team. We always said we're going to play the players that give us the best chance to win and in order for you to be in there you have to earn it. So Beanie was not given anything when he first came and he's had to work very hard to get opportunities. To give him credit, he has started to take advantage of those opportunities and that makes it mean something these guys and it trains them as far as how they have to work and they are accountable for how they're playing.

And I can't say enough for Beanie and how has studied and prepared himself and I think a lot of that credit should go to some of our other running backs. Certainly (Running Backs) Coach Modkins has done a great job, but Jason Wright and Tim Hightower have been great. They've helped Beanie and I think that's the unselfish part of our teams that's helped us become a better football team."

(On what he wants to see from his team for success in the playoffs)

"No, I think we just want to continue to try to be successful in all phases of our game. We've been a much improved special teams unit this year and hopefully we can continue with that. And there's a number of things you can work on week-in-and-week-out offensively and defensively that we're going to continue. We're going to approach this game as we would any other game. Like I said, there is some incentive for us. We do have a chance to improve our seeding, which is a powerful incentive. I think that's the way to prepare going in. We'll take it one week at a time. We'll evaluate where we are next week and how we approach it from that point."

(On what he has seen from Keith Null)

"Well, I think what you see in young players, in rookies and that's improvement. He had a game against Tennessee where he had five interceptions and then he had a game last week against Houston where he only had one. He showed great improvement and I think that's what you look for. When you're in a situation, where you're playing younger players this time of the year the thing that you really what to see is them starting to develop because that's the experience you use going forward. I think he's made some strides and hopefully he won't continue to make strides this week if he plays, but he has done that in the last few games."

(On if it makes it more special for him to achieve success for Mr. Bidwell)

"I'll tell you what, last year, I still remember as clear as day when we won the NFC Championship and we knew we were going to Super Bowl and Mr. Bidwell was holding the trophy up, it had a dramatic impact on me emotionally because of what they've been through. A lot of people don't know the story of how the team was moved here and why the team was moved here and what was involved with that. And the number of years that they played in Sun Devil stadium and with their hands tied as far as being able to do things. And for Michael to come along and get the stadium done and give us the opportunity to be successful, it means a lot. It means a lot to that family and it certainly meant a lot to me to be able to see that family get some reward for all the work that they've done."


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