Arizona Cardinals coaches and management would like to take some time off and relax after working since July with only three days off.
But fewer than 48 hours after losing Super Bowl XLIII, they were in the offices preparing for 2009.
The schedule makes it a necessary evil. The scouting combine starts in two weeks, so there are college players to evaluate.
The deadline for designating franchise and transition players is Feb. 19. Free agency starts at the end of February, so coaches must evaluate players on other rosters.
“We’re five weeks behind a lot of teams,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said Tuesday. “Don’t mistake me on this, this is a very good problem to have. But we’re five weeks behind. You would like to take a chance to decompress and get away. But you don’t have that luxury.”
This is the Cardinals’ most successful season since winning the NFL title in 1947, but it’s folly to believe they can keep this team together. Some players will depart via free agency, some might retire and others will be released.
Whisenhunt might have to make a key hire on his coaching staff, too. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is expected to interview for the Chiefs head coaching job this week. The Chiefs reportedly have requested permission to interview Haley, and it’s been widely reported that Haley is near the top of their candidate list.
The Cardinals declined to confirm the Chiefs’ interest in Haley.
The rest of Whisenhunt’s assistants are under contract, so the Cardinals can prevent them from interviewing for anything less than a head coaching position.
The tenuous nature of the business is part of what made the 2008 season so memorable, quarterback Kurt Warner said.
“We’re not going to keep this team together,” Warner said. “You understand that in this business.”
Warner is contemplating retirement and isn’t under contract for 2009. Tuesday, he emphasized that should he continue playing, he wanted to remain with the Cardinals. The Cardinals want Warner back, Whisenhunt said.
“I’m going to move forward and see what is in store for me,” Warner said Tuesday before leaving for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, “whether it’s playing for a few more years, one more year or whether it’s going off to do something else.”
Most of the Cardinals seemed philosophic Tuesday about the possibility of keeping a major portion of the team together. Defensive end Bertrand Berry said change was the one constant in the NFL, a theme free safety Antrel Rolle echoed.
“If it was up to me, I wish everyone would stay here but that’s not how it works,” he said. “Unfortunately we might end up losing some guys. That’s football, that’s life. You have to live with it and go on from it.”