GLENDALE, Ariz. The Denver Broncos have lost eight of nine, a situation so bad that owner Pat Bowlen dumped Josh McDaniels before he had even finished two seasons as coach.
In Arizona, coach Ken Whisenhunt has watched his good work of three seasons disintegrate in a seven-game losing streak.
When the teams meet today their first matchup in four years and only the eighth in their history it will be a portrait of disappointment, if not despair.
With both teams lugging 3-9 records into the contest, the players had better be thinking about their future.
Were in that situation where everybody is being evaluated, and if youre not performing, its going to affect you going forward, Whisenhunt said. Theyre professional athletes. They understand whats at stake. Ive heard it said that they should be more motivated because they are playing for their jobs.
Eric Studesville brings great enthusiasm after being promoted from running backs coach to interim head coach.
Im going to do what I think is right and in the best interest of the organization and this football team and do it to the best of my ability, he said. Thats all I know how to do, and that starts with hard work. We started that the day that I said yes to accepting this position. Im going to work as hard as I can until they tell me to stop working.
Studesville said he laid out his philosophy to the players Wednesday.
I just wanted to be open and up front with them, he said. Let them know that the expectations are that were going to come, and were going to work, and were going to prepare, and we have a football game to play this weekend.
Anytime you get an opportunity to go out and play a football game, we have a tremendous responsibility to prepare ourselves and go out and do that to the best of our ability.
McDaniels called the plays, a chore now given to offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Obviously losing your play-caller is a change, Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton said. I loved Josh as a play caller, but I have a lot of confidence in Mike. Mike was our position coach last year. Hes a great guy.
The situation makes it difficult for the Cardinals defense, too.
That really throws a wrench into it as far as what to expect, Whisenhunt said.
Although Whisenhunt did not name a starting quarterback through the week, signs point to John Skelton, a rookie out of Fordham who saw his first NFL action last week in the fourth quarter of Arizonas 19-6 loss to St. Louis.
Hes kind of a laid-back guy, which in this situation thats probably the best attribute you could have, running back Tim Hightower said. People are going to want him to come in there and be all fired up and this and that. Hes got a lot of pressure on him. Hes not coming in to a good situation.
Thats an understatement. Arizona, ranked next to last in the NFL in offense, has not scored a touchdown in two games and has just one in its last three contests a meaningless score on the final play of a 31-13 loss to Kansas City.
Denver, meanwhile, had offensive woes of its own in last Sundays 10-6 loss to Kansas City. But Knowshon Moreno did rush for a career-best 161 yards. The Cardinals expect to see a lot of Moreno.
He (Studesville) is an ex-running backs coach so I know hes interested in running the ball, said linebacker Joey Porter, a Colorado State alumnus.
They know we havent been stopping the run, so I would expect that.