Quarterback will be near the top of Arizona's to-do list when the season is over, although just who will be in charge of that decision is uncertain.
Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said he will assess the situation after the final game to determine if Whisenhunt comes back for the last year of his contract. General manager Rod Graves also might be gone. If Whisenhunt stays, some of his assistants almost certainly won't.
"It's been tough," Whisenhunt said. "This business is about winning games. And when you don't do that, it makes everything more difficult."
Arizona started the season with four straight wins and still had a chance to pull even with San Francisco after dropping three straight in October. Then the 49ers routed the Cardinals 24-3 on Oct. 29, a game Smith completed 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a 157.1 rating in a performance that earned NFC offensive player of the week honors.
Smith suffered a concussion the next game against St. Louis, Kaepernick took over and had his own Monday night breakout in a home win against Chicago. Kaepernick, a second-round pick out of Nevada last year with a strong arm and fast feet, is 4-2 as a starter.
The sometimes spectacular, sometimes shaky quarterback will lead an offense that has been depleted by season-ending injuries to wide receivers Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams. Tight end Vernon Davis also must clear the league's NFL concussion protocol after getting knocked off his feet by Seattle's Kam Chancellor last week.
The absence of so many key targets will put even more pressure on Kaepernick in a quarterback debate that continues to rage on — maybe this week more than most.
"I just think that Alex worked for seven years to get to the position he was in," said Cardinals guard Adam Snyder, who spent seven years playing alongside Smith in San Francisco. "He was 19-5 (the past two seasons) and had the best QB rating in the league and was doing his job to win games, you know?
"I don't know. It was surprising to me. But, hey, they get paid to make those decisions, and that's the decision they went with."
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