I think you're generally right. It is just that Whaley thought EJ was the franchise guy at the time.
He was hideously wrong. He was not close to being a first round talent. Regardless of the position being evaluated it was a bad evaluation. Overall, his drafting record was average to below average. He and his staff being fired should not be a surprise. It was very warranted.
What a fun game that was to watch! Remember when our offense was fun? Yeah, it seems like a long time ago....
It seems like the franchise never fully recovered after the firing of Polian. That was the pivot point for this lackluster franchise.