Cards Coaching Candidates Part 4: Whisenhunt

Do you go offensive coach to make the offense more explosive? Defensive coach and trust the offense will be fine? Player's coach or disciplinarian? New school or old school? What's in a name? With both Pittsburgh candidates in line for the soon to be vacant Steelers job, Miami, the Raiders, Falcons, and possibly Cowboys soon, the Cardinals may be chosing not what they want, but what's left.

Ken Whisenhunt:

Three years ago, Ken Whisenhunt was coaching the tight ends for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Since being promoted to offensive coordinator before the 2004 season, he has seen his star rise considerably (due in large part to Pittsburgh's run to the Super Bowl last season), and is once again a hot prospect with interviews scheduled in Phoenix and Atlanta.  Can a former tight end that has called a lot of running plays the last three years work in Arizona?  Will he hold out to see if Bill Cowher retires?  Pros and cons listed below.


He's been to the playoffs and called the plays that won a Super Bowl (including some well-timed trick plays during the Steelers playoff run).

While he's called more running plays than almost any coordinator in the NFL the past three seasons, he does draw up effective passing plays, judging by Pittsburgh's success on third down the past few years.

A number of current Steelers have already backed Whisenhunt for the head job in Pittsburgh, should Cowher retire.  So, he has the confidence of his players.

He interviewed for a number of coaching positions last season (when there were 10 openings) and was offered the job in Oakland, so he makes a favorable impression in interviews.

As a former player (he retired from the NFL in 1993), he understands the modern player, having played at the onset of the Salary Cap Era.


He has no head coaching experience at any level.

Many feel that he designed and called some plays, but that Cowher had final say on the game plan and the play call.  That's fine if you're looking to hire a coordinator, but if you're looking to hire a head coach, you would most likely want to hire someone who is used to having control of a situation and is used to being in charge.

Aside from calling a few flawless games during Pittsburgh's eight game winning streak last season (culminating in their Super Bowl victory), his career as a play caller and game planner has been pretty average.  The Steelers scaled back the offense for Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, opened things up a bit in 2005, then scaled back again when things started to implode this season.  It has yet to be seen whether or not he can be consistently successful even as a coordinator, nonetheless a coach.

He turned down a job offer to coach the Oakland Raiders last off season.  Sure, it's the Raiders, but there are only 32 of these jobs on the entire planet.  When you have a chance to take one of them, you must.  It makes you wonder if he has the desire to be a head coach, or ever wants to leave the Steelers.

If Cowher retires, he's going to be one of two internal candidates for the Steelers (the other would be Russ Grimm) to replace Cowher.  Even if he gets the job in Arizona, he could hold out to see what Pittsburgh has to say.


He's a rising star in the NFL.  Since his eight game hot streak last season, teams have been falling all over each other trying to interview him and the Raiders even made him an offer.  He reminds me a lot of Sean Payton, actually.  The Sean Payton that was the offensive coordinator for the 2000 New York Giants, called a number of outstanding games to get them to the Super Bowl, got embarrassed in Super Bowl XXXV by the Ravens defense, and was stripped of his play calling duties a season later.  He went to Dallas, learned under Bill Parcells for a few years, and is now doing exceptionally well in New Orleans.

The bottom line is that Ken Whisenhunt is not ready to be a head coach in the NFL yet.  He may be some day, after he learns a few more things and discovers the confidence and fire to be a leader of men like Payton did.  But he's not ready now.  If the Cardinals hire him, they will be doing a disservice to Whisenhunt and the organization itself.  They'd be better off hiring Ron Rivera.  At least he knows something about defense.

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