Whisenhunt was a standout tight end for Georgia Tech and was an All-ACC performer in his final two seasons with the Yellow Jackets. He went on to play for the Atlanta Falcons for the first four seasons of his NFL career before spending time with the Washington Redskins and New York Jets. Whisenhunt's professional career as a player ended when he retired in 1993 after nine seasons.
In 2001, Whisenhunt finally found a home with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He spent six seasons with the Steelers and was named offensive coordinator prior to the 2004 season. Whisenhunt quickly made a name for himself due to his innovative formations and creative play-calling. In addition, he was a key fixture in Pittsburgh's Super Bowl XL title run and is trying to duplicate the Steelers' feat of winning four consecutive playoff games.
Unlike Whisenhunt, Tomlin never played in the NFL as his playing career ended prior to the professional level. He attended the College of William and Mary where he was a three-year starter at wide receiver. Tomlin began his coaching career at the Virginia Military Institute and made several stops before arriving at the University of Cincinnati for the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
Tomlin was hired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001, serving as the team's defensive backs coach until 2005. He was part of the Buccaneers' 2003 Super Bowl winning team which was led by the NFL's top ranked defense. In 2006, Tomlin took over as defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings before heading to Pittsburgh in 2007 to replace the legendary Bill Cowher. At 36 years of age, Tomlin is the youngest head coach in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl.
Similar to their journey to Tampa, both coaches came into considerably different situations in their first head coaching gigs. Whisenhunt has turned around a historically losing franchise in just two seasons while Tomlin has picked up right where his highly successful predecessors left off in Pittsburgh.
The loser of Super Bowl XLIII will certainly take away many positives, but the winner will join an elite group of NFL head coaches at a very early stage in their career.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org