Whisenhunt gets second chance

Posted by Darren Urban on January 14, 2014 – 8:02 am

Ken Whisenhunt gets his second chance. The news came down Monday evening that the Titans had hired the Chargers offensive coordinator and former Cardinals head coach to be their new head coach. It was a surprise on a lot of levels, not the least of which that so many reports came out linking Whisenhunt with the Detroit opening and the fact the Lions are the lone team with a (more or less) established quarterback in place. It’s impossible to know if Whiz chose Tennessee over Detroit or if the Lions never really were that interested in Whiz. It doesn’t mean much now.

It will be interesting however to see how Whisenhunt works with QB Jake Locker. Can Whiz develop Locker, who thus far has not shown enough signs of being a long-term answer? Clearly, the inability for Whisenhunt (and to be fair, General Manager Rod Graves) to figure out the post-Kurt Warner QB situation in Arizona killed his tenure here.

What really struck me about the hire when I first heard it was the link between Nashville, the Titans, Whiz and the Cardinals. That too goes back to the QB problems Whiz had in the desert. Back in the preseason of 2010 — that first go-round of football after Warner retired — the Cardinals had Matt Leinart as the starter, Derek Anderson as the backup and back-to-back exhibition games in Tennessee and in Chicago. In between, there was a few days in Nashville, a joint practice versus the Titans and then a final practice at Vanderbilt.

The relationship between Whisenhunt and Leinart was already fraying. In the joint practice, Leinart struggled against the Titans — at the time, Titans defenders started noticing how quickly Leinart went to his checkdown receiver — and the next day at Vandy, Whisenhunt shocked everyone by giving Anderson first-team snaps. Afterward, it became official that Anderson would be starting in Chicago. Leinart was angry. And things devolved from there.

Now Whisenhunt starts it over. Whiz had a very good run in Arizona, getting the franchise to places they had never been. He also made mistakes. It will be interesting to see if Whisenhunt learned from those missteps and apply that with the Titans.

— There is a lot of speculation about Whiz and if he would reach out to try and bring over current Cardinals strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott. It wouldn’t surprise me, but we’ll see how that develops.

— There are still job openings in Detroit, Minnesota and Cleveland, the latter two of which have interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. But I am guessing Bowles stays put in Arizona.


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29 Responses to “Whisenhunt gets second chance”

  1. By Nick Pepe on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    Good for Coach Whiz! He deserves another shot and I hope he has success. Not against the Cards of course.

    I remember November of 2011 (I think) they came to play Philly and they stayed at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware (hometown of yours truly). Wife and I went to the Hotel to support the team as they were getting on the buses. Whiz was walking to the bus and I yelled “beautiful day for a win coach” he turned, smiled and responded “yes, yes it is”. Cards won 21-17. It was my highlight of an other wise rough year.

    Beating the Eagles is always treat for me!

    Good luck Coach Whiz!

    Nick Pepe
    Lifetime Member

  2. By hummer53 on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    So odd to read some of those old blog posts. They are from years ago but when you read them it seems like a few months ago. They bring back memories good and bad.

  3. By georgiebird on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    If Whiz can learn from all his mistakes with the Cards, he could become a decent HC. But there will be a lot of learning to do.
    Or Whiz can shortcut the process and watch how BA handles himself. BA can tell you “Nothing” with a smile better than any HC in the league.

  4. By Big Ken on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    Wisenhunt inherited a good team, took it to a Super Bowl, but lots of bad circumstances after that. Arians/Keim took the team over a year ago and turned it around with roster churning, good coaching, and a certain amount of luck. I thought John Abraham would be another Vonnie Holiday who had not much left. Boy was I wrong. Good luck to Whiz.

  5. By James Miller - ecoglass on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    The Titan Organization is smart and Whisenhunt deserves this second chance – stick to his original 08-09 plan and learn from his mistakes…
    I know he steered the Ship thru some of the most magical games I’ve ever had the privilege of attending…. He also was very nice and down to earth when hanging out and talking at the luncheons !!!
    Good Luck Whiz….

  6. By AzDesertRat1953 on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    If WHiz would have had Steve Keim as GM I think both would still be here and Winning, I could be wrong but I don’t think so.

    Would this be the first HC of the Cards to have been re-hired as a HC to another team in the NFL?

    It’s good to see Whiz with a HC job again. It tells me that the front office of the Cards is at least trying to get back to the SB, that’s Two Good HC’s in a row for the AZ Cardinals, whens the last time that happened, anyone want to answer that one? I just do not remember that Ever happening.

    GO CARDS!!!

  7. By Darren Urban on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    AzDesert —

    RE: Former Cards HC as HC

    Joe Bugel was named Raiders HC after coaching the Cardinals. Although Bugel was hired on the Raiders staff first and later elevated to the position. Whiz is the first one to get a HC job with team that didn’t hire him otherwise first.

  8. By John The Draft Guy on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply


    I am seeing Greg Robinson climb into the top 5 players in the draft.

    Props on that one

  9. By Mike G on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    Hey Darren–Hope all is well!– I am happy Whiz is head man down in Tennessee.
    Thought he may have chosen Detroit with Stafford and Calvin Johnson but the Titans may have given him more control. I also believe he would rather live in Nashville rather than a dead city like Detroit. Though he also coached at Vanderbilt in college so I’m sure he has some ties down there. I believe Whiz is a quality coach and is one of my favorites in the NFL. He did help develop Big Ben in Piit,
    of course Warner here and Rivers in SD. He has won 9 playoff games with those 3 teams as Coordinator and Head Coach. His undoing in Arizona along with Graves was their failure in bringing in & developing Kolb—.Kevin Kolb turned out to be a major mistake.Lots of $$$$$ spent and no results. Someone or Someone’s had to take the fall for that move!!!! Hopefully BA can win some playoff games here and continue a winning legacy in Arizona. Hey Darren– Interesting Question—Do you think the Card’s would have fired Whiz in 2012 if they would have won that Super Bowl in 2008?????

  10. By Darren Urban on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    Mike G —

    RE: 2012

    I think they would have if the Cards still lost 11 of their last 12.

  11. By clssylssy on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    According to NFL Live and ESPN, the private jet of the Lion’s owner was ready to take off to collect Coach Whisenhunt for the job in Detroit when he decided to take the HC job with the Titans. Apparently the Titan’s job offered more money, he liked the willingness of the franchise to go out and spend money on players to build talent, and felt comfortable with the solid infrastructure of the Titan’s front office. Plus he likes the area, still has a home in Georgia and old Vanderbuilt ties associated with the Titans. Location, location, location…much better for the family and more opportunity for golf! Coach Whiz still is the most successful coach the Cardinal franchise has ever had and is a football guy who has no interest in being a media darling, providing witty soundbites but is all about his players and winning games. I met him briefly on a few occasions and always found him to be a very unpretentious nice guy. His success this year with the Chargers, who were a team on life support, as well as, his successes before coming to Arizona reveal a respected coach who is the “real deal” and not a fluke. As a fan who was here before, during, and after the Whisenhunt era, I can attest he didn’t “inherit” a good team who he rode to the Superbowl ! His struggles in the last few few years were due to the instability of the front office, a President feeling his way and dominated by a GM he inherited; bad situation for everybody. Whiz and Coach BA are from the same coaching tree and so this year’s transition was not all that revolutionary and more of a “smoothing out” of wrinkles that would have been accomplished with Whiz and a new GM. Things sort of worked out the best for everyone in this case. I’m not surprised Coach Whiz was the hot item for these teams needing HCs but thought he had a pretty sweet gig in sunny San Diego which, I would have probably kept, forgoing the politics and back stabbing of being a HC, having been there, done that, etc. Unlike many fans, I always consider it a credit to the Cardinals organization whenever our former coaches, players or other staff members find continued success after leaving the Cards as it shows we were on the right track and not totally off the rails even if things didn’t go as planned. GOOD LUCK COACH WHISENHUNT & CONGRATULATIONS TO THE TENNESSEE TITANS!

  12. By georgiebird on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    Re: former Cards’ HC as HC
    Are you talking AZ Cardinals or Cardinals? Don Coryell was pirated away by Eugene Klein, owner of the Chargers. Coryell was one of the biggest innovators in NFL history. Whiz should not be mentioned in the same breath as Coryell, who deserves to be in the HOF.
    With the Cardinals, Coryell had similar divisional problems in the NFC East as BA has now the NFC West. Coryell was able to win two division titles and tie for one.
    To Whiz’ credit he was able to get to the SB coming out of the weak NFC West- but most people feel Warner carried him there.

  13. By Darren Urban on Jan 15, 2014 | Reply

    Georgie —

    RE: Coaches

    I am talking since the team moved to Arizona.

  14. By Scott H on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    Geez…Leinart vs Anderson….kinda like choosing between riding on the Titanic or the Hindenberg. Either way, the ship was definitely going down.

    Good for Whiz. Will be interesting to see what he can do with a second chance. And it will definitely be interesting to see how the QB situation there goes from here. Locker was looking OK before he went down injured this year. Maybe he’ll be OK. But….if I’m a Titans fan and I take a good look at how the QB situation HERE went during the 3 years post-Warner….I gotta have some concerns.

    In regard to the Lions, I wonder if Whiz or anyone else may have chosen to stay away because the QB there is already in place. You become the coach of the Lions right now, Stafford is your QB. Period. End of story. So, if you’re not crazy about Stafford…why are you gonna take that job? Just a thought. But pretty much every other HC job opening available this year would give a new HC the opportunity to make changes at that position, at least in the very near future if not immediately. One wonders if that was a factor.

    The Lions ARE definitely the best situation in regard to the talent already in place, though. No doubt about that.

    Personally, I think the Buccs got the best man available in Lovie Smith. I’m expecting things to get better there immediately.

  15. By Scott H on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    Nick Pepe –

    Nice to see someone else hates the Eagles as much as I do.

  16. By ored on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    still painful to remember all those losses,especially when they happened week after week,and each time our o-line was sorry and the qb was punished,one good memory was the defense standing tall and not getting down on the offense,that was class.i think our defense will still be the strength of the team for awhile,but we are taking steps to bring the offense around,who knows,we could find the next adrian peterson or andrew luck and shorten that process,but i think the next big thing comes from the defensive side.

  17. By Steve on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply

    Darren: Great article on Whisenhunt. In your opinion what where Leinarts biggest shortcomings as an NFL QB and why he is no longer in the league?

  18. By Darren Urban on Jan 15, 2014 | Reply

    Steve —

    RE: leinart

    I think Matt needed a very specific system in which to thrive. I also think he became gunshy of throwing the ball down the field. I also don’t think he was fully committed to doing all the work needed to be great, at least when he was in Arizona.

  19. By jasonc on Jan 14, 2014 | Reply


    Thank you, although anyone who watched him bully that Alabama defense had to see that he was REALLY good. I wish he would’ve stayed under the radar, but then again, if he didn’t receive such a high draft eval he may have opted to go back to school. It’s too bad for us that Cameron Erving, Cedric Obguehi and La’el Collins decided not to enter the draft. With the record number of underclassmen declaring for this draft it’s going to be full of talent, just not full of premier LT talent. Have you watched any video of the LT from Vandy? His name is Wesley Johnson and the only video I could find of him was against South Carolina and he looked extremely impressive going against Clowney. Another name I’d be curious to hear your take on is Logan Thomas QB Va Tech. He has great size, athleticism and arm strength but his college production wasn’t great. He had great games this year in victories against North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami but he never had a season where he completed over 60% completions and INT’s were a problem. Of course in order to find a QB later in the draft there has to be something wrong with them i.e. poor production, legal issues, small school. Just curious if you’ve watched anything on him.

  20. By jasonc on Jan 15, 2014 | Reply

    I agree with Darren about Matt. It just feels like he was a player who had been coddled through out his prep and collegiate careers and maybe even a bit by Denny Green. He never really had to work or fight for a job before, so when Whiz came in who isn’t a coddling type of coach and forced Matt to compete it seemed to have the opposite desired effect. Instead of competition bringing out the best of Matt it made him less motivated, or less confident. I’m not saying that Matt should’ve been coddled…far from it, it is just my belief that Matt could’ve been a successful QB in this league with a different coach. Now do I think a guy who lacks the inner fire or confidence to be able to win in big games? No way jose. That is why in the end I think Whiz ultimately made the right call by releasing Matt. The problem wasn’t THAT the team released Matt, the problem was how long they waited before they did it. Of course when you spend a high draft pick on your QB of the future (the first QB we’d taken since they moved to AZ) I guess you are forced to wait to see if he can develop into what you want/need. I just think if Whiz could do it over he would cut Matt sooner and would’ve looked for a replacement while Kurt was still playing. Clssylssy claims that Whiz’s struggles were due to front office instability are somewhat true…the problem is that Whiz was a part of that front office, he had a HUGE amount of say in team decisions so he doesn’t get a pass for that. I also think that his ability to develop Matt Leinart was a topic during his interview so he doesn’t get a pass for that either. Whiz is a good coach and he took a team that had talent but couldn’t put it together and led them to the Super Bowl and unprecedented heights (back to back NFC west champions) as a franchise since moving to the desert. He deserves all the accolades for his successes in Arizona, but in the end he deserved to be fired as well.

  21. By Colin on Jan 15, 2014 | Reply

    Wonder if Whiz will hire Russ Grimm? Whiz had some failings, not the least of which was the inability to evaluate and develop talent or to hold coaches like Grimm accountable for the terrible results that we saw. Graves was obviously out of his league as a GM.

    The absence of Whiz, Graves and Grimm is what led to this years great results. Pretty good for the first year of the new coach and front office. I feel better about
    this team since I did when Jim Hart was QB. What a great feeling that we can compete and win in the toughest division in football! We don’t rely on magic anymore. GO CARDS!

  22. By John The Draft Guy on Jan 15, 2014 | Reply


    Logan Thomas;
    With his size and strong arm, I thought he was someone to watch till I watched him. Tim Tebow comes to mind. You are a coach and you put the best athlete at QB. He excels and wins games, but really isn’t a QB. He is an Athlete. Gil Bryant has a good article.

  23. By tyman on Jan 15, 2014 | Reply

    Dennis Green, Whiz, and now BA have all been great hires.
    This Leinard article on NFL”COM is pretty funny. Kurt wasn’t the only reason for the success of the Cards. Whiz and Kurt worked well together and I think whiz tightened up Warner’s turn over issues. As for Leinard can anyone say BUST…

    Leinard should have came in with 20-30 plays a week. was he not getting payed enough to at least do that for whiz.

  24. By jason on Jan 15, 2014 | Reply


    Which games did you watch? I agree his isn’t a polished prospect, but he is a much better passer than Tebow. I read the article by Gil Brant and he states that not only was he mistaken about Lofton, but that “alot of smart people” think that Logan Thomas is going to be a QB. If you watch his breakdown video his throwing motion from the waist up is good, it’s his footwork (which is coachable) and his decision making that get him into trouble. His decison making I think was attributed to the fact that his team didn’t have any other playmakers and relied solely on his ability to make plays. I wasn’t high on Logan Thomas until I watched his videos and while he makes you fall in love in one video, he makes you come back to earth just as fast in another video. The fact of the matter is that any QB of the future we find is going to have flaws (unless we pull a Houston or trade alot of assets) and if we took a flier on this guy I’d be excited! Mainly, because that would mean that Keim and Arians took a good look at him and would have a strong belief that he could play. Who do you see in this draft (if anyone) that you would like to see us take a look at?

  25. By Scott H on Jan 15, 2014 | Reply

    Wow, anyone seeing the story on about Leinart coming out and saying point-blank that it was Kurt Warner who was running things ( at least the offense ) during the years the team was having success at the end of his career? I’m not gonna take that and run to the bank with it just because Leinart says so, but…he WAS there and he WOULD know how things were being done. I also would NOT discount such a statement as being the truth, or very close to it. Not that I’m right because Leinart says so, but this basic sentiment has been my contention as well since Warner retired.

    AND while I think Leinart is intending his remarks to criticize Whiz, I do not necessarily intend it that way. Heck, the way Warner was playing from 2007 thru 2009, it would make sense for ANY coach to give him whatever he wanted in terms of game-planning. Warner WAS the kind of QB you would do that with. So, if Whiz and the coaches WERE letting Warner run the offense according to how he wanted it, then bravo to them. Just because you’re the boss, it doesn’t mean the best thing you can do sometimes is stay out of the way!

  26. By Big Ken on Jan 16, 2014 | Reply

    It looks like Whiz took the Titans job because they offered way more money. Now there’s a guy committed to winning. Good luck Titans.

  27. By jasonc on Jan 16, 2014 | Reply


    Here is some video of Logan Thomas if you’re interested in taking a look. There are good games and bad games so you can see him at his best and worst. Something to remember: This kid was at his best (statistically) his redshirt sophomore year when he had future NFL WR’s Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale at WR, first round pick David Wilson in the backfield, first team all ACC T Blake DeChristopher and second team all ACC G Jaymes Brooks not to mention it was his first season starting at QB. Colin Kaepernick was more comparable to Tim Tebow coming into the draft and was even thought to have a hitch in his throwing motion, scouts questioned his accuracy, progressions and his ability to make NFL reads and throws. I think in terms of throwing motion Logan Thomas is far superior to Kaep but other than that I think they have similar questions entering the NFL. Taking the chance on Kaep worked out for SF and hey, if he doesn’t pan out as a QB we have a TE prospect.

  28. By Dre on Jan 17, 2014 | Reply

    Kurt announced his retirement immediately after the 2009 season. In 2010 the Cards went into the season after cutting Matt Leinart with Derek Anderson (a 50% passer) and two rookie QBs, one being an undrafted rookie. That year the Cards threw the ball just as much as they did when Kurt (a 66% passer) was the QB, give or take a few passes each game. With as much input Whisenhunt had regarding player personnel and being the HC, how can we say Whenenhunt is a good coach. He may be a good OC but he is not a good HC and he was exposed post Kurt Warner.

    Our Superbowl showing was a combination of a great QB and WRs mixed with a Hot defense and two pretty good OCs….who clicked at the right time. Plain and simple.

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